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January 13, 2010
By Mary Hunton
Though the University of Nevada offers plenty of language opportunities, one that students may not realize they have the chance to learn is Arabic. The course, offered by the Northern Nevada International Center, a sponsored project of the University, runs from Feb. 1 to April 29, and has sections for three separate levels – one, two and four.
“We only offer certain levels every semester, but that’s based off the people who already took it,” said Natasha Majewski, Educational Outreach Coordinator for the Northern Nevada International Center. “We really try to accommodate the people who want to take the class.”
The Arabic course costs $375 plus the cost of books, which is estimated at around $50. It is open to the community, with evening classes that are meant to fit easily into any schedule. Though the course is not accredited through the University, students can petition to get their language requirements waived.
“We feel that it’s an important language that people want to learn,” Majewski said. “Because there’s nowhere else in Reno that I am aware of that gives Arabic classes, it’s a good way to start people to get exposed.”
According to Majewski, Arabic is one of the five critical languages, and knowing it can be very useful for applying for a variety of different professions, specifically those involving work where Arabic is the primary language.
“If you go to an employer, especially government work, and you speak Arabic you’re put to the top,” she said.
Politically, Arabic is also a very helpful language to know. The Middle East and northern Africa, areas where Arabic is the most predominant language, have been in the scope of the country for quite some time.
“I think the way that our politics seem to be revolving lately, a lot of people that are going to be going into government work in that area,” Majewski said. “This might be an interest for them.”
Aside from the numerous business and political advantages to knowing Arabic, Majewski believes that the cultural benefits are just as important.
“Our mission statement here at the Northern Nevada International Center is, ‘We are building bridges of communication and understanding,’” she said. “Because of things that have happened in our country, there’s a perception of people (in the Middle East) that is based off of media and off of fear. I personally think that culturally it’s super important just to understand that part of the world.”
The students seem to agree. Justin Fong, who is now in his fourth semester with this course, enjoys it. According to him, he has met many students with many different reasons for learning Arabic in his classes, extending from the desire to travel to nothing more than sheer curiosity. His reasons are similarly unique to him.
“I took it because my major involves the Middle East, and this is the only way I found I could obtain a language outlet to my education,” he said. “I want to learn more about that world, and that involves culture and politics and anything around it.”