IU School of Global and International Studies to host Language Flagship's program in Arabic

  • March 9, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Language Flagship, an initiative of the National Security Education Program within the U.S. Department of Defense, has chosen Indiana University to host its undergraduate program in Arabic.

Flagship Language programs are designed to help students from all schools and disciplines, including business, music and the liberal arts, to acquire language skills and certification that help prepare them for careers as global professionals.

"The Language Flagship sees itself as leading the way nationally toward a new approach for language learning," said Hilary Kahn, assistant dean for strategic collaborations in the School of Global and International Studies. "It's really focused on putting language learning into practice and using language skills in particular domains and professional contexts.

"We are now part of a broader consortium of Arabic and all Language Flagships across the country," Kahn added. "Some of the work that we are doing here will be shared with our partners at other Language Flagship programs, and we also strongly expect to learn from them as well."

This will be the fifth time that IU has been selected by the Institute of International Education to establish a Language Flagship program. The institute administers the program.

The Bloomington campus also is home to undergraduate-level Language Flagship programs in Chinese, Turkish and Swahili and previously had a graduate program in Chinese. No other U.S. university has as many Flagship programs.

The aim of all of the Language Flagships -- at IU and elsewhere -- is to create a strong pool of proficient global professionals who will serve the nation, through their work in the public and private sectors and the U.S. government.

IU's Chinese Flagship Program hosts a summer intensive language program that serves Flagship students from all over the country. IU is home to the nation's only Flagship program in Turkish.

Lee A. Feinstein, founding dean of the School of Global and International Studies, noted that IU has been a leader in language instruction for decades and has offered Arabic language instruction for half a century.

"IU in 1966 became a pioneer in the teaching of Arabic, and we are thrilled to extend our legacy in helping others understand and use this important language today," Feinstein said. "According to various sources, Arabic is the third-most-spoken language in the world, used by about 490 million people, which speaks to the importance of the Flagship program."

"A university dedicated to global perspectives in education and research must make a strong commitment to the study of the cultures and languages of the Middle East," IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret said. "The Arabic Flagship is a critical piece of that commitment and will inform the work of our existing programs in Islamic studies, Near Eastern languages and cultures, and Middle Eastern studies, among others."

Salman Alani, a professor of Near Eastern languages and cultures and an IU faculty member since 1970, will lead the Arabic Flagship program. It was established through a projected four-year grant of $1.3 million.

“The Arabic Flagship program will give us the opportunity to develop the Arabic language program at all levels and to provide our students with advanced language learning and promote and improve on teaching excellence in Arabic language,” Alani said.

Alani will collaborate with Nader Morkus, director of the Arabic language program, an assistant professor of Near Eastern languages and cultures and the Language Flagship's academic director.

Feinstein and Kahn also acknowledged the contributions of Stephen Katz, chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Complementing the Language Flagship is IU's Center for the Study of the Middle East, a Title VI National Resource Center.

In addition to studying with IU faculty, students will study abroad at a partner university in Meknes, Morocco, and complete their capstone studies there.

Today, 135 students are enrolled in Arabic language courses at IU, and they come from all over the world, including from Korea and China.

The Language Flagship is a federally funded effort and a component of the National Security Education Program at the U.S. Department of Defense. The National Security Education Program was created in 1991 to develop a much-needed strategic partnership between the national security community and higher education to address national needs for expertise in critical languages and regions. It is the only federally funded effort focused on the combined issues of language proficiency, national security and the needs of the federal workforce. In conjunction with technology and research-oriented investments, the program represents an integral component of a national security strategy to eliminate the serious language deficit in the federal government. 

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