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Arabic Studies

Why study Arabic at Binghamton?

Arabic calligraphy by Mishkin-Qalam (d. 1912)

Arabic has been an important language in world history for more than 1500 years. One can hardly overestimate the importance of the language in ancient as well as modern world culture, and in current social, political, economic, and religious developments. Language experts in the United States now regard Arabic as among the top two or three global foreign languages, with a dynamic and ever-increasing presence in all of the world's continents.

Some facts:

  • Over 400 million people speak one or more types of Arabic in what is commonly thought of as "the Arab world."
  • Millions of others in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and North America speak Arabic as a first or second language.
  • All Muslims of the world, the population of which is now approximately 1.5 billion, use Arabic for their daily prayers, for other religious rituals and observances, and for interpretation and application of religious law.
  • Arabic is one of only six official languages at the United Nations.
  • It is regarded by the Department of State as a critical language, the accelerated teaching of which must now be a top priority in universities and colleges in the United States.

The language is the centerpiece of Binghamton University's Arabic Studies program that is housed in the Classical and Near Eastern Studies Department. It is also an important option for an affiliated certificate program in Middle East and North Africa Studies (MENA). Both Standard Arabic and Egyptian Spoken Arabic, which is the most important Arabic dialect, are key to the major or minor; both the major and minor also include Independent Studies courses (e.g., Readings in Arabic Literature, Islamic Thought, Readings in Koran and Hadith, Koranic Arabic) that deal with major fields or topics in Arabic and Islamic civilization, past and present. The Independent Studies courses allow for considerable variety and flexibility as the complementary courses that go into fulfilling the requirements for the Arabic Studies major or minor.

View of Cairo from the Saladin Citadel, with the Giza pyramid complex near the horizon (December 2012)

View of Cairo from the Saladin Citadel, with the Giza pyramid complex near the horizon (December 2012)

The Arabic Studies program is supported by the holdings in the Bartle Library, which include, in addition to leading source material in English and other major European languages, one of the better collections of Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, and Persian texts in the United States. Other university resources that enhance the curriculum include DVD and computer-assisted instruction in Arabic, and audio- visual aids (e.g., satellite television) that allow for incorporating live spoken Arabic (films, documentaries, plays, interviews, variety shows, and news broadcasts) into exercises and activities, both in and outside of the classroom. Under the Practicum rubric, the Arabic Studies program also provides for special tutorial sessions for students of Arabic, by which more advanced speakers of the language with special skills and abilities regularly provide extra assistance and review for students at a lower level in their language learning.

Students are encouraged to study abroad, e.g., at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI) Morocco, for which there is official University sponsorship, or at other overseas options that may be approved (e.g., The American University in Cairo, Alexandria University, The American University in Beirut). Over the summer of 2009, 28 students in the Binghamton Arabic Studies program studied in Egypt at Alexandria University's TAFL (Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language) Center. This was the largest group of American students from one university ever to study Arabic abroad in Egypt.


What can I do with a degree in Arabic Studies?

Graduated majors or minors with demonstrated potential in Arabic are increasingly finding themselves in demand for careers in business, foreign service, academics, and defense, intelligence, and national security. This development applies to non-heritage as well as heritage learners. In fact, over 90% of students studying Arabic in Binghamton's Arabic Studies program are non-heritage speakers with absolutely no background in, or exposure to, Arabic language learning because of family roots.

Painting of the second Shi`i Imam, Hasan ibn `Ali (d. 670), delivering a sermon after the martyrdom of his fatherResearch activities and certificate programs in Middle East and North Africa Studies, Translation, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and International Studies may enhance the profile of students in the Arabic Studies program and make them better prepared for their projected career paths.Many students in fields as diverse as history, business, banking, economics, philosophy, pre-law, medicine, art history, comparative literature, political science, anthropology, Africana studies, and Judaic studies find that courses offered by the Arabic Studies program are a valuable addition to their studies, whether they or majors or minors in the program or simply taking program courses for general enrichment.

The Arabic Studies program has successfully placed majors in one or another defense-, security-, or intelligence-related agency in Washington, DC, and in leading graduate schools (e.g., Michigan University, Georgetown University, Hofstra University, the University of Connecticut, and the American University in Cairo). It has also produced close to a dozen Rosefsky Scholarship winners at Binghamton (for the study of Arabic abroad), and, most recently, two winners of the prestigious National Security Education Program (NSEP) Scholarship for the study of Arabic abroad.

Worshippers at the Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque - Damascus, Syria (February 2008)

Worshippers at the Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque - Damascus, Syria (February 2008)

Last Updated: 4/16/19