Ames High offers a new Arabic course

Ames High is welcoming a new addition to its family of language classes. Currently, Spanish, German, and French are the only three languages that the foreign language department offers. Next school year, however, an intriguing new option will be offered: a course in Arabic. “[Learning Arabic] is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to try something different,” said Daniel Klass, who will teach Arabic 1 during the 2011-2012 school year. Klass, who is currently a social studies teacher at Ames High and previously taught French as well, believes that learning Arabic has the potential to be very beneficial. He said that the timing is right, and that “there are political and demographic reasons” that learning the language is important today. “Some very big languages are ignored in high school,” said Klass, who also teaches an Arabic class at Simpson College. He pointed out that while Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, many high schools, including Ames High, do not offer a course in it. Two other widely-spoken languages that Klass mentioned as underrepresented in terms of teaching are Russian and Urdu. “I’m not taking anything away from [Spanish, German, and French], but there are lots of other languages spoken by a lot of other people,” Klass said. Ames High’s Arabic course will be similar to any level 1 course and deal with basic grammar. A lot of the sounds in Arabic are familiar English sounds. There is, however, one big difference between Arabic and the languages Ames High offers currently: the unique alphabet. “The first six weeks will be spent learning and writing the letters,” Klass said. He notes that while Arabic is very different structurally from the languages that use the Latin alphabet (eg. Spanish, French, and German), Arabic is also a “very clean, logical language.” “A lot of math and music people do well with Arabic,” Klass said. “They are able to sense patterns in it.” Klass himself began learning Arabic while he was a graduate student studying international relations. He chose the Middle East as his area of specialty and enrolled at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. He said he “had a knack for Arabic” from the start. Given the opportunity, Klass said he would like to see Ames High offer Arabic 2, 3, and 4 classes eventually. Even a Middle East high school trip could be a possibility in the future, to some place like Egypt, Israel, Turkey, or Morocco. “I don’t see why not,” Klass said. “We’ll have to do more research though; we’re starting from scratch here.”