University of Sydney Handbooks - 2021 Archive

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Arabic Language and Cultures

About the major

Understanding the Arab world is today of vital importance. Arabic is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations and the religious language of a billion and a half Muslims, as well as millions of Christians and Jews. Political and economic developments in the Arab world and parts of the Middle East, like the internationalisation of businesses and professions around the world, have made understanding, speaking, reading, and writing Arabic an increasingly valuable skill. Arabic is also a language with a rich literary and cultural heritage that deserves to be studied in its own right.

The major in Arabic Language and Cultures equips you to understand the political, social, and cultural importance of the Arab world and its complex regional significance on the global stage. It is focused on the acquisition both of language skills and of cultural competency. You can major in Arabic with or without prior knowledge of the language.

To complement your language study (taught in Arabic), you will have, each semester, a wide range of Arabic literature, culture, art, and film classes (taught in English) to choose from. Not all culture courses are offered every semester, so please consult the departmental website and the University timetable to learn which units are offered any given semester.

Our teaching is strongly focused on student participation, communication, and cultural immersion. This means that a major in Arabic Language and Cultures will help you develop both communicative Arabic language skills and cultural competency. You will gain the background knowledge necessary to understand the diversity of Arab societies today and over time, and be equipped to conduct cross-regional projects and to interrogate geo-cultural boundaries.

Requirements for completion

The Arabic Language and Cultures major and minor are available via the pathways indicated below.

Students will follow the appropriate pathway specified in the unit of study tables, based on their individual language level*. Students completing any of the pathways below will be awarded a major or minor in Arabic Languages and Cultures.

* Appropriate language units are determined either by language level and grade achieved in Higher School Certificate (as listed in the pathways linked above) or International Baccalaureate, and/or by one-on-one interviews prior to commencement. If you are unsure of your language level or which pathway is appropriate for you, please contact the Department for advice.

Please note: A ‘gap’ year after Year 12 does not normally affect placement.

Learning outcomes

No. Learning outcome
1 Demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively in Arabic.
2 Demonstrate a critical understanding of Arab societies, politics and cultures.
3 Demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively in intercultural and interdisciplinary settings to achieve high quality results.
4 Demonstrate the skills to access and evaluate primary and secondary sources to conduct research in the study of Arab language and cultures.
5 Apply language skills, sociocultural knowledge and critical thinking skills gained from the study of Arabic language and cultures to offer solutions to problems encountered in new contexts.
6 Critically engage with original literary and media productions in Arabic, to effectively contribute to intercultural exchange in multidisciplinary fields.

Advanced Coursework

The Bachelor of Advanced Studies through the School of Language and Cultures prepares students to actively engage in the complex and culturally diverse contemporary world. Students will utilise linguistic and methodological skills developed in their previous studies to develop their knowledge of institutions, practices and ideas that permeate different cultures in the local and global context. They will be offered opportunities to participate in projects on translation, acculturation and self-reflexivity and to examine textual and social real-world problems related to topics which include translation, migration studies, cultural diversity and social integration.

Requirements and units of study for advanced coursework can be found on the Arabic, language and cultures advanced coursework units of study page.


The Honours program consists of two seminars (one each semester) and an 18,000 - 20,000 word thesis on a topic in students’ area of interest. The seminars will be taught in English and/or Arabic with a focus on the students’ individual projects. The Honours thesis is written in English, but some of the primary sources used must be in Arabic. An Honours project may involve a fieldwork component, which greatly enhances the Honours experience.

Honours admission requirements

Admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Arabic Language and Cultures with an average of 70% or above.

Prior to commencing honours, you will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Arts or other bachelor degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major.

Requirements and units of study for honours can be found on the Arabic, language and cultures honours units of study page.

Contacts and further information

More information and current contact details for academic coordinators can be found at: Department of Arabic Language and Cultures

School website: School of Language and Cultures