Jun 25, 2013 9:48 AM by Jacqueline Quynh - KPAX News
MISSOULA - It's one of the oldest languages in the world, and according to recent reports, it's growing in popularity with college students. But it's not Chinese or Spanish.
Reporter Jacqueline Quynh explains why the Arabic language may now be growing among students still in high school.
High school senior Katya Hull is one of 22 students taking the Arabic immersion program at the University of Montana this summer. She's learning how to pronounce different letters and says that after just one week, she's already getting the hang of things.
"Chinese - I was having trouble with, so this is a really good in between for me, to learn a new language that is a little bit out of my comfort zone," Hull explained.
The challenge may be worth it for Katya and students like her as Arabic is one of the languages the U.S. government is pushing for more schools to develop.
"We don't have many programs here in Montana to teach Arabic which is one of the most important languages for US National Security and many other reasons," said Dr. Khaled Huthaily with the Montana Arabic Summer Institute.
The classes are open to high school students, and Dr. Huthaily says the classes fill up quickly, with some students applying from far away states.
"We have students who want to find jobs related to the relationships between the US and the Arab World, political science, business and different fields."
Students are immersed in Arabic from day one while taking part in the program, while also learning about Middle Eastern cultures, food and customs.
Hellgate is the only Missoula high school which offers Arabic, so other opportunities can be hard to come by.
"The only other way I can think of would be an online class," Hull said.
Instructors with the program hopes this gives young people a better understanding of Arab cultures, that some say gets lost in the media.
"I think if students were to pay attention to the Arabic program here, or the people who speak Arabic in Missoula, they'd find a warm welcoming and small community," instructor Brandon Work said.
That may be the case with some high school students like Hall, who says she plans to explore the Middle East.
"You should probably know the language, if you're going somewhere and also I don't want to go somewhere, do something inadvertently American that offends someone," Hall told us.
The UM program is sponsored by the National Security Agency, and is open to all high school students.