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Continuing Education to Launch New Arabic Summer Program

This summer Continuing Education at Columbia and the department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures(MEALAC) will launch the intensive Columbia Arabic Summer Program(CASP).

Columbia Arabic Lecturer George El-Hage said the new program, which fulfills Columbia's language requirement, will provide faculty a welcome alternative to sending students elsewhere.

"Every year, we invest time and energy in trying to place our students in summer programs at other universities and institutes," El-Hage said. "CASP is an alternative to sending Columbia students away as well as a means to attract new students."

El-Hage proposed the Columbia program last May as increased enrollment in Arabic/Islamic courses over the past five years strongly supports the need. Furthermore, increases in culture courses, partly due to curriculum changes in 1998, have affected enrollment in Arabic language courses.

"Students often decide they want to read for themselves the Arabic texts they encounter in culture courses rather than rely on translations," MEALAC Professor George Saliba said.

To meet demands, five new Arabic/Islamic culture courses have been added for the regular academic year in the last five years, including "Theories of Culture in the Middle East and South Asia" and "Palestinian Israeli Politics and Society."

Since Islamic culture courses have been shown to be a key motivator for students to learn Arabic, Columbia's new summer Arabic program will kindle that cultural interest.

El-Hage said the program is designed to evolve into an interactive community of cultural immersion and linguistic experimentation that extends beyond campus borders. Excursions to museums and libraries throughout New York City and Middle Eastern neighborhoods and restaurants are planned to enhance learning.

Coffee breaks throughout the day will be venues for experimentation and exposure to colloquial Arabic through conversation with native speakers, instructors and students of all levels. Cultural immersion will include cooking lessons in Middle Eastern cuisine and lectures in Middle Eastern studies and music.

In two six-week sessions, students will learn Arabic at one of three proficiency levels-elementary, intermediate or advanced.

Elementary level courses will teach students to read and write simple passages and compositions and converse using essential vocabulary pertaining to daily life. Intermediate studies will strengthen fluency in speaking and writing while deepening knowledge of grammar and preparing students for the advanced level.

The advanced program, which will not use any textbooks, will rely on authentic material only. Advanced students will discuss abstract ideas, write complex compositions, research and make presentations on trade, culture, politics and literary works and will be able to converse comfortably with native speakers.

CASP faculty are convinced of the importance of mingling cultural studies with linguistic studies. Human experience is anchored in cultural sensibilities, so a language offers a window into a culture and its diversity.

Columbia's summer program is offered through Continuing Education. Click for more information.

Published: Apr 08, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002

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