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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid