An innovative and rigorous Arabic language learning and cultural enrichment program debuts this fall to enhance the skills of future military officers at the University of Arizona thanks to a federal grant awarded to the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies.
The new UA Arabic language learning program is funded through Project Global Officers, known as Project GO, a Department of Defense initiative aimed at improving the language competency, regional expertise and intercultural communication skills of future military officers.
The initiative provides institutional grants to U.S. universities across the country working in support of Army, Air Force and Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps or ROTC strategies and policies, and since 2007, Project GO has awarded approximately $9.3 million in institutional grants.
The Center for Middle Eastern Studies is a unit within the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies.
The school already was a popular educational source for ROTC members with 19 members enrolled in various classes. Now, with the $320,000 per year grant, and its funding for three years, the center will look to recruit up to 20 cadets for the academic year through Project GO.
"The UA with its strong ROTC and Arabic language, study abroad and cultural instruction programs had already developed a competitive edge for the grant, and we built on that momentum to apply. We knew we would be a good fit," said Christian Sinclair, assistant director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and co-principal investigator for the grant who will oversee the cultural/study abroad aspects of the grant.
Heading up the Arabic language learning component of the grant is co-principal investigator Sonia Shiri, the Middle East language coordinator and assistant professor of Arabic at the UA School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies.
"In combining the existing Arabic expertise at the UA with innovative technology-based tools being developed and piloted, we expect that ROTC students enrolled in Project GO will reach target language levels in a shorter time compared to regular students at other institutions," Shiri said.
New tools being piloted include the use of innovative language learning software and the use of film clipping, which slows down speech for better understanding, and hypermedia, which adds hyperlinks to web-based materials to gain deeper insight on cultural/linguistic content.
New one-on-one features will be added to the curriculum with the inclusion of language partners recruited from the UA community and tutors to help pronunciation, homework and other language learning aspects.
The new Arizona in Jordan Study Abroad Program in Irbid, Jordan at Yarmouk University will be a key component of Project GO as it will fund 16 summer ROTC internships: 10 in Jordan, and six at the UA.
Sinclair, the Jordan study abroad director, just returned from the area having taken eight UA students to the country for the University's first intensive language and culture summer immersion credit program in the Middle East.
Sinclair said many cultural components also will enhance the Project GO experience such as lectures on elections and democratization, Middle Eastern History and films along with workshops on such diverse cultural aspects such as cuisine and intercultural communication.
Said Scott Lucas, director of the UA School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies: "This award from Project GO highlights the exceptional strength of the Arabic program at the UA and contributes to the goal of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies offering the very best Arabic program in North America."