Senator backs Arabic language scheme

Oct. 6, 2005 at 4:55 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Arab League Ambassador Hussein Hassouna announced Thursday the launch of an Arabic language program for young people.

Concordia Language Villages, which already offers tuition in 13 foreign languages, will in summer 2006 add an 'Arabic language village' to its Minnesota school.

Tuition will be by 'total immersion,' with only Arabic spoken. Students aged 7-18 will take part in two-week sessions, which will include experience of Arabic art, music and cuisine alongside the language classes.

"The scheme is valuable, important and timely," said Hassouna. "Arabic is now among the top five languages in the world and an official language of the United Nations. It is also the language of the Koran, which binds 1.3 billion Muslims."

Concordia began with a German language village in 1961. Since then, along with other European languages, it has added Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. These were "strategic languages," said Coleman, the tuition of which was vital to United States interests.

The invasion of Iraq had exposed a chronic shortage of Arabic speakers in the United States, making it difficult to "win hearts and minds" in the Arab world.

"Arabic is the next strategic language," he said.

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