Arabic is the most recent addition to foreign-language offerings at Williams. It has quickly become a popular language to study and the flourish of interest in the program has prompted the College to offer an Arabic Language and Culture Certificate. Since 2010, we have been able to offer an Arabic major, and we continue to develop and refine our offerings in the program.
Arabic is the language of a rich and complex cultural heritage, the main language of Islam and the official language of 21 countries. In order to promote cultural literacy, the Program at Williams stresses complementing classroom instruction with extra-curricular activities such as Arab film screenings, performances, music concerts, a weekly language table, and guest lectures. Likewise, Arab-themed parties with plenty of food introduce students to another important dimension of Middle Eastern culture.
In addition to the study of the language, students are encouraged to explore the culture through literature courses in translation. A broad range of courses attempt to introduce students to readings representative of classical and contemporary Arabic literary genres as well as presenting the major debates circulating in the region. Beyond an exploration of the political and social issues brought into relief in these texts, themes in these courses include an examination of the trope of the city (i.e., Baghdad, Cairo, Beirut), cross-cultural encounters and Arab migration, the figure of the outlaw, Arab feminism and theories treating national and postcolonial fictions.
Away from campus students have enrolled at semester-long programs in Syria, Morocco, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan and Egypt to name a few. Students have also had the opportunity to study during Winter Study in Morocco and Yemen.
After Williams many students opt to pursue graduate degrees in Arabic and Arab Studies at prestigious institutions like Georgetown and Harvard. Other former students have landed jobs in different branches of government, including one who received a highly competitive National Flagship Language Initiative Grant to study Arabic for two years and subsequently work for the government. We are also proud to note that our students have also received Fulbright awards for Arabic studies. With Arabic at the forefront of international affairs, we are confident that our students will be most competitive at the highest levels as Arabic-speakers are currently at a premium for admission to graduate school, post-graduation grants and positions in government, industry and non-profits. Its intellectual challenges and rewards are plentiful.