New Language School Taps Growing Interest in Arab Culture

A new language school, the Sijal Institute, opened its doors in Amman earlier this year, cementing the city’s position as one of the most popular places to learn Arabic in the region.

Because of its political stability and thanks to its dialect—one of the closest to Modern Standard Arabic—Jordan has become one of the region’s most popular destinations for students of Arabic, which was recently rated by the British Council as the second most important language for workers of the future after Spanish.

Though demand for Arabic language classes has been on the rise for the past decades, interest in the language has skyrocketed worldwide since the September 11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, Nader Uthman, summer director at Sijal and clinical professor of Middle Eastern Studies at New York University told Venture.

“A vast number of foreign students have since then signed up for classes in Arabic language, Middle East politics, and Islamic history in Arab countries during their summer semesters. [They are] drawn by curiosity and are preparing for careers in academia, journalism, government service, NGOs or diplomacy,” Uthman said.

To respond to such “all-encompassing requests,” Uthman said Sijal was attempting to offer more than the typical language school. “We aim at creating a hub for intellectual and cultural events, bringing together scholars, artists, and specialists for seminars, workshops, exhibitions from Arab countries, and around the world,” he said.

Beyond the language curriculum spanning both Jordanian dialect and Modern Standard Arabic, Sijal addresses issues pertaining both to Jordan and the Arab world, but also touches on international history, politics, and culture, to spur cultural exchange between intellectual communities.

“Sijal is more than a language school; it is also a scholarly space where established and emerging thinkers and academics from a variety of fields meet, interact and discuss a range of intellectual and cultural questions that affect our world today,” said Professor Abdel Razzaq Takriti of the University of Houston and Sijal’s Academic Director. “Sijal’s vision is reflected in the composition of its advisory board and steering committee, which include prominent names from leading international and local universities. We see Sijal as an institute that connects students globally, with Amman building a bridge between the region and the world.”