Demand for Linguists far Outweighs Supply
By Harry Levins

People who can read, write and speak Arabic are a key weapon in the war On terrorism. But they're in short supply.
True, things look rosy in percentage terms. At Washington University, for example, the number of students majoring or minoring in Arabic language studies has more than tripled in the past four years and is on its way to quadrupling.
That rise mirrors a national surge. But locally and nationally, the percentage jump masks a stark statistical reality: In actual numbers, the ranks of US collegians studying Arabic remains surprisingly small - at last count, not quite 10,600. That's less than 1 percent of the collegians studying any foreign language.

"When I came here in the fall of 2000," says Washington University Arabic professor Nargis Virani, "we had maybe one student majoring in Arabic, and one minoring in it. Last June, we graduated four majors and three minors. And now, we have three majors and five minors in the pipeline."

So in real numbers, the big percentage jump translates into a mere blip. As a result, the demand for college graduates who can speak Arabic far outweighs the supply.
America's intelligence agencies are scrambling for Arabic speakers. But the supply is held down by many factors, chiefly the sheer difficulty of mastering Arabic.

Kirk Belknap runs the government-financed National Middle East Language
Resource Center at Utah's Brigham Young University, where he also
teaches Arabic... (Courtesy Post-Dispatch, 12/12/04)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.