Some 300 million people worldwide call Arabic their native tongue while another 100 million speak Arabic as an additional language, making it the sixth most spoken language in the world. Studying the Arabic language opens up doors into civilizations both ancient and modern that allow students to experience a rich and diverse culture.
Middle East studies examines the Arabic-, Turkish-, and Persian-speaking peoples and countries of the Middle East from a variety of perspectives. The region itself provides the focus, but historians, political scientists, anthropologists, economists, geographers, linguists, art historians, and literary and religious scholars all provide important insights into the area, each from the context of their own discipline. Undergirding all of these perspectives is linguistic skill in Arabic, through which access to original sources, press analyses, and native speakers is possible. Middle East studies as a whole tries to integrate these insights and to provide analysis and understanding that go beyond any single discipline.
The Middle East studies/Arabic major aims specifically to prepare students to work as analysts and experts on the Middle East for government agencies, businesses, and other organizations. Linguistic skill in Arabic, as well as a solid understanding of the history, politics, arts, and culture of the region is vital to these agencies. Many of them are desperate for real expertise and language ability. With its integrated, interdisciplinary focus on a single region and a strong emphasis on acquiring a usable knowledge of Arabic, it is also a good liberal arts major for students planning a career in law, medicine, or business in general—any field where a broad understanding and finely honed analytical and writing skills are valued.