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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

Summer Intensive Arabic Program at Cornell

June 3-August 2, 2013

Cornell University Department of Near Eastern Studies


The Cornell Arabic program integrates spoken Arabic with Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) in a way that reflects the use of the language by native speakers. Arabs use a spoken dialect for ordinary conversation and MSA for reading, writing, and formal speech. The Cornell program introduces spoken Arabic and MSA simultaneously, using each variety as it is used in real life. The four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are developed with a focus on communication (i.e., understanding the language and communicating ideas in it) rather than on the study of grammar. An important objective of the program is familiarizing students with basic facts about the geography, history, and culture of the Arab world.

The Summer Intensive Arabic Program is open to students from Cornell as well as students from other institutions and constitutes the first phase of the year-long Intensive Arabic Program (IAP). Two four-credit courses are covered in the eight-week period: NES/ASRC 1201 Elementary Arabic I and NES/ASRC 1202 Elementary Arabic II.

Short stories, anecdotes, and dialogues reflecting real-life experiences with an element of authenticity and humor are used to develop listening and speaking skills. Reading and writing are developed through a "mini-course" in Arabic on Arab history, geography, and culture. The readings start with short phrases describing Arab countries, cities, and people, and end with page-long biographies of important Arab historical figures. Songs, Jeopardy-type games, crossword puzzles, and other vocabulary-building activities that recycle the words of the listening, speaking, and reading materials are used to enhance the learning and retention of vocabulary and grammatical structures. There is no prerequisite for NES 1201. The prerequisite for NES 1202 is NES 1201 or one semester of Arabic.

The number of students in the class is capped at ten, and, judging by past experience, the number will be around six or seven. The small number of students provides an ideal language learning environment because of the amount of attention and opportunities for participation that individual students get.

Classes will meet in the morning from 8:30 to noon before breaking for lunch. The teachers will be available to help students with homework and for informal conversation between noon and 2 p.m. Every week will conclude with a lunch that the students and teachers eat together at a local Middle Eastern restaurant, where the students will have a chance to practice their Arabic with native speakers outside of the classroom.