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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Semitic languages program expands

The Arabic program has nearly tripled the number of classes offered in the last three years to keep up with increasing interest in the language.

Nearly 300 students are enrolled in Arabic courses in the Classics and Semitics department this fall. It offers 19 Arabic language classes this semester, an increase from seven in 2003.

“Starting this fall, we have added 50 additional contact minutes weekly in our first and second-year Arabic courses so that we expedite the attainment of higher levels of Arabic language proficiency,” said Mohssen Esseesy, assistant Arabic professor and coordinator of the Arabic program.

Students can also work toward a new minor in Semitic languages with either an Arab or Hebrew track. The department hopes to expand this to a major in Semitic languages and literatures in the future. Those who graduate from the Classical and Semitic Languages and Literatures receive a Bachelor of Arts with a major in classical humanities.

At Georgetown University, the demand for Arabic language courses is increasing every year, said Ahmad Dallal, an associate professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies and the chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies department. This year, Georgetown is offering 10 first-year sections, as well as advanced literature courses and graduate linguistics courses.

“Both the number of students majoring in Arabic has increased, as well as the number of students in other programs and schools who want to acquire proficiency in Arabic,” Dallal said.

GW is setting up a Business Arabic course with funding from a Center for International Business Education and Research grant, Esseesy said.

“Mastering the Arabic language opens up many doors, since there are 20 countries declaring Arabic as their official language, and Arabic is the liturgical language for more than one billion Muslims around the world,” Esseesy said.

Early last year, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg suggested a translation program focusing in languages like Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, Russian and Korean.

The Hatchet reported this month that the University declined to implement such a program, but instead plans to hire additional professors of these languages.

Esseesy said he agrees with the move, but added that he would be open to piloting a course in translation or interpretation. The University plans to hold a workshop next summer covering general translation skills.

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