College Bulletin 2023-2024 
    Sep 21, 2023  
College Bulletin 2023-2024

Modern Languages and Literatures: Arabic



KHALED AL-MASRI, Associate Professor, Section Head
BENJAMIN SMITH, Assistant Professor
DIMA HANNA, Lecturer

The Arabic program at Swarthmore College offers a minor or special major, as well as an honors minor or honors special major. Arabic coursework can also be used toward the interdisciplinary program in Islamic Studies and programs in anthropology, comparative literature, history, linguistics, religion, sociology, peace and conflict studies, and other fields. Study of Arabic language through the third year and study abroad are particularly recommended for students who want to develop proficiency for research or fieldwork. Interested students are urged to begin studying the language early in their academic careers, to have time to develop a useful level of language proficiency and be prepared to study in an immersive program abroad.

First-, second-, and third-year Arabic are offered every year; first-year Arabic has no prerequisites and is open to everyone except native speakers. Native or heritage speakers of Arabic should consult with the Arabic faculty for placement. Courses in literature in translation, culture, and film, when available, are also open to all students. Students of Arabic language are urged to take these courses and others related to the Arab world in Islamic Studies, sociology and anthropology, history, political science, peace and conflict studies, and religion to gain perspective on classical and contemporary Arab culture.

Introductory and Intermediate Arabic are intensive courses that carry 1.5 credits per semester. As noted above, study abroad is encouraged for students of Arabic; academic credit (full or partial) is generally approved for participation in programs recommended by the Arabic section. These include, but are not limited to, universities and non-university programs in Jordan, Morocco, and Oman.

The Academic Program

The Arabic Program offers a regular minor and an honors minor in Arabic Studies. Coursework in Arabic can also be part of a special major or a special honors major.

Arabic is a central component of Swarthmore’s Islamic Studies program, an interdisciplinary program that focuses on the diverse range of lived experiences and textual traditions of Muslims as they are articulated in various countries and regions throughout the world.

Arabic is also a valuable addition to programs in Humanities and the Social Sciences and can be part of the major in Linguistics and Languages, through the Linguistics Department.

Courses in Arabic Language, Literature, and Culture

As a Tri-College language program, Arabic is offered at the first- and second-year levels at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford Colleges. Third-year Arabic language, other advanced language courses, and introductory courses in Arabic literature and culture are offered at Swarthmore. Other courses are available at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the Philadelphia area.

Minor in Arabic Studies

Students must complete a minimum of 5 credits in courses numbered 004 or above. Of the 5 minimum credits, at least 4 should be achieved in courses taught in Arabic rather than in translation. Students may take one Arabic literature course (1 credit) in translation, or a relevant course from another department, with the approval of the section. Only one course may overlap with a major or a second minor. A minimum of 3 credits should be taken at Swarthmore. Students are strongly encouraged to study abroad in a section-approved program; two credits of pre-approved study abroad transfer credit may be counted toward the minor. Students who wish to do an honors minor in Arabic Studies are encouraged to discuss the requirements with the Arabic section head.

Special Major

Students may arrange to do a special major or an honors special major in Arabic Studies after consultation with the Arabic section head and the department chair. Work abroad will be incorporated when appropriate.

Special Major in Linguistics and Languages

1. Complete three credits numbered above 003

2. Courses in translation will not count towards fulfillment of the three-credit requirement


Application Process for the Major

Applicants for a Special Major in Arabic Studies must consult with the Arabic section head and be approved by the relevant faculty members and the department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

International Baccalaureate Credit

Students presenting IB credit in Arabic language or literature should consult with the faculty in Arabic.

Transfer Credit

The Arabic faculty will assist students in estimating credit for study of Arabic language and related topics abroad. Transfer credit (from study abroad or from courses taken at other institutions in North America) will be evaluated after students return to campus. Students should consult with the faculty in Arabic to estimate credit before studying abroad.

Off-Campus Study

Study abroad is crucial to gaining proficiency in Arabic because it allows immersion and significant cultural exposure. Studying Arabic in an environment where it is widely spoken exposes the student to natural language use outside the classroom. Modern Standard Arabic is the official or co-official language of Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the West Bank and Gaza, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Large numbers of Arabic speakers also live in Iran, France, and Turkey. Students are urged to consult closely with the faculty in Arabic as well as the Off-Campus Study Office in planning study abroad.

Research and Service-Learning Opportunities

Academic Year Opportunities

Some study abroad programs can arrange internships or other kinds of special opportunities for students.

Summer Opportunities

Like other programs in the Humanities, Arabic welcomes student proposals for guided summer research and will advise students applying for a Humanities Research Fellowship at the College.

Life After Swarthmore

Career possibilities that utilize foreign language skills parallel the opportunities of liberal arts graduates in general, with a strong focus on international or multicultural aspects. Obvious career paths for Arabic Studies Special Majors are the professions in which foreign language is a primary skill, such as language teaching, academia, translation and interpretation, or working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But as communication, travel, and business endeavors have expanded in the global marketplace, now even relatively small organizations may need to communicate with partners, clients, or customers in other languages, in the U.S. as well as in other countries.