Director of Yale University Arabic Program: Fos’ha a ‘Dead’ Language

I have no idea what this graph means, but it ran with the story.

I am not a Yalie (Yalawaya?) so generally, the issue of whether Yale’s Arabic program is or isn’t in turmoil concerns me very little. However, when the director of an Arabic program at a distinguished U.S. university—one that might well be copied by other U.S. universities—declares that fos’ha is dead, well, that gets my attention.

At his talk this February, translator Humphrey Davies addressed the topic on how Arabic-language education is changing. He studied fos’ha almost exclusively, whereas today’s students are learning to talk.

Now, I haven’t anything against talking—I like talking; I find it a useful means of communication. Further, Shady Nasser, the director of the university’s Arabic program, apparently did admit that one needs fos’ha “to understand the Arabic media or read a newspaper.”

No mention of, er, literature.

Can a dead language produce literature?

Meanwhile, over at Cornell’s Near Eastern Studies department, director Kim Heins-Eitzen told the Yale Daily News that they’ve already integrated a whole lot more 3meya into the program. “We are on the brink of major changes in the way Arabic is taught,” Heins-Eitzen told the Yale student newspaper.

Now, on the other hand, if the Egyptian Minister of Education said “we are on the brink of major changes in the way Arabic is taught,” I might get pretty excited….