It started out as a way to teach a language but has had other results.
Brigham Young University has offered a summer camp for those who want to learn Arabic since 2007. Along with learning the language, the students are learning tolerance and love.
"We really break down stereotypes," said Arabic camp director Kirk Belnap.
Learning about other cultures also includes exposure to other students. This year there are only six students in the Arabic camp, but two are from Utah, one from Arizona, one from Colorado, one from San Diego and one from Philadelphia. Spending six hours a day in class, and doing two hours of homework every night for three weeks, brings them close together.
They even eat together, partaking of Arabic food.
"We have had a great cook," Belnap said.
"One of our chief goals is to expose them to people who have learned Arabic well, and plant a seed."
It has also helped the students have opportunities to advance in linguistics. Belnap remarked how some students may start by attending a camp, continue with a study-abroad program and have a head start in college.
Belnap told of a student named Isaac who had one such experience. The National Middle East Language Resource Center's website tells Isaac's story.
"Real ability in Arabic opens doors -- and more and more students are starting their study of the language and culture earlier," it says. "For example, Isaac, then a high school student from Orem, Utah, enrolled in Brigham Young University's 2007 STARTALK intensive summer Arabic camp and continued his studies during the 2007/8 academic year with Arabic Without Walls (a distance-learning course developed by NMELRC and U.C.-Berkeley).
"During the summer of 2008, he studied in Cairo on a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship. As a result of a lot of hard work and favorable learning conditions, Isaac made impressive gains and was funded to study in Jordan during the summer of 2009 (the first high school student ever admitted to BYU's intensive Arabic program).
"That August, at the ripe age of 18, he certified as an Advanced-level speaker and correctly answered every Advanced-level item on the NMELRC Reading Proficiency Test (only three of the forty-one BYU students with whom he studied did this well). Two weeks later he began BYU's Middle East Studies/Arabic major at a level of proficiency that many such majors aspire to reach by the time they graduate."
"He had an amazing fast start," Belnap said.
BYU has been working with other universities throughout the country and is one of about 15 language research centers, the only one focusing on Middle Eastern languages, Belnap said. The colleges and universities share ideas, including teaching methods.
Jared Rowles, 16, came from Snowflake, Ariz., to attend the camp this summer. It is his second year.
"I chose to study Arabic because I thought it would be a cool language," he said. "After I came last year I was able to speak a lot of Arabic. After this camp I have more focus on grammar and vocabulary. I can definitely tell I have improved a lot."
Nathaniel Luke of Park City said he would like to use Arabic to be a translator in the Special Forces.
Janine Karo came to the camp from Philadelphia. She said she could use the language with her family.
"I have family who live in the Middle East," she said. "Arabic has been helpful to them.
"I have taken both Arabic and Chinese and plan on continuing in college. Arabic is one of the most valuable languages right now, and I think it would be helpful."
She said she might like to one day work for the U.S. State Department.
The students who attend the camp are not the only ones interested in Arabic, Belnap said. BYU representatives have been putting on half- and full-day camps throughout the country. Students have been signing up for online lessons. They do study on their own, then work one-on-one with an instructor for appointments for live-speaking lessons via the Internet.
Belnap said it was exciting to see the progress the students have made.
"They learned how to do challenging things," he said. "They learned to be much more social. Sometimes we have quiet nerds who learn to be part of a team."