“You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.” - Geoffrey Willans

Arabic is a rich and intriguing language. It’s the official language of 25 different countries but with around 30 different dialects, it can be hard to differentiate between where one dialect ends and another begins.

With over 400 million Arabic speakers and dozens of different dialects, it can be tough knowing where to get started with the language. However, learning Arabic at university can provide career opportunities and an opportunity to better understand other cultures.

Let’s learn more about learning this beautiful language.

A Degree in Arabic

After you get your A Levels, you might want to move onto studying at university. While some are interested in the sciences, plenty of people are interested in languages. Others still haven’t made their mind up and that's fine.

What options are there to study Arabic in the UK?
Arabic degrees are commonly taught with related subjects. (Source: andrew_t8)

You can study Arabic at university as a degree in its own right or as a language option alongside another subject. A lot of subjects like international business, marketing, history, etc. have the option for students to study a language.

Generally, studying the Arabic language on its own doesn't include enough university credits to be considered a full degree programme in its own right so there will be some modules that aren't wholly focused on the Arabic language itself. Even a degree in Arabic will have students study aspects of Arabic-speaking culture, the history of these cultures and their language, and contemporary Arabic culture.

To be fair, you can learn a lot about a culture from its language and a lot about a language from the cultures that speak it so the skills students learn in modules that aren't fully focused on the language can still be incredibly valuable.

In other cases, the Arabic programme will provide students with an opportunity to study the foreign language alongside another language such as French or a modern European language.

Find out more about learning Arabic.

What Do You Study on an Arabic Degree?

As we mentioned, there are a lot of variations available when it comes to studying an Arabic degree programme so let's look at the SOAS Arabic BA programme as it's one of the only ones that solely focus on the Arabic language.

What do you learn on an Arabic degree?
Like other language degrees, many Arabic degrees offer students the opportunity to study the countries where the language is spoken. (Source: ElasticComputeFarm)

Students will mainly study Arabic throughout their first year as well as modules on cultures of Africa, the Middle East, South and South-East Asia, literature in these cultures, and film in these cultures. They'll also study a module on languages of the world.

In the second year, they'll continue studying Arabic, be introduced to Arabics dialects, study Arabic and Israeli culture, and be taught about understanding texts.

The third-year on this course is a year abroad which is where most students will solidify their understanding of the language and make some of their biggest gains in terms of their level.

After the year abroad, students can either complete an independent study project in Arabic Studies or a translation project. In the second and final years of their degree course, there are also optional modules that students have to choose.

While this just an example of one university's degree programme, most universities will help students learn how to use the language, study the history of the cultures that speak it, and study language in the broader sense.

Find out how to study Arabic at A Level.

How Do You Apply to An Arabic Degree?

Anyone interested in Arabic studies at university will need to apply to a course. In the UK, this is usually done through UCAS. Students are allowed to choose 5 different courses to apply to and will have their applications either rejected or accepted by the universities depending on their A Level results.

How do you apply to an Arabic degree?
Before you can start exploring the world with your Arabic degree, you'll need to apply to the course! (Source: Jonny_Joka)

The process isn't too complicated in itself, but with your choice limited to just 5 courses, you'll want to think long and hard about exactly which course is right for you and which university will help you get the most out of your time studying Arabic.

Find out more about studying Arabic at school.

Which Are the Best Universities for Arabic?

When it comes to choosing a university, there are multiple factors that you need to consider. League tables consider factors like entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality, research intensity, and graduate prospects and should be used to guide your decision but not make it for you.

The Complete University Guide doesn't offer a single rank for just Arabic but rather ranks universities for Middle Eastern and African Studies so there may be some universities and departments offering better Arabic courses for you than these.

  • University of Oxford
  • Durham University
  • University of St Andrews
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Manchester
  • SOAS University of London
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Westminster, London
Which are the best universities for Arabic?
The highest-ranking university mightn't be the best one for you. (Source: ISDiva)

These universities are definitely a good place to start your search for degree courses but keep in mind that your social life outside of your classes is also important and there may be a university with a programme whose content is better suited to you, your interests, and what you'd like to do as a career after you graduate.

If you're interested in translation after you graduate, you may want to look for universities that have a good record for postgraduate translation courses or maybe agreements with a university abroad that you'd be interested in studying at.

Some courses have a bigger focus on literature whereas others may focus more on using Arabic in practical and contemporary settings.

You might also be interested in living in another part of the country or world so you won't want to study at a university that's on your doorstep or you might not be ready to move too far from home and prefer a local campus.

The quality of teaching, the modules on the programme, and where they rank on annual league tables aren't the only things to consider when choosing a university to study Arabic.

Discover the jobs you can get with Arabic.

If you're interested in studying Arabic outside of school or university, consider learning with a private tutor on Superprof! When it comes to languages, learning with a private tutor is one of the most effective ways to improve your linguistic skills.

On Superprof, the tutors offer different types of tutorials so think carefully about which will work right for you, your learning objectives, and your preferred learning style.

Face-to-face tutorials, for example, are between just you and your tutor. This means that not only will the tutorials be tailored to you and what you want to learn, but every minute of the tutorial will also be spent focusing on you as the tutor won't have other students to worry about. Regularly practising a language and getting feedback are the best ways to learn a language and face-to-face tutorials allow you to do this.

For those on a budget, group tutorials are a good way to split the cost of the tutor's time and expertise. While you won't get the tutor's undivided attention, there will be other students in the class for you to practise speaking Arabic with. You won't get as much say when it comes to the content of the classes, but you can save some money. This option is also good for those who may feel intimidated by having to always speak to the tutor in class, especially given that their level in Arabic is going to be much higher than yours.

Finally, if you can't find any suitable tutors working in your local area, remember that you can broaden your search to all over the world. As long as you have a webcam and a decent internet connection, you can learn Arabic from tutors all over the world. This means that your tutor could be a native Arabic speaker from an Arabic-speaking country! As they don't usually have to travel, these tutors can also charge less per hour than face-to-face tutors.

Generally, the more a tutor personalised their tutorials to you, the more you'll pay for them. Of course, no two tutors are the same and you'll also pay for experience and expertise. Many of the tutors on Superprof offer the first lesson for free so you can try several tutors out before deciding on which one is right for you. You're going to be talking to them a lot so make sure that you get along with them first!

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.