A unique partnership emerged on the local higher education scene over the past few sweltering months: the U.S. Naval Academy and Anne Arundel Community College decided to work together to coordinate a summer immersion initiative to teach rising 11th- and 12th-graders as well as recent high school graduates and students enrolled at the participating institutions Arabic.
Dubbed the "Launch into Arabic Learning and Teaching Program," the free four-week academic camp-like endeavor is held at the Academy in Annapolis. The classes attract students from all over the country who want to take advantage of the individualized and group instruction in Arabic – a curriculum that includes guest speakers, field trips, video presentations and cultural activities, too.
The partnership between the Naval Academy and Anne Arundel took off as "an extension of a language learning program grant through STARTALK," reports The Baltimore Sun. It was created by former President George W. Bush in 2006 as part of the National Security Language Initiative focused on increasing the amount of Americans able to speak, comprehend and write languages determined to be important to U.S. national security.
"The whole goal of the program is really to increase the use of learning and interest in learning Arabic," explained Janet Paulovich, director of English Language Learning and Adult Education at Anne Arundel and co-director of the Arab immersion program, in an interview. "You hope [students] would go on for further language study, and you want to improve the [instruction] of the teachers of Arabic throughout the United States." That's why the program is offered alongside a two-week teacher training course.
Learning the language makes sense for students and faculty these days, with 250 million people worldwide calling Arabic their first language.
"Arabic is extremely important for many, many more millions of people who are Muslims, and Arabic is one of the five primary languages of the United Nations," added Clarissa Burt, associate professor of Arabic language, literature and culture at the Naval Academy and academic director of the STARTALK program.
The STARTALK program has been a staple at the Naval Academy for several years, with the program growing to the point where teachers can now receive certification for finishing two courses. High school students can receive one semester of course credit, too.