Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Teaching Foreign Languages K–12
A Library of Classroom Practices
Arabic: Teaching Arabic Overview
Teaching Arabic in the United States
Arabic is facing some of the same challenges as many other languages that are new to being taught in U.S. schools. Do we have educators in place? Is there community interest? Are there going to be resources and materials in place?
- Paul Sandrock, ACTFL
The Rising Demand for Arabic-Language Instruction
With more than 300 million speakers, Arabic is the fifth-most spoken language in the world. Most speakers of Arabic live in the Middle East and North Africa. But there are millions of Muslims throughout the world who use Arabic—the language of the Quran—for religious purposes.
While only a small percentage of Americans speak Arabic, it has become the fastest-growing language in the United States, according to the 2014 Census. The census also revealed that the number of Arabic speakers in the United States rose 29 percent between 2010 and 2014 alone, and that now more than a million Americans speak Arabic at home. Reflecting this surge in popularity, demand for Arabic-language instruction in primary and secondary schools in the United States has risen. More and more students—including those with Arabic or Islamic heritage—are interested in learning about the Arab world, given its centrality in international affairs.
As a result of this increased interest in Arabic, school and college Arabic curricula are placing emphasis on teaching Arabic for communication and as a way to promote cultural understanding. Some Arabic programs have expanded their traditional focus on teaching solely Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) to incorporating dialects into the curriculum. Arabic speakers do not use MSA for their daily interactions; instead, they speak in their local dialects. This is why the Standards for Learning Arabic K–16 in the United States have taken the position that learning Arabic for communication and cultural understanding requires knowledge of both MSA and a dialect.
Addressing the Challenges
Teaching Arabic for communicative purposes in K–12 in the United States is a fairly new phenomenon. Research findings support this notion. A 2012–2013 survey of 201 U.S. public and public charter schools by Qatar Foundation International (QFI) revealed that fully 68 percent of Arabic programs had been started in the five years preceding the survey. As with any foreign language new to U.S. schools, there are challenges related to integrating Arabic into K–12 curricula:
Adding Arabic to the Annenberg Learner Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 video library addresses these challenges in the following ways:
Equipping teachers with training and tools is critical to the success of any language program. As more Arabic programs succeed, additional schools may be encouraged to build programs of their own. This can be expected to strengthen teaching and learning standards, enhance cultural understanding, and, in turn, help foster community acceptance.