The Duke Arabic program develops skills in speaking, reading, writing, and listening through the use of multi-media materials, innovative textbooks, and authentic texts. The program guides you from Arabic's beginning levels through its advanced upper levels, offering fourth and fifth year courses to students interested in exploring political, literary, religious, historical, archival, and media sources in their original language. The program acts as a bridge promoting oral communication, cultural comprehension, and academic study, through rigorous and thorough acquisition of written and spoken Arabic.

Arabic Placement Guidelines

Placement in an Arabic language class follows the AMES department placement policy.  

The following scenarios will help you identify the appropriate placement level for your academic journey with the Arabic language. Simply review the list, then follow the suggestion provided with each scenario. Feel free to contact the director of the Arabic program if you need help or have to take a placement test.

I have studied Arabic for a number of years.
  • You must take a placement test.

I speak an Arabic dialect at home.
  • Consult with the Program Director
I was born in an Arabic speaking country and left the country after the age of 8.
  • You must take a placement test
I attended secondary school in an Arabic speaking country.
  • You must consult the program director
I am fluent in an Arabic dialect, but cannot read or write in Arabic.
  • Enroll in ARABIC 101 (Elementary Arabic) & talk to the Program Director
I am a native Arabic speaker.
  • You must talk to the Program Director
I studied Arabic in high school for some time.
  • You must take a placement test
I studied Arabic at a community mosque for some time.
  • Enroll in ARABIC 101 (Elementary Arabic) & talk to the Program Director
I spent some time doing Study Abroad in an Arabic speaking country.
  • You must take a placement test
None of the above applies to me.
  • Freshmen can enroll in any of the elementary level classes. However, if the schedule permits, we encourage freshmen to enroll in ARABIC 101—Elementary Arabic: Section 001.

Arabic Study Abroad

Study abroad experience is a crucial component of the Duke Arabic program. Students can obtain this type of experience through one of two options (or they are welcome to look into programs sponsored by other universities):

Duke in the Arab World

Duke in the Arab World is a 6-week, 2 course summer program that is based in Egypt and Qatar. It is built off of a partnership between Duke University, Qatar University, Qatar Museum Authorities, the American University in Cairo and the Arab Academy in Cairo and provides students with intensive cultural and language immersion in these institutions.

Postcards from students on the program:



The DukeEngage in Egypt program requires participants to have a prior knowledge of Arabic. Students are placed into advanced Arabic levels during their summer civic engagement work in Cairo. The service focus of the program is on teaching literacy skills to refugees, supporting youth with physical disabilities, and offering assistance with community development.

DukeToday News Story: Students discuss experiences in Egypt

2012 Student Blog:

2011 Student Blog:

DukeToday News Story: Students witness a revolution in Cairo


The DukeEngage in Jordan program is organized by SIT Study Abroad in collaboration with DukeEngage and is based in Amman. For their civic engagement work, students are paired individually with organizations focused on educational, environmental, economic, health, refugee, and social issues. There is no language prerequisite, but students are given survival Arabic courses and for those who are learning the language, family homestays provide an ideal setting for practice.


The DukeEngage in Lebanon program is centered around education and public health. Participants will focus on developing and delivering a SAT exam preparation course for Palestinian and Lebanese high school students. There are additional opportunities to develop basic health teaching to seniors, women, and children from Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. No language prerequisites are required, but experience with or interest in Arabic or French language is an advantage.

Arabic Program Activities

The Arabic program has created extensive series of cultural events that foster civic engagement with the Arabic speaking world and communities beyond Duke.

  • The program organizes language tables meetings on a regular basis, where native speakers are invited on campus.
  • Regular Arabiyat cultural nights are organized by the department, featuring a variety of Middle Eastern music, dance, and food. Read about the Fall 2012 Arabiyat event here.
  • The Duke Arabic program recently launched the Dardasha project to foster relationships between advanced Arabic students and the community of Iraqi refugees in Durham. Read more about the initiative here.
  • In the spring of 2011, elementary Arabic students worked with a Durham based group to create a sisterhood link between the city of Durham and an Iraqi city, called Rutab. Duke Arabic students helped 70 school children at the local Immaculata Catholic School in Durham by translating into Arabic their letters to the children at Houran elementary School in Rutba, Iraq.
Learning Arabic Through Music

In this ISLAMiCommentary article, Marianna Jordan writes about the "Arabic Dialect through Song" class.


The Dardasha Initiative

Arabic course students are involved in service-learning and community-based language learning

Arabic Program Faculty

Arabic Language Program Coordinator

Mbaye B. Lo

Arabic Program Faculty

  • Amal Boumaaza, Part-time Instructor
  • miriam cooke, Professor
  • Maha Houssami, Arabic Lecturer
  • Abdul S. Jawad, Visiting Professor of Arabic Literature, Journalism and Culture and English
  • Cheickna Yattabare, Fulbright Instructor
  • Mbaye B. Lo, Associate Professor of the Practice and 2008-2009 Recipient of the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award
  • Ellen A. McLarney, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Professor of Arabic Literature and Culture

Arabic Student Projects

Video Created by AMES Students

The first four videos are from students' class projects on a variety of socio-cultural issues:

Below is a project created by elementary Arabic students:

The following video was a student project for Arabic/Hebrew Night:

Duke Students in a tribute to the Egyptian revolution:

Video of a play (Maha Love Story) created by elementary students:

A music show by elementary students: