News / USA

Arabic, Farsi Fluency Considered 'Critical' to US National Security

American students learn Farsi at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC
American students learn Farsi at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC

Multimedia

Mana Rabiee

Summer vacation is ending and students at American schools and colleges are getting ready to head back to class. In previous years, many of them would have been taking French or Spanish as a second language.  Knowledge of Arabic or Farsi is now considered "critical" to U.S. national security and more Americans are learning these languages today than ever before.

Jason Kopp is practicing Farsi in Washington with his private tutor at the Middle East Institute, an independent research center that offers courses in such languages as Farsi, Arabic, Dari and Hebrew. Jason has been studying Farsi for less than three months but he says the grammar is easier than he expected.

The Middle East Institute says the number of students clamoring to learn Farsi or Arabic at its center has tripled over the last few years. Farinaz Firouzi coordinates classes here. She says her typical student is a young American who wants to be more attractive to the federal government.

"Maybe they first studied Arabic and now with the change in the news and the international situation, they want to change jobs and are interested in either Afghanistan or Iran," said Firouzi.

The Modern Language Association tracks trends in foreign languages on American campuses.  It says the number of students enrolled in Arabic or Farsi classes was relatively low.  But the rate of enrollments is now staggering.  Arabic language enrollment shot up more than 125 percent between 2002 and 2006 while Farsi enrollment increased by nearly 75 percent during those years.  In comparison, enrollment in all foreign languages increased by less than 13 percent during the same period.

"After 2001 we noticed demand for classes went up. We were forced to go after more instructors and add classes," Firouzi added.

Why so much interest in these two languages?  A job search on the Internet provides some answers.  Hundreds of new jobs in the U.S. require applicants to have some knowledge of Arabic or Farsi.  Think tanks, consulting firms, the federal government and the military are looking for translators, intelligence analysts and IT specialists who have a working knowledge of either language.  Jason oversees translation and language projects for the White House and the U.S. State Department.

"From a work standpoint it was a good language for me to become familiar with because I'd be becoming familiar with the Arabic alphabet and another language that we have work in more often than we used to," said Kopp.

The government labels Arabic and Farsi the new "critical languages" along with Chinese, Hindi, and a few others.  In 2008, it doubled the funding of a foreign language initiative which encourages colleges and high schools -- even middle schools -- to include these languages in their curricula.  The aim is to create a future American workforce that can interact with these critical languages by starting as early as kindergarten and following up through the college years.

But despite the heightened interest in both languages the need for trained instructors of Arabic and Farsi in the U.S. outweighs the supply.  In 2008, the last time data were available, the total number of people in the U.S. who received a graduate degree in either Arabic or Farsi was just 13.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid