News / Halifax

Saint Mary’s University to offer beginner Arabic classes

The Language Centre at Saint Mary’s University will be offering introductory Arabic courses in January

Muhammad Elhabibi of Saint Mary's University.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Muhammad Elhabibi of Saint Mary's University.

For Haligonians who have always wanted to learn Arabic, you’ll soon get a chance.

In the new year, The Language Centre at Saint Mary’s University will be offering introductory courses in Arabic.

Muhammad Elhabibi, who will be teaching the course, said Thursday that Arabic is a widely-spoken language in Halifax.

“A lot of immigrants come from the Arab world, in addition to the Syrians who are coming very soon,” Elhabibi said.

“You live in an (apartment) building and possibly, you may have a neighbour who speaks Arabic.”

Globally, there are 22 Arabic-speaking countries with different dialects. The course at SMU will focus on what Elhabibi refers to as “classical Arabic.”

“There is only one level (of the language) that is understood by all,” Elhabibi said. “If you speak to… a man from Djibouti, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya… or wherever, they will understand what you are talking about.”

Elhabibi also pointed out that since many students at SMU speak Arabic, professors could benefit from learning some basics of the language as well.

“If they learn some Arabic, especially pragmatic Arabic, they will be able to understand the minds of their students,” he said.

“This is an ambitious plan for teaching Arabic in Halifax.”

The courses will begin in mid-January, with the first class open to 15 people. The course will be four weeks long, with two hour classes twice a week.

According to Elhabibi, the classes will focus on listening and speaking, but students will do some reading and writing as well.

“It’s very, very expressive,” Elhabibi said of the language. “They use different tools that are not used in English.”

Elhabibi said the initial class is a “trial” of sorts, and there is a possibility of it becoming a full semester course later on.

The Language Centre will also be opening up 10 fully sponsored one-year courses in English to refugees. The program, created in partnership with Language Canada, is expected to be launched in 2016.