Learning Objectives

Why Arabic Studies at Williams?

Arabic Studies at Williams College is anchored in a comparative, interdisciplinary, trans-historical and global approach to Arabic language, literature and cultures. It is also a second home for faculty from Comparative Literature, History, Religion, Global Studies, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Political Science, Art History, Theater. Arabic Studies offers a vibrant curriculum on contemporary topics that capture the complexity of everyday life in the Arab world, in addition to exploring Arab intellectual history  from the premodern to the present. Stemming from a strong emphasis on language pedagogy, our diverse curriculum includes courses on both premodern and modern Arabic literature and cultures, and on second language acquisition. Courses also include comparative and cross-cultural investigations beyond regional boundaries that puts the Arab world and its cultural production (literature, film, music, art, etc.) in conversation with Latin America, the Global South and the world at large.

Our goal is to help students achieve high levels of fluency in Arabic while developing tools to think about and engage critically with the Arab world. In Arabic Studies at Williams, students enjoy the advantages of learning Arabic in a liberal arts environment, such as small class size, individualized attention, and exciting extracurricular programming. Simultaneously, students develop a commitment to rigorous research methodologies, critical thinking, and ethical engagement with Arabic language and cultures beyond the headlines. Our goal is to train the leaders of a new generation of culturally and linguistically literate citizens. Ahlan wa sahlan!

Why major in Arabic Studies at Williams?

The Arabic Studies major at Williams opens pathways in academia, international relations, finance, government, and law, among other fields. Our Arabic Studies majors graduate with highly marketable skills: strong Arabic language competence, rigorous analytical abilities, and knowledge of a region vital to today’s political landscape. Many of our majors write honors theses through the major and in partnership with other departments on a wide range of topics. Our thesis students have carried out interdisciplinary work, tying Arabic Studies to, for example, Religion, History, Latino/a Studies, American Studies, and Political Science.

How do we teach the Arabic language?

Arabic Studies at Williams is a comprehensive program offering coursework in formal and spoken Arabic at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of proficiency. Our language courses aim to build a strong foundation of language proficiency and cultural understanding, and supports a range of different fields, including literature, linguistics, art, history, religion, and anthropology.

Our proficiency-based curriculum aims to develop learners’ competence toward Advanced proficiency and beyond (based on the standards of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Our faculty uses a communicative competence approach with strong emphasis on interactivity.

The core Arabic language curriculum consists of three years (six semesters) of language-centered, skill-based coursework that simultaneously incorporates content on various aspects of Arab cultures; intercultural competence is an essential objective of the program.  Our fourth- year curriculum focuses on topics such as cinema and current events. It provides further exploration of Arab thought and aims at advancing Arabic proficiency and cultural knowledge in order to engage effectively with social and political issues in the Arab world.

The core language curriculum uses the Al-Kitaab textbook series, which offers instruction in formal and colloquial Arabic at all levels. We incorporate authentic materials and resources at all levels of proficiency in order to equip students to use Arabic in a wide variety of real-life situations. In so doing, we embrace a dynamic view of Arabic, reflecting authentic communication with and among speakers of Arabic across various contexts and geographical areas in the Arab world.

Our students are expected to reach Intermediate Low to Mid proficiency by the end of the first year, Intermediate Mid to High by the end of the second, and Advanced proficiency by the end of the third year.

Where do Williams Arabic Studies students study abroad?

Almost 50% of all Williams College students study away during their junior year. Williams students choose among many exciting study programs in a wide range of Arabic-speaking countries. Recently these countries have included Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, and Oman. Williams Arabic students have a strong record of receiving prestigious international fellowships including several Fulbrights. Another opportunity for study abroad is provided by a variety of summer fellowships, unique to Williams, that award funding for students to further their language study or pursue self-developed research projects around the world. The rigorous language training and dynamic international focus of Williams’s Arabic classes prepares students for their time abroad and fosters their awareness of the Arabic-speaking world in the spirit of Williams’ commitment to fostering global citizenship in its students. More information about Williams’ study abroad opportunities can be found here.