Center for Global & International Studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Middle East Languages at KU

Students interested in enriching their study of the history and culture of this area of the world may consider study in one or more of the languages listed below. Language courses at the 300 level or above may also count toward completion of the Middle East Studies minor..


Arabic, spoken in Africa and the Middle East, is one of the fastest growing languages.The Arabic language is key to understanding a group of 22 nations and over 200 million native speakers of Arabic, and it is also the language of prayer and Islamic rituals for a billion Muslims around the world, and it is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. The study of the Arabic language and Arab culture allows students to develop an appreciation for the complexity of the many facets of the Arab world: its society, culture, history, arts, religions, and literary heritage.

FLAS Fellowships  for Arabic are available through the Kansas African Studies Center (KASC) Check the KU FLAS website for full details on award amounts, requirements and application process.

Arabic is offered at KU through the Department of African & African American Studies. Please see the complete list of Arabic courses here.


Persian is a language with an ancient history that is spoken by over 110 million people in the Middle East and Central Asia. There are three major dialects of Persian: Farsi (spoken primarily in Iran), Dari (spoken primarily in Afghanistan) and Tajik (spoken primarily in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). The first two dialects are written in Arabic script, but Tajik is written using the Cyrillic alphabet, a twentieth century modification conditioned by close ties to Russia during the Soviet period.

Persian is notable for its rich literary heritage with a long history of literature in the form of Middle Persian before Islam. Poets such as Rumi, Hafez, Ferdowsi and Omar Khayyam are just a few of the most celebrated Persian poets. Learning Persian will give you deeper insight into a region of the world too little known in the United States, and can open up career opportunities in a myriad of fields.

Persian is offered through the School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures at KU. Please see complete information on courses here.


Hebrew is regarded as the language of the Hebrews/Israelites and their ancestors. Hebrew had ceased to be an everyday spoken language somewhere between the first and fourth centuries CE and survived into the medieval period only as the language of Jewish liturgy and rabbinic literature. In the 19th century, it was revived as a spoken and literary language, and is now the language of 9 million people worldwide.

Modern Hebrew is one of the two official languages of Israel (the other being Arabic), while Classical Hebrew is used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world today. As a foreign language, it is studied mostly by students of Judaism and Israel, and by archaeologists and linguists specializing in the Middle East and its civilizations.

Hebrew is offered at KU through the Jewish Studies Program in the Center for Global & International Studies. Please see the complete list of Hebrew courses offered here.


Turkish is spoken by roughly 150 million people all around the world. Like Finnish and Hungarian, Turkish is an agglutinative language, which means that new particles are added to the end of a base form to generate new words. This means one can easily observe slight changes in meaning and quickly learn new words. It is also one of the most eye-catching characteristics of Turkish.

Turkey is situated in the Northern Hemisphere at the junction of Europe and Asia. The European and Asian sides are divided by the Istanbul Bogazi (Bosphorus), the sea of Marmara and Canakkale Bogazi. The surface area of the country is 814,578 sq km, and the population is approximately 70 million people. Anatolia is a high plateau region rising progressively towards the east, broken by the valleys of about 15 rivers. The mountains in the north and south run parallel to the sea. Due to the diversity in the landscape, Turkey enjoys a variety of climates throughout the country.

Besides Turkey’s magnificent landscape its fascinating history has also made a lasting impression on modern civilization. Political structure in Turkey is based on a secular democratic, pluralist and parliamentary system in which human rights are protected by law and justice. In Turkey one could definitely experience and enjoy an incredible diversity in nature, culture, history, beliefs and ideas.

Turkish is offered at KU through the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures. Please see the complete list of Turkish courses here.

Student Spotlight

Meet Zoya Khan, who graduated with the Middle East Studies minor  along with a double major in Global & International Studies and Political Science. Watch the video below and read more about Zoya here.

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