‘ahlan wa sahlan’ أَهلاً وسَهلاً (welcome)! The Modern Arabic Language Program in the Department of Asian Studies was established in the Fall of 2022.

Arabic is the 5th most spoken language in the world, the official language of more than 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and the native language of more than 400 million people worldwide.


The Modern Arabic Language Program introduces you to Arabic as used in the Arabic-speaking world and its diasporas. Arabic speakers learn 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, songs, soap operas, and films. At schools, educated speakers learn to read and write Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), the variety used for news broadcast, acadmeic textbooks, 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 in Arabic.

Our program offers two introductory (ARBM_V 101 and ARBM_V 102) and two intermediate courses (ARBM_V 201 and ARBM_V 202). All ARBM courses aim to develop your communicative ability in both CA and MSA. 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. 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_V 202 Intermediate High – Advanced Low B1.1 – B1.2
ARBM_V 201 Intermediate Mid – Intermediate High A2 – B1.1
ARBM_V 102 Intermediate Low – Intermediate Mid A1.2 – A2
ARBM_V 101 Novice High – Intermediate Low A1.1 – A1.2

In addition to core language skills, students can take courses in relevant cultural studies such as Arabic literature in translation (ASIA_V 380).

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).

Placement Test

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.

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.