New York, United States – Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric tells one story about the modern day US. But, students painstakingly learning Arabic’s right-to-left script in classrooms across the country tells another.
While fewer Americans speak Arabic than English, Spanish, Chinese or even Tagalog, it is perhaps the nation’s fastest-growing language and is increasingly being studied in kindergartens and colleges from the boondocks to big cities.
“Some people study Arabic for professional reasons or to get a government job, but most are the true Americans who are open to other cultures,” Mahmoud al-Batal, a Lebanese-American Arabic professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told Al Jazeera.
“They are not convinced by what Donald Trump tells them or by the two-minute media reports of car bomb explosions they see on the news. They want to understand the culture and language for themselves.”
According to the Modern Language Association, the number of students enrolled in Arabic college courses tripled to more than 32,000 from 2002 to 2013. Analysts point to a spotlight on the Middle East after the 9/11 attacks.
College enrolments slumped slightly after US forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, said al-Batal. Also, the chaos following the Arab Spring in such Arabic-learning hotspots as Syria and Egypt made it riskier for Americans to set up study trips.
Source: Al Jazeera