GV now offering Arabic Minor

By Graham Liddell | 9/16/12 6:33pm


Courtesy/GVSU Dr. Majd Al-Mallah

by Courtesy photo / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Students at Grand Valley State University can choose to minor in Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and, as of this semester, Arabic.

Over the last 10 years, the modern languages and literatures (MLL) department has seen a substantial increase in the amount of students enrolled in Arabic language courses in the wake of the Iraq War and Arab Spring.

“It’s about time,” said Dave Leins, an anthropology student who has recently added an Arabic minor. “The West needs to adjust to the integration of Middle Eastern culture in today’s world — it’s happening.”

Leins is one of the several students who have waited patiently for the minor to become official.

“The idea for an Arabic minor was proposed about two years ago,” said Majd Al-Mallah, Arabic professor and head of the MLL department. “Many students inquired about the possibility of a minor, and we wanted to accommodate a growing interest.”

Third-year Arabic student Cassandra Beach will have earned the required credits for the minor after this semester.

“I was really hoping the minor would go through since I’ve taken all the Arabic classes GVSU offers and studied abroad,” she said.

When asked in a survey about why they desired to minor in Arabic, students cited family and friends who spoke the language, interest in the culture and professional reasons.

According to Bloomberg Rankings, Arabic was the third most useful foreign language for the business workplace as of August of last year. In the story published on Bloomberg’s website in August 2011, reporter John Lauerman wrote, “The ranking scored languages according to the number of speakers, number of countries where the language is official, along with those nations’ populations, financial power, educational and literacy rates, and related measures.”

Arabic, it says, is spoken by over 221 million people and is official in 23 nations.

“This is a strong academic program,” Al-Mallah said. “One that will enrich our students’ global understanding.”

Leins also stressed the importance of a global mindset, emphasizing the need to learn the language in order to get an un-biased look at the culture.

“Our media profits off of sensational stories about war and terrorism, but to really understand the Arab persecutive you need to speak the language,” Leins said. “You can’t get the whole story from English-language news sources.”

Though embarking on a difficult study path like Arabic might make students apprehensive, Beach offered encouragement.

“Yeah, it’s difficult,” she said. “But it’s so worth it. There are such great professors here, and you really get to know the people in your classes. Arabic is definitely my favorite thing about school right now.”


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