While English and Spanish remain the languages of highest demand for travelers and businessmen, Arabic is beginning to approach those ranks.
The University of Maine now offers free Arabic language classes in Room 305 of Hannibal Hamlin Hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:10 to 3 p.m.
Arabic is the fifth most-spoken native language in the world. Thinking about studying abroad? The top critical-need language is Arabic, so if you study it, expect scholarships to show up everywhere.
The Gilman International Scholarship offers $3,000 in addition to applicants' awards if they are studying a critical-need language.
Knowledge of the Arabic language is a promise for many job opportunities. Since 9/11, the need for Arabic speakers has soared.
Federal government and private companies are on the lookout for those proficient in the language, since over 300 million people speak Arabic as their native language. Jobs in law enforcement, intelligence operatives, translating, cultural advisors and language instructing are just a few of the many careers for which knowledge of Arabic is key.
Have or want a career in the military? Nothing will boost salary for enlisting like speaking Arabic will. It can raise your pay to up to $18,000 and that's not counting benefits. Six-figure salaries are a common offering to those who are fluent in both Arabic and English.
Arabic classes at UMaine, taught by Fahad Iskandar, are available all semester.
A native of Saudi Arabia, Iskandar knows firsthand how difficult it is to learn a second language. He learned English in Saudia Arabia through daily accelerated English classes.
With just a taste of America, he decided to apply for scholarships in order to get a chance to come to the United States and study.
He first attended an Education First school in Boston, where he was immersed in the English language. There, he began teaching the Arabic language to other students. His teacher picked up on how well he was doing at teaching and how eager his students were to learn.
He recommended that Iskandar come to UMaine to teach, and here he is. Next year, he hopes to study in the chemical engineering program.
The Arabic language class structure is loose — missing a class or so will not leave absentees too far behind. The full course is in paper form. Iskandar explains everything he hands out on by writing it on the board and practicing repetition through consecutive pronunciation drills.
In the first class, Iskandar began teaching students the Arabic number system. He then moved on to greetings, vowels and the beginnings of the Arabic alphabet. The Arabic language is written and read horizontally from right to left.
There are 28 letters in its alphabet and most of them have four different forms. Their forms depends on whether they stand alone or come at the beginning, middle or end of a word.
He encourages students to practice Arabic out of class and assigns homework to enforce this.
Iskandar greatly enjoys teaching the language.
"I wish that people interested in learning Arabic find a way to come to class, [since] I cannot push [them]," he said. "[If there is] anyone interested in Arabic language, just come to my class."
While credits will not be awarded to students who attend the free classes, they will gain priceless knowledge of the language in a classroom setting, something that Rosetta Stone, "Arabic: For Dummies" and self-teaching cannot offer.
Interested potential students can reach Iskandar on FirstClass for more information.