Arabic Course Offerings To ?Expand Next Year

Next year, Uppers and Seniors will have the opportunity to take Arabic 100, Andover’s first yearlong Arabic course. Arabic 100 will branch into two separate sections after fall term, one accelerated and one normally paced. The course will prepare students for a second-level course to be introduced in the 2010-2011 school year. “[The two year course] will qualify students to take on Arabic in college from a strong foundation,” said Mohammed Harba, Instructor in Arabic. “Having two years of the language is a major boost to their ability to take on [new] challenges [in college].” The course will follow the model of other languages currently taught at Andover. After fall term, the class will split into two sections. Arabic 110 will continue the course at a normal pace, while Arabic 120 will teach the material at a faster pace. Merill said that, ideally, “there will be enough interest for two sections.” “I feel [the current Arabic classes] are a product of what past students have contributed to the course,” said Harba. “Their suggestions have helped the program move forward to [where it is now].” The challenge of standardizing the Arabic language for instruction has hindered the expansion of the Arabic program at Andover. “There is no place where a specific dialect is most prevalent,” said Merrill. “Arabic speaking people each speak [their own country’s] Arabic. This creates problems when writing text books used for courses.” Harba said, “[Finding a comprehensive text] is not just a problem here at Andover. It is a major challenge all Arabic teachers deal with.” Harba’s classes use a collection of texts and handouts, including a textbook from Georgetown University. “Using many sources helps bridge the gaps,” said Harba. The difficulty of learning Arabic added an additional challenge to starting an Arabic program, said Harba. Arabic’s complexities and unique writing system mean that instructors must create their own teaching model, a hybrid of speaking and writing. Merrill said that Andover’s Arabic program may stay as a two-year course for some time after the second-level course is added to the curriculum next year, due to the amount of work it takes to adapt texts and create new curriculum for courses. Because of the challenges associated with the course, Merrill and the Language Department took an innovative approach in introducing the program to Andover in the spring of 2008. Andover’s Arabic program was started “backwards,” with Seniors being the first to take Arabic 130, “A Short Course in Beginning Arabic.” Arabic 130, a one-term introductory course, is “intended as a means for students to acquire some familiarity with the Arabic language,” according to Andover’s Course of Study. Harba said, “[Arabic 130] is very focused. It covers a lot of topics, which is hard to do in only two months. That’s a responsibility the students and I have to take.” He added that after taking the introductory course, many students consider learning more Arabic in college.” “At first I didn’t have a clear picture of the expectations, but within a few weeks it was very easy to notice how committed the students were to learning,” said Harba. This year’s Arabic offerings include Arabic 131, “The Cultures of Arabic Speaking People,” which the Course of Study describes as focusing on “various facets of the cultures of diverse Arabic-speaking peoples.” Also offered for the first time this year is Arabic 195, “Intensive Elementary Arabic.” The course was added as a traditional Senior language course to allow Seniors to begin the second level of a language in college. Beginning next fall, the program will include Arabic 100. The department’s decision to add a course for Uppers was unanimous, said Merrill. “The biggest debate [in the language department] was not whether to expand the course [to include a 100 level course for Uppers and Seniors], but whether to focus on a normal paced class, an accelerated pace class, or both,” said Merrill. Having only an advanced program, some argued, would mean only “language people” would take the course, which Merrill said that he wanted to avoid. The solution of introducing the program to Uppers and Seniors first was chosen because, “if Arabic was introduced with 9th graders, we would have been obliged to have a second and third year program,” said Mr. Merrill. With this solution, new courses can be introduced whenever they are ready, as opposed to when they are needed. Another worry is that adding a new language program tends to “temporarily decimate other languages,” said Merrill. “When Japanese was added to the curriculum,” said Merrill, “the enrollment [in other languages] tanked for a while.”