Arabic is the official language of 22 countries, and there are well over 300 million native speakers of the language. These speakers are largely concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa, but there are minority groups of native speakers throughout the world. It is also an official language of the United Nations, the Arab League, The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) , and the African Union. The political events of the last decade and the Arab Spring have made it more important than ever for Americans to understand the language, culture, and history of the Middle East region. During the past decade, the number of U.S. undergraduate students of Arabic has increased dramatically.
Due to the growing importance of the Middle East in international affairs, there is an extreme shortage of workers in the U.S. who are versed in Arabic language and culture. Those who study Arabic can find careers in a variety of fields: journalism, business, and industry, education, finance and banking, translation and interpretation, consulting, foreign service and intelligence, among many others.
The U.S. government has designated Arabic as a language of strategic importance. The National Strategic Language Initiative of 2006 promotes the learning of Arabic (and other languages deemed critical for national security and economic policies).
The UMW Arabic program was established in 2005, and the number of the students enrolled has steadily increased, coinciding with what is happening in the Arab world.
The Arabic program at the University follows the standards of teaching Arabic as laid out in the American Council On The Teaching Of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).