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CAMES: Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies 24/7
The location is Beirut, the majority of the students are native English-speakers, and the professors are some of the most highly qualified Arabic instructors in North America and Lebanon. Casey Noga (expected CAMES MA 2003) finds that students enrolled in the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies) Summer Arabic and MA programs gain a unique educational and regional perspective.

There’s one best way to learn a language–immerse yourself in both the language and the culture from which it springs. That’s what students learning Arabic do in the summer program at AUB’s Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (CAMES).
The intensive six-week program is designed to cover an entire year’s worth of university language study. Four hours of classwork each day are supplemented with homework and enhanced by educational field trips around the country. Students are not only immersed in the language in the classroom but they also pledge to speak Arabic as much as possible outside as well. Instructor Nada Saab says that this mixed approach “creates a learning community you just don’t get with classes alone.”
Professors get them off and running by incorporating television, radio, and music in their classes in order to inculcate students with the language from all angles. A typical classroom scene finds the students circled around a professor, poised to respond to rapid-fire queries on vocabulary and conjugations. The professor points from one student to another, quizzing the class, pausing only to answer questions from the students—answering English with Arabic. Then the professor switches gears and puts on a videotape, challenging the students to repeat phrases they recognize from a song or program. Students’ comprehension of the language improves rapidly as they learn to recognize variations in formal, classical, and spoken Arabic in a variety of settings. A popular course in colloquial Lebanese provides students with lessons on conversation in the native idiom.
Learning to navigate the city is an education in itself, as students learn to enjoy the unique blend of East

and West, history and modernity, that is Beirut. Tours of the Roman era baths excavated in the city center might be followed by a night of dancing at one of the countless nightclubs spinning Europe and North America’s latest popular music. Beaches lining the coast and the cooler villages of the mountains offer respite to students in need of a day trip from the hustle and bustle of the city. This year’s classes made outings to the markets of Beirut and the seaside Corniche, but also traveled as far as the palace of Beiteddine in the Chouf Mountains, the ancient ruins at Baalbeck in the verdant Bekaa Valley, and the historic city of Tripoli in the forested North.
Students praise the summer program and their professors. David Patel, a PhD student from Stanford who joined the program after one year of Arabic study, says, “the teaching is excellent.