Five College Spoken Arabic

The application period for fall 2021 has closed. Early applications for spring 2022 are being accepted.
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GIF of Arabic tile motifs

Arabic is among the top 10 most-commonly studied languages in the U.S. and is spoken by some 250 million people in the Middle East and North Africa. It is also the liturgical language of more than 1 billion Muslims around the world.

Students at the Five Colleges study Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) through classroom courses offered through the Five College Arabic Language Initiative. The Five College Center for World Languages offers spoken Arabic courses that complement the study of MSA or knowledge of Arabic developed through personal, work, or study abroad experiences by giving students the opportunity to advance their conversational skills in spoken dialects. 


Fall 2021 Spoken Arabic Course Offerings

The Center currently offers:

Spoken Egyptian Arabic

  • Beginning: Levels I (spring only), II
  • Intermediate: Levels III, IV
  • Advanced: Level V+ (limited availability)

Spoken Levantine Arabic (Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria)

  • Beginning: Levels I (spring only), II
  • Intermediate: Levels III, IV
  • Advanced: Levels V-VIII

Spoken Moroccan Arabic

  • Beginning: Levels I, II
  • Intermediate: Levels III, IV
  • Advanced: Levels V+ (limited availability)

View recent spoken Arabic syllabi.

Other dialects such as Gulf and Iraqi are occasionally offered. Contact the Center at for more information about these offerings. 

Eligibility and placement

The ability to read and write in Arabic and basic speaking ability in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or a spoken Arabic dialect is a prerequisite for all Center Arabic courses.

Previous experience with ArabicEligibility
Currently in first semester of MSANot yet eligible for Center courses
Currently in second semester of MSAEligible for: Levantine I or Egyptian I (offered spring semester only)
Already completed 2 semesters of MSAEligible for: Levantine II, Egyptian II, or Moroccan I
Already completed 2 semesters of written Arabic courses with no/minimal spoken Arabic practiceEligible for: Levantine I or Egyptian I (offered spring semester only)
Some knowledge of spoken Arabic dialect from previous substantive personal, work, or study abroad experience Contact the Center for placement
Some speaking ability but can't read or write in ArabicNot eligible for Center courses
No previous experience with MSA or spoken Arabic dialectNot eligible for Center courses

Course format

Spoken Arabic courses are made up of:

  • Minimum 1 hour per day of independent study using assigned syllabus, textbook, and multimedia materials
  • Weekly conversation sessions with native/fluent speaker
  • Weekly check-ins with Center staff (via online self-assessment reports)
  • Final oral evaluation conducted by an instructor in the Five College Arabic Initiative or an outside evaluator

Students follow a structured syllabus and need to be comfortable learning and practicing spoken language skills on their own.

Scheduling and locations

Weekly conversation sessions are individually scheduled at the beginning of the semester based on the schedules of the student(s) and conversation partner. Conversation sessions take place on the home campus of the conversation partner. We work with conversation partners from all five campuses and occasionally from the local community. Students are assigned to whichever conversation session best meets their educational needs, with preference given to a home campus or nearby campus location when possible. 

About conversation sessions

During a conversation session, you will engage in activities, conversations, and role plays designed by your conversation partner to help you practice the structures and vocabulary you studied in a given week. Your conversation session will have no more than 4 students to allow constant participation and engagement by all. 

Conversation sessions are led by native/fluent speakers who are hired and trained by the Center. Your conversation partner is not a teacher and will not present grammar lessons; rather, their expertise lies in speaking the language.


As with all interchange classes, credit varies by campus. For each spoken Arabic course/level, you will receive: 

  • Amherst: half course
  • Hampshire: half course
  • Mount Holyoke: 1.5 credits 
    Mount Holyoke students cannot use Center language courses to fulfill the their language requirement.
  • Smith: 1.5 credits 
    Smith students must take at least two levels of SILP courses to receive credit. Completion of four levels satisfies the Latin Honors language requirement.
  • UMass: 1.5 credits
    For UMass graduate students, courses will appear on student transcript but will not earn credit.

Courses cannot be audited or taken pass/fail.