Arabic Department
  University of Pennsylvania
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Goals Certificate in Arabic ACTFL Guidelines Course Description Course Offerings


The Arabic Language Program in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization (NELC) at the University of Pennsylvania offers four years (eight semesters) of proficiency-oriented Arabic courses:
- ARAB 031-032: First year
- ARAB 033-034: Second year
- ARAB 035-036: Third year
- ARAB 037-038: Fourth year

All courses except ARAB 039 (Egyptian) teach Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).
All courses except ARAB 331 and ARAB 433 are academic-year long courses.

There are three ways (opportunities) to enroll in Arabic courses at Penn (see below).
There are no prerequisites for enrolling in first-semester first year Arabic courses.

Information about the Department of NELC can be found here:


Daytime Courses

Daytime Fall and Spring courses are offered through the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). ARAB 031, ARAB 032, ARAB 033, ARAB 034 meet five hours per week.
One semester course is worth one University of Pennsylvania course unit.


ARAB 031: Elementary Arabic-I (1st semester)
ARAB 033: Intermediate Arabic-I (3rd semester)
ARAB 035: Advanced Intermediate Arabic-I (5th semester)
ARAB 037: Advanced Arabic-I (7th semester)

And occasionally:
ARAB 331: Advanced Spoken Standard Arabic


ARAB 032: Elementary Arabic-II (2nd semester)
ARAB 034: Intermediate Arabic-II (4th semester)
ARAB 036: Advanced Intermediate Arabic-II (6th semester)
ARAB 038: Advanced Arabic-II (8th semester)

And occasionally:
ARAB 039: Colloquial Arabic (Egyptian)

LPS Evening

Two evening fall and spring Arabic courses are offered through the College of General Studies (CGS). Each course meets twice a week for a total of five hours per week. Each semester course is worth one University of Pennsylvania course unit.


ARAB 001: Beginning Arabic-I (1st semester)
ARAB 003: Continuing Arabic-III (3rd semester)


ARAB 002. Beginning Arabic-II (2nd semester)
ARAB 004. Continuing Arabic-IV (4th semester)


ARAB 001 and ARAB 003 are not the daytime sequence. That is ARAB 31/32 and 33/34.
ARAB 001 and ARAB 003 together are a four-semester sequence intended primarily for part-time students and students enrolled in CGS. They are taught in the evening and form a separate, discrete sequence. They do not fulfill the College of Arts and Sciences' or Wharton's language requirement, but may fulfill the CGS language requirement. This sequence of courses is not intended to replicate the materials of the daytime sequence-ARAB 001 and ARAB 003. Students may not transfer from one sequence to the other. ARAB 001 and ARAB 003 may fulfill the CGS language requirement.

Information about CGS can be found here:

Summer Session

The Arabic Language Program offers summer intensive courses through the Office of Summer Sessions. The 6-week courses run from the middle of May to the end of June.
Two proficiency-oriented courses in Modern Standard Arabic are offered:
Intensive Elementary (1st year) Arabic (ARAB 131) and,
Intensive Intermediate (2nd year) Arabic (ARAB 133).
The two classes meet Monday through Friday from 9 A.M. to 1:30 P.M.
Students earn two University of Pennsylvania course units for either course.

Information about summer dates, tuition, registration, and housing can be found here:

Rationale Behind the Program and Course Offerings

Even with the shift to the study of Arabic as a modern language, most institutions have continued to lay the greatest stress in courses in non-Western languages on the acquisition of the reading skill. It is the recent emergence of "proficiency" as a national trend which has focused a great deal of attention on the oral-aural skills and has also served to re-emphasize the acquisitional benefits of the inter-relationships between the four skills.

For this reason, the Arabic program at Penn now adopts a four-skills approach to the teaching of all basic-level language courses. All students are expected to be able to function adequately within all four skills. Allowance is made, however, for students to indicate their own emphases or to compensate for their weaknesses in that, in the evaluation process, poor competence in one skill can be counterbalanced by better competence in another.

All language courses in Arabic at Penn are proficiency-based. Students are evaluated on their ability to perform authentic tasks in the target language. Their success is measured on a scale devised by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Educational Testing Service (ETS), in a way which assessed their ability to communicate with and receive information from a native speaker of the target language.

Beyond the basic-level sequence of courses (8 course units: ARAB 031-32, ARAB 033-34, ARAB 035-36, ARAB 37-38), there is a further course (one semester) which emphasizes the "active" skills (writing and speaking), incorporating within it activities involving the equivalent "passive" skills (reading and listening). Alongside these skill-based courses are reading courses devoted to specific topic-areas (social-sciences and literature, and Islamics), each of which emphasizes the development of genuine reading skills and the building up of specified vocabularies.

Beyond this level Penn offers a series of graduate seminar courses which concentrate on the application of a highly advanced reading skill to the areas specified within the graduate program.

Goals Underlying Instruction and Testing


With the above rationale in mind, the first eight course units in Arabic (ARAB 31-32, ARAB 33-34, ARAB 35-36, and ARAB 37-38) form a sequence in which students are introduced to the modern standard language of the Arabic-speaking world through a four-skills approach. All students are expected to acquire some competence in all four skills whatever their motivations for learning the language may be.



In terms of classroom priorities, emphasis in these courses is geared towards activities which stimulate communication and reception of information and away from classroom explication of morphology and syntax. Grammatical accuracy is given increasing weight as students proceed through the sequence of courses, but it is not regarded as an end in itself.



Students are evaluated in terms of these goals in two distinct ways. In order to test knowledge of discreet segments of vocabulary, morphology and syntax, tests and quizzes are given in the normal way (so-called achievement tests). Once each year, all students in the program are given a series of proficiency tests which are not syllabus-based or course-based but are rather intended to evaluate the learner's ability to use the language within the context of the target culture.

A series of "ranges" have been established (on an experimental basis at this point) so that teacher and learner can establish the proficiency-level of the student. If the student is declared "proficient" under this process, he/she becomes eligible to receive a grade for the course, determined by the usual (achievement-based) criteria.