‘ahlan wa sahlan’ أَهلاً وسَهلاً (welcome)! The Arabic Language Program in the Department of Asian Studies launched in the fall of 2022 and is the first of its kind at the University of British Columbia.

Arabic is the 5th most spoken language in the world. As the official language of more than 22 countries in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and other parts of the Middle East, Arabic is the native tongue of more than 400 million people worldwide. Arab and Arabic-speaking cultures have made rich contributions to knowledge, arts, and sciences, in history and in contemporary times.


The Arabic Language Program introduces you to Arabic as used in the Arabic-speaking world and its diasporas. Educated proficient speakers learn to speak and understand a dialect, known as Colloquial Arabic (CA), at home. Example dialects include Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Moroccan, and Palestinian Arabic. CA is the language of everyday communication, texting, talk shows, and the vast majority of songs, soap operas, and films. At schools, native speakers learn to read and write Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), the variety used for news broadcast, scholarly works, legal documents, most literature, and certain formal speaking contexts, such as a scripted political speech. The ability to understand and use both varieties is key to communicative language ability and reflects the rich sociolinguistic reality of Arabic.

Our program currently offers two introductory (ARBM 101 and ARBM 102) and two intermediate courses (ARBM 201 and ARBM 202). All ARBM courses aim to develop your communicative ability in both standard and spoken Arabic. The program teaches Cairene Arabic, the spoken Arabic of Cairo, Egypt. You will have the option to learn Damascene Arabic, the spoken Arabic of Damascus, Syria, through the textbook. Cairene and Damascene Arabic are two of the most widely understood varieties across the Arab world. All students, regardless of dialect choice, will learn MSA concurrently. Throughout the term, you will have ample opportunities to explore different aspects of Arab and Arabic-speaking cultures. The textbook adopted by the program is Al-Kitaab series, supplemented regularly by authentic materials such as songs and newspaper articles. The table below outlines the proficiency levels we expect students to have reached by the end of each course.

ARBM 202 Intermediate High – Advanced Low B1.1 – B1.2
ARBM 201 Intermediate Mid – Intermediate High A2 – B1.1
ARBM 102 Intermediate Low – Intermediate Mid A1.2 – A2
ARBM 101 Novice High – Intermediate Low A1.1 – A1.2

Instruction in all Arabic language courses follows the communicative approach to language teaching. While stressing accuracy, the program places a primary focus on interaction and communication. You are considered active members of the classroom community, where the success of their learning and that of their classmates depends largely on pre-classroom preparation and in-class collaboration.

The program adopts an assessment for learning rather than of learning philosophy. You complete short, frequent tasks (e.g. online drills) rather than a few larger assignments (e.g. final exam). Tasks build on each other, helping you develop Arabic knowledge and skills gradually through practice and feedback. Example assessment tasks include daily homework, end of semester skit in CA, open-book composition in class, and a vlog/podcast in Modern Standard Arabic.

In addition to core language skills, students can take courses in relevant cultural studies to gain a deeper understanding of the Arab and Arabic-speaking cultures. Two available courses focus on contemporary Arabic cinema and Arabic literature in translation.

The program would love to welcome heritage Arabic students. If you have intermediate or advanced fluency in an Arabic dialect and wish to advance your Modern Standard Arabic, please help us gauge student interest by completing this short survey.

Besides the ARBM courses that teach spoken Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic, courses in Classical Arabic are also offered at UBC by the Department of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies (AMNE).

To be exempted for Arabic Language Proficiency, students must take the ACTFL OPI test (We do not accept OPIc test). You must receive a rating of Intermediate High (minimum) to fulfil the Arts Language Requirement.

If you need more information about the test, please visit ACTFL homepage.

Placement Tests

Students with any knowledge of Arabic (spoken or written) who wish to take any Arabic (ABRM) course are required to take a short placement test before they are approved for registration.

To schedule a placement test or if you are not sure if you need to take an Arabic placement test, please email Dr. Nesrine Basheer at nesrine.basheer@ubc.ca.

Emails should include your full name and student number in the title. If your inquiry is about a certain course, add the course code in the title as well. You may experience delays if the email title convention is not followed.

Please allow between 2-5 business days before sending in another email with the same inquiry.