Brigham Young University, through the National Middle East Language Resource Center, held a one-day Arabic language and culture camp on July 18 for high school students and younger children.
Students learned how to introduce themselves and how to write their names in Arabic.
Arabic has become a popular language in the last 20 years according to BYU Arabic professor Kirk Belnap who coordinated the event. Belnap feels that more and more people will learn this language in the coming years.
“When I started teaching Arabic in the 80’s, we had no more than 5,000 people in higher education in the U.S. studying Arabic,” Belnap said. “Now it is probably more than 50,000 and growing.”
Belnap believes that learning Arabic is important to the western world because it helps us understand the culture and, most of all, assists in educational value to a growing multicultural modern society.
“It is interesting to learn a language that is from a culture quite different from your own,” Belnap said. “There is a huge educational value when you learn a language that is very remote as Arabic.”
Misunderstandings cause confusion about the Arabic world amongst Americans.
“There is a lot of misconceptions about the Arab world,” Belnap said. “It is really interesting to help people get to know a culture where there are lots of myths and misunderstandings, and to help people understand that what we share is more than what divides us.”
Belnap also feels that the Arabic world has influenced western society in a way we can’t imagine.
“Rather than being a matter of west against east, it is the contact of west and east that is very beneficial,” Belnap said. “Our universities, our educational system, our sciences, they all are profoundly impacted by their contacting in the middle ages with Arabic centers of learning.”
Belnap feels that it is beneficial for the the Arabic speaker when looking for a job.
“It is professionally advantageous because it helps the application stand out,” Belnap said. “It makes people think you are special. They have a comparative advantage in the understanding of a culture and being able to connect to people.”
If you weren’t able to attend the one day class, there is still a chance to take Arabic classes online for high school credit through BYU. For information on registration for other Arabic camps and costs for available online Arabic classes, visit their website.