Monarch High School students will no longer need to wait until college to attempt learning Arabic.
Starting in the fall, Monarch will become one of a small number of high schools nationwide to offer the language, adding it to the American Sign Language, French, German and Spanish classes in the school's world languages department.
Redouan Bouchta, who teaches Spanish at Monarch High, will teach the class. Bouchta, who previously taught Arabic and French in Morocco, proposed Arabic because "students were always asking me about it."
So far, about 18 students have signed up to take next year's class.
It appears that only one other high school in the state, Overland High School in the Cherry Creek School District, offers Arabic. Overland, and a middle school on the same campus, began offering Arabic this past school year.
Monarch Principal Jerry Anderson said most of the district's high schools offer a language that's unique to that school. Boulder High, for example, offers Japanese. Fairview High and Peak to Peak Charter School offer Mandarin.
"The more that we learn about language and culture, the more that we understand the world around us," Anderson said. "Knowing a second language makes your world bigger."
The school will start with a yearlong introductory Arabic class, adding higher levels in future years. Bouchta said he plans to work with the University of Colorado at Boulder's Arabic program as he develops the classes.
The first step, he said, is learning the 28-letter Arabic alphabet and how to pronounce the letters. Students also need to learn to read from right to left. Unlike learning a European language, there are no familiar words. The rules of grammar also are different, with the verb typically appearing before the subject and many forms of verbs.
"It's like any other language," he said. "You start with the alphabet, basic verbs, colors, pronunciation. The basics to communicate are simple. Advanced Arabic and the grammar, it's hard."
Along with teaching the language, he also plans to teach the culture.
"They have so much history," he said.
As students learn more about the Arab world, he said, he's hoping it will encourage more acceptance of diversity within the school. Monarch enrolls students from about 10 Arab families -- students who were targeted recently in threatening graffiti scrawled on a bathroom wall.
"It will be a chance to educate students and show them what Arabs are," he said.
To illustrate his point, he offered an Arabic quote that translates to "if you learn another language, you become one of their people."
Then there's the business angle. Knowing Arabic is a useful skill, both for those interested in government or military work or working for the many corporations with interests in the middle east.
Greg Przedpelski, who graduated from Monarch earlier this month, used his free period at Monarch last school year for an independent study, not-for-credit project to begin learning Arabic. Already good at languages, he said, he wanted to try learning a language that didn't have a Roman alphabet.
"It's hard," he said. "You don't know the symbols right away. You can't just look at it. It's not that natural recognition."
Though he found Arabic challenging, he's planning to continue studying it in college. He said the tension between Arabic speaking countries and the United States, combined with the need for oil from those countries, makes someone who speaks Arabic marketable.
"It might be a good path to take," he said.