Department of World Languages Adds Arabic

Student Interest for the Subject Influences Decision for Newest Minor

By Clifford Michel

In early June, the College of Staten Island’s Department of World Languages and Literatures announced that the college would begin offering a minor in Arabic starting the fall semester.

The Arabic Minor requires 12 credits in Arabic at the 200 level or higher and offers several courses for native speakers. Completion of the minor is a demonstration that the student can converse, read, write and translate Arabic.

It will also fulfill the language requirement for some majors at CSI and aid in the pursuit of a graduate degree. Students with prior experience in Arabic have to take a proficiency examination to determine a proper starting point to begin their course of study in Arabic. Testing centers are located in the 1A administrative building.

The department is hopeful that the minor will attract native speakers who wish to deepen their understanding of the Arabic language and culture, as well as students who are new to the language entirely.

“All the students need to do is enroll in the Arabic courses and their cultural and language adventure will start,” said Professor Suha Kudsieh, an instructor at CSI of Arabic Civilization and one of the coordinators of the new minor. “Any CUNY student regardless of his or her background and level of proficiency is encouraged to learn Arabic.

The decision to establish Arabic as a minor was made after seeing over a few years a sustained interest from a sizeable amount of students. A college-wide committee was formed five years ago to meet the needs of those students, who would often travel to other CUNY colleges to learn Arabic. The committee started off by adding an entry level course, and adding another course for each semester that came afterwards. After five years and the support of the English Department and Department of World Languages, the minor was able to launch.

The successful launch of the program took years of hard work to fully develop and now the department is shifting its focus to making sure students are aware of the minor’s benefits.

“Most students do not understand the extraordinary effort that is required to offer a curricular program,” said Arabic Chairperson and Associate Professor Gerry Milligan. “I remember so many years ago when I asked the World Languages and Literature department to add Arabic as a language; my colleagues were enthusiastic, but all of the faculty warned me of the amount of work that is required to run a program where no full-time faculty member exists.”

Today, six years later, he believes that all of the work was worth it. CSI will offer at least four levels of Arabic. Students will have the option to be proficient in Arabic language and its cultures.

“Our new job, as I see it, is to clearly communicate the advantages of these studies,” said Professor Milligan.

Work still needs to be done to bolster the new program, specifically hiring a tenure track Arabic Instructor. Regardless the program intends to introduce students on campus to a language spoken by roughly 300 million people globally.

“Learning any language opens up endless opportunities to travel, meet new people, and get to know different cultures” said Professor Kudsieh. “I prefer to read works, newspapers and journals in their original language because it is almost impossible to translate a work from one language to another accurately.”

Arabic Chairperson Milligan can be found at the Department of World Languages and Literatures Building 2S, Room 109 or by calling (718) 982-3701.


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