First offering of Arabic 101 proves popular

When Oswego’s modern languages and literatures department announced its first section of Arabic 101 last spring, “it was amazing how well (students) responded,” said Ahmed S. Ould-Mohamed, the adjunct instructor.

“The course was full in the first two weeks after we opened registration,” he explained.

The class began meeting this semester. Its 25 students can continue with Arabic 102 next semester. Others who want to jump into the language in time for next semester’s course can take an intensive version of Arabic 101 during Winter Session.

Arabic is in high demand as the United States engages the Muslim world—militarily, diplomatically, commercially and intellectually. Ould-Mohamed said that even students from other upstate colleges called trying to get into Oswego’s class.

Arabic is the principal language of 22 countries, he said, and because Arabic is to Islam as Latin used to be to Christianity, 1.2 billion people worldwide use the language liturgically.

Nationally, the number of college students studying Arabic in 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available, was double the number of four years earlier but still less than 1 percent of total U.S. foreign language enrollment, according to a September report by the Newhouse News Service.

For the future at Oswego, “we would like to think about offering more sections and move into 201 and 202 level courses,” said Dr. Tracy Lewis, professor of modern languages, including Spanish and Portuguese.

Ould-Mohamed lives in Oswego with his family and also teaches Spanish at Oswego. A native of Mauritania, he speaks several languages and has taught Arabic, the language of his country, both in Spain and in Mauritania to businesspeople and diplomats visiting that North African country. He has a master’s degree in linguistics and translation from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain.

“I was really surprised how dedicated my students are,” he said after teaching Arabic 101 at Oswego for two weeks. Among his students’ majors are journalism, public justice, international relations, computer science, French, anthropology and history. “They’re very enthusiastic. They want to learn. That helps a lot.”

The Office of International Education and Programs put up the funds that make offering the Arabic courses possible, Lewis said.

The office does the same for Portuguese, which Lewis began teaching in 2002. Oswego has a new study-abroad program in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Brazilian students are coming here to study every year now, Lewis noted. Another draw for the Portuguese classes is the college’s active Capoeira Club, he said. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art like kick boxing.

Lewis said that Portuguese is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world, the language not only of Portugal and Brazil but of several countries in Africa.

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(Posted: Oct 05, 2005)