University of Calgary

Arabic Language and Muslim Cultures pilot program set for fall

UToday HomeMay 29, 2013

By Heath McCoy

Arabic Language and Muslim CulturesResponding to continued requests from the student body in recent years, the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Arts will offer classes in Arabic Language and Muslim Cultures for the first time, kicking off the program with two Beginner’s Arabic courses in the fall, followed by a Muslim Civilization course in the winter.

The new pilot program will be offered courtesy of the new Faculty of Arts Department of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures, set to launch on July 1. The new department will be a consolidation of the current departments of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic and East Asian Studies.

The courses in Arabic Language and Muslim Cultures will be offered as a three-year pilot program with new classes introduced each year.

“We expect a huge demand for these courses,” says professor Florentine Strzelczyk, who will be acting head of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures.

Strzelczyk was instrumental in putting together the program, but she says the real credit for the initiative must go to the university’s students. Indeed, in 2009 over 200 students signed a petition requesting that Arabic courses be available at the university. This prompted the Students’ Union to push for the program.

“Courses in Arabic Language and Muslim Cultures have been requested frequently,” says Strzelczyk. “The past two Students’ Union VP academics made the introduction of courses like this part of their platforms. In our efforts to make this happen we really opened doors for each other.” With the creation of the new Department of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures, the time was ripe.

“My vision for our new department is that we teach and research languages and cultures of global relevance, and that our students acquire a solid linguistic basis, helping them understand the principles of language as a system of communication,” Strzelczyk says. “We already teach Chinese, Japanese, Russian and German, and I think Arabic couldn’t be more timely.”

Kenya Jade-Pinto, outgoing vice-president (academic) for the Students’ Union, agrees. “It’s something that resonated with me,” she says. As an International Relations student she wanted to focus on Arabic language, but, because such a program wasn’t available, she had to alter her plans.

“I know that a lot of International Relations students would have taken Arabic Language and Muslim Cultures, if they had the opportunity,” she says.

Jade-Pinto, who campaigned for the implementation of Arabic Language and Muslim Cultures when running for student office, notes that the program makes sense on a number of levels.

In Calgary, Arabic is among the three most frequently spoken and written languages. Further, the university operates University of Calgary – Qatar. And of course, Calgary’s oil and gas sector has forged close ties with the greater Middle East and Asia.

The new courses also reflect the university’s Eyes High strategy. “One of the Eyes High academic objectives is creating more international links,” notes Jade-Pinto. “This empowers students to be equipped with these language skills. When they go abroad they can be successful in whatever career path they chose, be it business, engineering or international diplomacy.”

Adds Strzelczyk: “Understanding the complexity and diversity of Muslim cultures is so important if the university wants to be a global player.”

As for the success of the pilot program, Jade-Pinto’s expectations are high. “I’m confident it will become a permanent fixture of the university, so long as there’s support for it. I haven’t seen anything but support from the students.”

For more information about Arabic Language and Muslim Cultures see


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