UC Wins Grant for Distance Learning Course In Arabic Language And Culture

October 22, 2003

Arabic is the primary language of one of the most geo-politically critical regions in the world, claims over 250 million native speakers and is the religious home language of an additional 1 billion people. Despite both the surging popularity of Arabic language and culture and the need for more government experts and academics trained in this important field, as of 1998 only 5,000 U.S. students were studying Arabic. From its base at UC Berkeley, Arabic Without Walls will deliver a distance-learning Arabic language and culture course for students on other UC campuses and eventually for students at colleges throughout the country that do not offer an adequate program of study in Arabic. Currently at UC, Arabic is only taught on the Berkeley, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara campuses.

The course will allow undergraduate and graduate students in fields ranging from Middle East Area Studies to Religious Studies to Political Science, the opportunity to pursue the study of Arabic in a flexible, web-based forum that highlights native speakers and is focused on developing listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Faculty will also be able to access the state-of-the-art supplementary materials being produced for the course, and upper-division and graduate students will have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants in the program. The program is modeled after the successful Spanish Without Walls course, a pioneering effort in language distance learning, now being offered through UC Davis extension for its third consecutive year. Arabic Without Walls will launch in the fall of 2005, and in its first year will reach an estimated 60 students.

Arabic Without Walls was made possible by a prestigious $452,622 grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education of the United States Department of Education. The program will be co-authored, developed and distributed over a period of three years by the UC Consortium for Language Learning & Teaching and the National Middle East Language Resource Center (NMELRC) at Brigham Young University. The Co-Principal Investigators of the project are Professor Robert J. Blake, director of the Consortium, and Professor Kirk Belnap of the NMELRC. Under the direction of Blake and Belnap, a team of Arabic experts including Dr. Sonia S’hiri (UC Berkeley), Dr. Mahmoud Al-Batal (Emory University) and Dr. Muhammad Eissa (NMELRC), will produce the DVD-ROM master class and the web-based materials that will form the cornerstone of the project.

The UC Consortium for Language Learning & Teaching is a system-wide entity, established in 2000 by the UC Office of the President to maximize the University’s resources in foreign languages. The Steering Committee of the Consortium includes representatives from the language faculty of 8 UC campuses.

Additional Resources:
Robert Blake Director
UC Consortium for Language Learning & Teaching
530-754-7152 fax

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
University of California Office of the President

Media Contacts:
Abby Lunardini
(510) 987-0997