Students looking to take Arabic at the University of Calgary have reason to be optimistic. Courses in Arabic are likely going to be offered in the near future. The university is working with the Students’ Union to develop a tentative plan that would put Arabic in the course catalog in the fall of 2014.
Over the past few years, students have pushed for Arabic courses to be incorporated into the university’s curriculum. Three years ago, a petition was started to bring attention to the issue of students being unable to learn the world’s fifth most spoken language. The petition was started by international relations students who felt that the lack of education in this language was negatively affecting their program. International relations students choose one region of the world to focus on and usually study the corresponding language.
Students like Lara Patrao, who are looking to specialize in parts of the world where the dominant language is Arabic, are presented with a frustrating situation.
“It doesn’t make sense to me that you offer a program to learn about a region but you don’t offer the language with it,” said Patrao. “I don’t understand how you’re supposed to work there or specialize there. It’s not preparing us at all if we don’t have that.”
The good news for Patrao and other students hoping to learn Arabic at the U of C is that progress is being made. Arts representative Hana Kadri, as well as SU vice-president academic Kenya-Jade Pinto, included the introduction of Arabic in their campaign platforms and are satisfied with the progress.
“It was a beautiful meeting of the minds. For myself, Hana Kadri and the fund development office to come together and really share a common goal and vision that stemmed from something like a petition was a really meaningful thing to be able to do,” said Pinto. “Work still has to be done but we are happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.”
Pinto said Arabic courses, which would fall under the department of German, Slavic and East Asian studies, would be a constructive move for the university.
“It caters to the broad and diverse student population that we have on this campus and it’s an exciting opportunity,” said Pinto. “It fits in with our academic plan and makes sense. It’s a perfect time for us to be pursuing something like this.”
Patrao, who tried to learn Arabic by taking continuing education courses and still plans on studying Arabic, finds the absence of the language at the U of C troubling.
“It’s not just one country, it’s a whole region,” said Patrao.
Pinto encourages any students who would be interested in the program to contact her in order to demonstrate the demand for Arabic instruction on campus.
“Students who are really adamant and excited about these courses can contact me to share their stories because it is these stories that will be really helpful in articulating a narrative about why this is a program that makes sense on our campus,” said Pinto.
The current timeline has the 2013–14 academic year dedicated to program design and development with the goal being to offer the first Arabic courses the following year. According to Pinto, the biggest obstacle at this time is acquiring the money for the program.
“The challenge will be raising the funds, but we’re optimistic,” said Pinto.