The Discipline and the Major
Arabic has been deemed a priority strategic language under the National Strategic Language Initiative. The US Armed Forces and the US Government seek to increase competencies in strategic languages to foster both diplomatic and military uses of these languages in the world today. Studying Arabic as a major entails taking a total of 42 credit hours: ten courses in the Arabic language and four collateral major electives, taught in English, covering topics related to the Arab World and the Arabo-Islamic culture. There are six courses of the ten language courses which majors are required to take (or, more rarely, validate). The remaining four language courses are selected from a set of 300- and 400-level classes which are offered in a rotating fashion. There are research opportunities, especially for the most advanced students, and/or those who study abroad. The collateral major electives taught in English include courses in Middle Eastern politics, Middle Eastern history, economics, Arabic literature, anthropology, linguistics and French. Although it is not a requirement, every Arabic major will benefit greatly from a period of time in an Arabic speaking country on one of the study abroad programs listed below.
Studying Arabic opens doors to some very exciting opportunities while here at the Academy. These include Language Study Abroad Programs (LSAP), for which midshipmen become eligible to apply in their second year of studying the language. Similarly, midshipmen may apply for Semester Abroad programs in the Arab World, managed by the International Programs Office (IPO) here on the Yard. Midshipmen have studied for a semester in Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and Morocco. Opportunities to study in other countries are being sought. Students have also successfully applied to programs outside the Academy for study abroad. A growing number of midshipmen studying Arabic have been awarded Critical Language Scholarships (by the Department of State) in several places in the Arab World including Jordan, Tunisia, Oman, and Morocco. The IPO also manages Language, Regional Expertise and Culture (LREC) trips to numerous places in the world.
Some students studying Arabic have sought to earn a second major in political science, economics, or history. Using the collateral major electives, students have also created subfields of interest in political science, history, literature, or linguistics. After graduation, Arabic majors may work in intelligence, be given additional training at Defense Language Institute, seek funding for an Olmsted scholarship, work toward becoming a Foreign Area Officer, and so forth. The uses of Arabic in civilian life are plentiful in government service, business, non-governmental organizations, and additional scholarship.
Considerations for those who might be interested in this major
The study of Arabic is very demanding. It requires a minimum of two hours of preparation between classes or 6 hours of work per week outside of each class in the first two years of study. Students should be good language learners. Knowing how to commit things to memory is a significant advantage for the language learner. Success in the study of Arabic requires a willingness to work hard but, as with other worthwhile achievements, the rewards are great.