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Academic Program

Ben Smith teaching outside

Academic Program

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.

Arabic Class

Courses in Arabic Language, Literature, and Culture

As a Tri-College language program, Arabic is offered at the first- and second-year level 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.

Overview of Curriculum

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.

Special Majors & Honors Special Majors

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

Minor in Arabic Studies

Students must complete a minimum of 5 credits in courses numbered 004 or above, including at least one course from the selection of ARAB 021, ARAB 022, ARAB 023, ARAB 030, and ARAB 041. Of the 5 minimum credits, 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 are encouraged to discuss the requirements with the Arabic section head.

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