Campus: San Bernardino -- August 01, 2007

CSUSB launches intensive Arabic language program

The longest intensive Arabic language program in the nation began this summer at California State University, San Bernardino thanks to a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The 15-month-long program is available to any student from the 23 CSU campuses who has had one year of Arabic language. Upon completion of the three-phase program, the 19 currently enrolled CSUSB students will earn either a minor or credential in Arabic language.

The first phase of the three-part program ends today, Tuesday, July 31, with a graduation ceremony and banquet at 6 p.m. in CSUSB's Obershaw Dining Room. Phase I consists of a six-week-long summer intensive. Students live on campus, study in a variety of language classes and engage in cultural activities. Some of the activities include preparing traditional Arabic food, dancing, learning calligraphy, playing instruments and going on field trips."

Dany Doueiri, originally from Lebanon, is the program coordinator and a lecturer in world languages and literatures at Cal State San Bernardino. "Nationally the U.S. is handicapped in foreign language," said Doueiri. "We are at war with countries we cannot communicate with."

Part of the U.S. Department of Defense's new plan to mend the United States' crippling deficiency in foreign languages is the Strategic Language Initiative. It is intended to give the leaders of tomorrow a much better knowledge of world languages and cultures in these volatile times.

The Strategic Language Initiative is a consortium of six CSU campuses, each offering a language considered key in communicating around the globe. Some of the languages being offered are Arabic, Korean, Mandarin, Persian and Russian.

The $1.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Defense created the program. By the time the 15-month program ends next summer, CSUSB will have received about $300,000 total .

Although other universities offer Arabic intensives, CSUSB's is unique. Most of these programs offer two, four or maybe six hours of classes three days a week, Doueiri said. Running from 8 a.m. to around 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday with a field trip on Friday, CSUSB's program keeps students busy almost 12 hours a day.

"The students study Arabic language during the day, cook traditional Arabic meals for dinner, and I've even had students sleep-talking - in Arabic," said Doueiri.

"It's been a really great experience", said Daniel Venti, a major in international business at San Diego State University. "We all signed a pledge that we would speak only Arabic for the full six weeks we were here."

During phase II of the 15-month program students will return to their home campuses for the academic year, but will continue to study Arabic. To help them stay on track, each student will have weekly meetings with a mentor from their home campus who will guide them through their studies which will include online coursework, DVDs, CDs, text books and weekend workshops.

For phase III of the program, the 19 students will spend 6-8 weeks studying abroad at an international university. Possible destinations being considered include Egypt, Yemen and Jordan.. Students will have a chance to visit cultural sites, study in Arabic, contribute volunteer work, and further immerse themselves in Arabic language and culture.

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