Increasingly recognized as a national leader in the teaching of Arabic, the Middle East Department at BGU takes as its defining goal the facilitation of direct and meaningful engagement with the peoples, cultures, and history of the region, most notably the nearly 300,000 members of the Negev's Bedouin-Arab community. Unique among university programs, which traditionally focus on the technical aspects of the written form, the department's Arabic Studies Program treats Arabic as a living language, emphasizing the acquisition of academic skills alongside direct communication in Arabic. Through our integrated “Arabic in Arabic" approach, modeled after the highly successful program at Cornell University, native-Arabic instructors—Arab and Jewish alike—teach Modern Standard Arabic while speaking in the colloquial version, particularly the local Palestinian dialect. In this way, students acquire critical skills in a language of social, political, and regional importance, and become part of the department's efforts to connect Jewish Israelis with Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and with more peoples of the Middle East.
Developed in consultation with leading researchers of foreign-language pedagogy, the curriculum creates a continuum of content that makes for applicable and effective learning. The program also features regular field tours to Israel's Arab cities, where students can put their growing language skills to use, and the option of an Arabic-speaking practicum in the Negev (or “Al-Naqab" in Arabic), in an Arab cultural center, school, clinic, or municipality, or in joint Jewish-Arab initiatives.
Designed to complement the full three years of a departmental undergraduate degree, the program also accommodates students in the M.A. and Ph.D. tracks, undergraduates in year- or semester-long exchange programs, and graduate students in other departments for whom skills in Arabic will advance their research. The program welcomes students at all levels of spoken and written Arabic, and its staff tailors a course of study to fit each students' goals and needs.