Tag Archives: Bassam Frangieh

Learning a New Language: Mastering Foreign Writing Systems By Bassam K. Frangieh

When considering new languages to learn, individuals often become intimidated by a writing system different from that of their native languages. While learning a new alphabet can prove difficult, it often becomes one of the most rewarding exercises that a student can undertake. With a systematic approach to learning, mastering the writing system takes only dedication and persistence: anyone can do it. First, individuals should only tackle a few letters or syllables at a time and preferably group letters together that look similar or that have correlates in their native languages. These letters often present challenges when learned independently, but when one studies the subtle differences or works closely to identify problematic letters, he or she can much more easily differentiate them.

The old adage “practice makes perfect” certainly applies to mastering new writing systems. Students should practice identifying the new shapes that they learn as often as possible and should become familiar with both the “formal” and “handwritten” versions of letters. For many languages, including Arabic, handwritten forms do not always correspond exactly to the printed versions. Students must be able to understand and reproduce all variants. Calligraphy classes will help people get a better handle on new writing systems and produce gorgeous pieces of text.

Once a student has learned all the parts of the new writing system, the best way to improve reading proficiency is by reading aloud and practicing sounding out the words. While the student may not understand very much of a written text at first, choosing a piece about a familiar subject helps build vocabulary and confidence. Individuals can first begin by looking for transliterated names of people and places. Eventually, they can pick out the words they are familiar with and guess the meaning of others. Sounding out words increases the brain’s ability to associate the shape with the sound. Reading out loud also improves writing skills. Individuals can practice sounding out names of places or people or even entire sentences from their native language. This ability to sound out and read aloud becomes especially important in writing systems with unfamiliar sounds and syllables.

Arabic Writing System public domain

About the Author

For more than two decades, Bassam Frangieh has shared his passion for Arabic language and literature with students across the United States. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in the field from Georgetown University and subsequently taught there for a number of years. Later, Bassam Frangieh served as a Senior Lector of Arabic at Yale University and is currently a Professor of Arabic at Claremont McKenna College in southern California.

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An Overview of the Anthology of Arabic Literature, Culture, and Thought from Pre-Islamic Times to the Present by Dr. Bassam Frangieh

Published in August 2004 by Yale University Press, Anthology of Arabic Literature, Culture, and Thought from Pre-Islamic Times to the Present is a comprehensive textbook for advanced students of Arabic. The book serves as an essential collection of work for Arabic language students, offering 70 eminent works by 70 authors. Notable texts presented in the book include pre-Islamic works of prose and poetry, selections from the Qur’an, the final sermon by the Prophet Muhammad, diverse writings from the Golden Age of the Arabs, modernist and neoclassical works, and literary works from Arabs in Andalus. Such a comprehensive collection has until now been unavailable to educators of Arabic literature and culture.

Beyond its inclusive selections of historical content, the book also offers several important features that benefit both the educator and the student. As educational aids, the book includes two glossaries, a list of notes and idioms, and lists of important vocabulary terms. Additionally, Dr. Bassam Frangieh has included introductory material that helps students understand and appreciate Arabic culture and intellectual thought.

Dr. Bassam Frangieh holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Arabic Language and Literature from Georgetown University. An accomplished Arabic scholar, Dr. Bassam Frangieh previously held the position of Senior Lector of Arabic and Director of the Modern Arabic Language Program at Yale University. He currently serves as Professor at Claremont McKenna College. Over the course of his career, Dr. Bassam Frangieh has authored several books and translated numerous works of Arabic literature into English.

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Bassam Frangieh Discusses the Georgetown University Alumni Association

A Professor of Arabic in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Claremont McKenna College in California, Bassam Frangieh graduated from Georgetown University with both a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master of Science in Arabic Language. He continues to support the institution as a member of the Georgetown University Alumni Association. During his studies, Mr. Frangieh directed the Arabic Summer Language Institute and served as a Visiting Assistant Professor for six years following his commencement.

The Georgetown University Alumni Association was established as a means of keeping former students connected with one another and up-to-date with news on campus. Georgetown University is one of the nation’s most storied institutions and its Alumni Association possesses a long history. The association’s roots trace back to 1869 when its initial incarnation, the Medical Society of Alumni of Georgetown University, was formed. The group has gone through many transformations throughout the years, gradually growing in size and playing a larger role within the institution. Today, the goal of the organization continues to be “to connect and reconnect alumni with each other and with the university.” Some of the ways that the organization accomplishes this task include an online career network to assist students and alumni seeking employment and the Alumni House. Originally serving as the Alumni Association headquarters in the late 1940s, the townhomes at 36th and O streets were modernized during a $7.5 million renovation project and rededicated as the Robert and Bernice Wagner Alumni House in 2005. The building now hosts an array of special events, including faculty lectures, reunions, and a homecoming.

One of the main ways that the Alumni Association contributes to Georgetown University is through the annual Service Recognition Awards Banquet. At the ceremony, seven different Service Recognition Awards are bestowed that each highlight outstanding service in a particular area. In addition to the Service Recognition Awards, three other distinctions are conferred at the event. The Timothy S. Healy, S.J. Award, given in honor of one of the university’s former presidents, is based on a person’s public service, personal qualities, and career achievements. The John Carroll Award was initiated to recognize accomplishments that exemplify the Georgetown tradition, while the Patrick Healy Award honors outstanding service to the institution by non-alumni.

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Bassam Frangieh Describes the Roots and Development of the Arabic Language

Originating in Arabia and near present-day Syria, Arabic remains the world’s sixth major language, spoken by more than 300 million individuals, including those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco. Part of the Semitic language family, Arabic features a rich history that dates thousands of years. In the following discussion, Arabic language and culture scholar Bassam Frangieh shares some ideas about the development and growth of Arabic and reveals instances of English words with Arabic roots.

Q: How did Arabic become a major world language?
A: Many scholars agree that Arabic was first spoken by nomadic tribes that lived on the Arabian Peninsula. As the religion of Islam spread, Arabic solidified its place as a major language. Muhammad died in 632 CE. Within one century of his death, Arabic was officially spoken throughout an empire spanning from Central Asia to the Atlantic and north to the Iberian Peninsula.

Q: What are some distinct qualities of written Arabic?
A: Consisting of a 28-consonant alphabet, written Arabic is composed on a page from right to left, using a cursive script. Many letters appear identical to one another and are differentiated by adding a dot below or above the letters. In its written form, Arabic can be traced to the fourth century BC, when North Arabic script was first documented. The Qur’an, written in Classical Arabic, is considered to be the prime example of the Arabic language in its most clear and complete form.

Q: Are there many English words with Arabic origins?
A: Yes. About 1,000 common English words are “loaned” from Arabic. Examples include algebra, giraffe, and tambourine.

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Bassam Frangieh: Arabic Program at Claremont McKenna College

Bassam Frangieh serves as the head of the Arabic program at Claremont McKenna College’s (CMC) Modern Languages and Literature Department. He is well liked by students in the program, who voted him as the most effective teacher. For this honor, Bassam Frangieh received the 2010 Glenn R. Huntoon Teaching Award.

Professor Frangieh was the natural choice to lead CMC’s Arabic Program. He earned his Ph.D. in Arabic Language and Literature from Georgetown University’s School of Languages and Linguistics. He served as Senior Lector of Arabic at Yale University for 14 years and directed Yale’s Modern Arabic Language Program for two years. Professor Frangieh is also an esteemed translator of multiple classic Arabic works into English.

Students in CMC’s Arabic program can take beginning through advanced-level courses, including language, literature, and English translation. Language courses focus on reading, speaking, and writing. Advanced level courses include Readings in Modern Arab Culture and Thought, as well as Modern Arabic Poetry in Translation. In these classes, students can gain more insight into Arabic culture by reading the works of well-known and influential poets and writers. Students can also participate in cultural activities that Professor Frangieh hosts. The professor is also piloting a summer study abroad program in Amman, Jordan, for students.

The Arabic program also offers a major in Middle Eastern studies, which delves into cultural constructs. Students in the program also pursue in-depth studies in literature such as novels, poetry, and prose.

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