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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora