Terrorism, Sharia Law and brutal dictatorships might just be a few of the things Americans think of when they think about the Middle East. Everyone in the United States has an opinion on this region of the world. Why wouldn't they? Between the Invasion of Iraq, Syrian Refugee Crisis, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Arab Spring and countless other conflicts of international recognition, the Middle East is probably one of the most dynamic and complex regions in the entire world.
All throughout high school, when we learned about the Middle East, we always did so through a Eurocentric lens. Most of the region’s representation relied solely on their appearances in Ancient Egypt, the Crusades, World War I and modern-day political upheaval. To understand this region’s countries and peoples the way I understood European peoples meant to find another avenue outside of the conventional, Western-filtered media and education system.
Learning a language like Arabic gives the people of the Middle East a chance to communicate with us in their own words without our Western interpretation. Seeing how people of the Arabic-speaking world merely greet and say goodnight to one another speaks volumes when we begin to look at their culture. Especially when our political system is wrought with misunderstandings of the Middle East, one of the great, overlooked remedies may just be to study this great mystery of a language.
Arabic is sadly an under-appreciated discipline. Less than one percent of all college graduates in the United States will have studied Arabic during some period of their lives at university. Because of this low number, Arabic has become the subject of grossly low amounts of funding and promotion not only in the university setting, but also in the public school system where a lack of interest is being instilled.
Now, more than ever, is the time to register for Arabic 101. Because Arabic has endless marketability and importance, yet little representation, the day might come where the language is even harder to access than it is now. Language departments and universities can only do so much to provide active coaching in a language that lacks sustained interest.
So when it comes to making life-changing actions, studying Arabic may just be the best way to make an impact in our increasingly polarized world. Throw yourself into something new and exciting, something worth your time and that has the ability to reshape you into a better version of yourself.
Andrew Dugan is a sophomore double major in English and International Relations Major.