Study Arabic? Who and Why?

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Arabic class

Interacting with those who study Arabic

Over the course of the past several months I have been interacting with people who want to study Arabic, as well as a number of Arabic teachers.  I began my own journey to study Arabic 25 years ago, and so it is really interesting for me to find out who wants to study Arabic now, and why.

Who wants to study Arabic? What are their motivations?

As an Arabic educator, knowing who wants to study Arabic is a crucial question.  Knowing your audience is a key part of teaching effectively.  And knowing their reasons for wanting to study can make your instruction much more successful.  Motivation not only affects the speed at which a student will learn, but also the subject material that they want to cover, and their ability to take in and hold significant amounts of new language.

This week I was reading a 2006 study by Ghassan HusseinAli, a faculty member at George Mason University, entitled “Who is Studying Arabic and Why? A survey of Arabic Students’ Orientations at a Major University”. The study was from the United States, and from almost 9 years ago, but the results are still widely applicable.

Ghassan Husseinali


Photo Credit

Husseinali, Ghassan. “Who is Studying Arabic and Why? A Survey of Arabic Students’ Orientations at a Major University.” Foreign Language Annals 39.3 (2006): 395–412.

The two most interesting parts of Husseinali’s study, for me, were his findings on the different ethnic groups that were studying Arabic, as well as the reasons for studying Arabic.

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