Some St. Thomas students’ tongues will be getting a new, exclusive, workout this year. Beginning this semester, STU will be the only university in New Brunswick to offer courses about reading, writing and understanding Arabic.
“This program certainly deserves attention,” said Dr. Jeannette Gaudet, director of romance languages at STU. “This offers understanding about vast regions of the world that have become very important.”
The Arabic course is a way to familiarize St. Thomas students with the culture, history and people that it represents, Gaudet said.
“Language is really the doorway to another culture. It is a way of representing the world to ourselves.
“If you can understand a language, you can understand the people much better.”
Samira Farhoud, who will be teaching the course, agrees.
“Think of the language as a visa, or a passport into another culture,” said Farhoud. “The more passports you have, the more culture you can gain and the world becomes more open to you, less insular.”
Farhoud, a petite woman from Lebanon, hopes the subject will grow at STU. This semester’s Arabic offering, Arabic 1013, is already full.
“It is such a beautiful language, so different,” says Farhoud. “Offering it not only fights stereotypes, but also brings a great deal of diversity.”
Speaking four languages, Farhoud has worked extensively in comparative literature within the Middle East and North Africa. She taught introductory Arabic at the University of New Brunswick, but the school decided that the course wasn’t worth keeping, she said.
“We really want to broaden our students understanding of the world through this language and I think St. Thomas is going to be a great environment for that given its current focuses.”
Even though Arabic is spoken by over 200 million people around the world, not many schools offer Arabic courses. Other than STU, the closest university that offers it is Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“Right now it is being offered as a kind of experiment to gauge interest,” said Gaudet. “With enough of it, our hope is that we may be able to look at similar offerings [in Arabic] later on.”
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