Modern Standard Arabic Language in Context: Emerging Independent Abroad

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Course Information
Arabic Language/Studies
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

Students who are placed in this level should be capable of achieving the outcomes in the Modern Standard Arabic Novice Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication.

Additional student cost: 

Cost of textbooks


MSA Emerging Independent Abroad is a course designed to help students develop skills in speaking, reading, listening comprehension, and writing in Arabic, and apply these skills in a real context with native speakers. Research has demonstrated that study abroad can enhance every aspect of language ability. One of the most important general findings of this research is, however, that study abroad is most beneficial for the development of abilities related to social interaction.

Students who go abroad can learn to do things with words, such as requesting, apologizing, or offering compliments, and they may also learn to interpret situations calling on such speech acts in ways that local people do. In short, and logically, study abroad has been shown to enhance the aspects of communicative competence that are most difficult to foster in classroom settings (IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication, p. 6).

Student Profile
Students entering this level must be able to fulfill the learning outcomes of the Novice Abroad level, as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. Specifically, they should already be able to express themselves on a variety of concrete, everyday topics and meet their basic needs in the language.

Students who enter this level may be more proficient in reading and writing skills than oral communication, especially if they have never traveled or studied abroad previously. Although students may have been exposed previously to certain competencies taught at this level, they need additional practice and instruction to move toward mastery of these competencies.

As students gain more self-awareness and self-confidence, they will attempt more in the community. Paradoxically, this means they may also experience more miscommunications and frustration. Reading and writing require effort, and many students will need to make a special effort in this regard.

Students will also develop cultural awareness and skills to work through the challenges of adaptation in the local culture and learn to celebrate their successes.  They will begin to appreciate the value of these language and intercultural skills.

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory for all IES classes, including field studies. Any exams, tests, presentations, or other work missed due to student absences can only be rescheduled in cases of documented medical or family emergencies.

If a student misses more than three classes in any course half a letter grade will be deducted from the final grade for every additional absence. Seven absences in any course will result in a failing grade.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to achieve some of the outcomes for the Emerging Independent Abroad level as defined by the MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. The key learning outcomes from the MAP are summarized below:

  1. Intercultural Communication
    1. Students will be able to solve most daily troublesome situations and meet needs with limited help.
    2. Students will be able to make informed comparisons between the host culture and the students’ home cultures.
    3. Students will be able to distinguish and to imitate verbal and non-verbal communication that reflect politeness, formality, or informality.
    4. Students will be able to recognize patterns of intonation, their meaning, and cultural implications.
  2. Listening
    1. Students will be able to understand some interactions of moderate complexity (media, speeches, music, conversations, etc.), especially if the speaker is used to interacting with non-native speakers.
    2. Students will be able to understand direct requests, questions, and basic conversations on familiar and concrete topics.
    3. Students will sometimes understand commonly-used slang expressions and popular phrases.
  3. Speaking
    1. Students will be able to talk about persons and things in their immediate environment, as well as their plans and their experiences, and they can provide a limited amount of supporting details.
    2. Students will be able to resolve moderately complicated situations involving familiar subjects.
    3. Students will respond to some questions that ask for an opinion or a belief on a topic with assistance and practice.
  4. Reading
    1. Students will be able to read passages and short texts (newspapers, lyrics,  letters, short stories, etc.) and understand overall meaning.
    2. Students will be able to support their understanding of texts through the use of context, dictionaries, or with the assistance of others at times.
    3. Students will be able to read and understand most text messages on everyday topics.
  5. Writing
    1. Students will be able to communicate with increasing effectiveness through notes, emails, and simple online discussions and chats.
    2. Students will be able to write short essays on concrete topics of limited levels of complexity and with less reliance on the communicative patterns of their native language.
    3. Students will be able to describe things, relate ideas, and express simple opinions in concrete language.
Method of presentation: 

This course focuses on furthering students’ knowledge of Arabic through a series of units with well-defined functional, grammatical, lexical, and cultural objectives. These units examine advanced topics such as correct usage of past tenses and verb choices in complex sentences. Additionally, each unit introduces cultural topics related to the Arabic-speaking world. The learning process will be conducted with an emphasis on the various written and oral comprehension and production skills to promote the development of the student’s communicative competence at all levels. 

Additionally, the students will use the Moodle platform as a tool in the learning process, not only to access the course information (the course syllabus, evaluation criteria of the field work, etc.) and the course work (composition, supplementary materials, exercises that focus on grammatical structures presented in class, etc.), but also to share their academic work with their classmates and to communicate with them and the professor through this forum.

Field study: 

Goal: It is expected that the students have a direct contact with diverse aspects of Arab life, promoting group work and the practice of Arabic language outside formal education. On the second week of the course, groups will be organized that consist of 2 or 3 students and the topics will be discussed. The professor, along with the students, will establish the calendar for the presentation.

The professor will evaluate the following aspects:

  • Information contributed for the explanation of the topic
  • Presentation method
  • Execution of surveys and its conclusions
  • The students’ ability to communicate; students shouldn’t read their parts, but be able to explain to others their findings and what they have learned with their research. The research will be part of the oral skills evaluation of the student.

Students can present all the difficulties they may find in the realization of the work to the professor.

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Attendance, Participation, Class Preparation and Assignments    15%
  • 5 Quizzes 25 %
  • Oral and Written Presentation  30%
  • Final Exam   30%




Corresponding Learning Outcome(s)

Week 1


Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 4

  1. Functional: Introducing yourselves
  2. Grammatical: Articles, interrogation, pronouns, negation
  3. Vocabulary: Physical description, personality
  4. Culture: Habits and routine, activities in Morocco

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 5

  1. Functional: Describing places
  2. Grammatical: Present tense, regular and irregular verbs, capacity - obligation
  3. Vocabulary: In town – shopping, asking for information
  4. Culture: Rabat: a Moroccan city, tourism, shopping areas
  • Questioning families
  • Describing someone
  • Getting to know each other’s abilities
  • Writing about a place you like in Rabat/Fes
  • How to use a map
  • Reading newspaper articles about Rabat
  • QUIZ

I.A., II.A.,III.A., V.A.

I.B., II.B., III.A., IV.A., V.A.

Week 2

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 6

  1. Functional: Talking about jobs and occupations on Sundays, forming opinions
  2. Grammatical: Relative pronouns, comparatives / superlatives
  3. Vocabulary: Studies, jobs, employment, unemployment
  4. Culture: The debate over the weekend. Observing and analyzing attitudes

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 7

  1. Functional: Expressing agreement and disagreement
  2. Grammatical: Future tense, imperative
  3. Vocabulary: Foreign languages, national identity, patriotism, symbols
  4. Culture: Social problems
  • Learning argumentative skills by writing about the topic
  • Comparisons between family life and habits in Morocco and in the USA at weekends
  • Quiz
  • Giving opinions (oral work)
  • Interviewing people
  • Writing about an article (summary)
  • Talking about your own experience

I.B., II.A., III.A., V.A.

I.A., II.B., III.A., V.B.

Week 3

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 8

  1. Functional: Suggesting solutions, addressing different problems, talking about past events
  2. Grammatical: Past tense
  3. Vocabulary: School / violence
  4. Culture: The Moroccan school system, parents – teachers’ relationships, absenteeism, parental implication

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 10

  1. Functional: Expressing interest
  2. Grammatical: Quantities, reported speech
  3. Vocabulary: Food, ingredients, TV reality programs
  4. Culture: Importance of Moroccan cuisine
  • Role play
  • Compare the Moroccan and the American school system
  • Write about your own scholastic experience
  • Writing a recipe
  • Imagine a typical Moroccan meal for a special event
  • Differences, table manners
  • A field trip: “the bakery”
  • Quiz

I.B., II.B., III.A., IV.A., V.B.

I.B., II.A., III.B., IV.A., V.A.

Week 4

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 11

  1. Functional: Forming opinions, formulate hypothesis structures
  2. Grammatical: Hypothesis, review of the Future
  3. Vocabulary: New technologies, computers
  4. Culture: Teenagers and Facebook, dangers

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 12

  1. Functional: Tell a story about…
  2. Grammatical: Time expressions, how to express cause and consequences, subjunctive
  3. Vocabulary: Environment / ecology, protection of nature
  4. Culture: Different Moroccan NGOs
  • Imagine a dialogue between a mother and a teenager
  • Defend your point of view
  • Write an e-mail
  • Study a movie
  • Summary, analysis
  • Create your own organization to defend a cause

I.B., II.A., III.A., IV.A., V.A.

II.B., III.A., IV.B., V.B.

Week 5

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 1), Unit 13

  1. Functional: How to take part in a conversation, relate stories in the past
  2. Grammatical: Past tense verbs
  3. Vocabulary: Gender: men – women, equality / rights
  4. Culture: Social questions in Morocco

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 2), Unit 1

  1. Functional: How to give advice, expressing an opinion about actions and behavior
  2. Grammatical: Relative structures
  3. Vocabulary: Fashion (clothes), Sports (variety)
  4. Culture: Fashion and sport for boys or / and girls
  • Oral presentations after choosing a topic (research)
  • Talking about stereotypes
  • Oral presentations (research)
  • Talking about the generation gap
  • Interviewing people
  • Quiz

I.B., II.B., III.A.

I.B., II.B., III.B., IV.A., V.A.

Week 6

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 2), Unit 2

  1. Functional: Expressing imaginary situations…
  2. Grammatical: Conditional, Conditional clauses (if)
  3. Vocabulary: Reading, gardening…
  4. Culture: Activities, entertainment, free time, vacation in Morocco

Al Kitaab Fi Taalum Al Arabia (Book 2),  Unit 3

General review

  1. Functional: Review, expressing needs and demands
  2. Grammatical: Structures to express feelings
  3. Vocabulary: Music, theatre, cinema
  4. Culture: Cultural topics in Morocco, cultural life


  • Expressing wishes
  • The job I would like to have…
  • Talking about one of my favourite pastimes
  • Quiz
  • Viewing a play at IES Rabat (students’ performance)
  • Learning adjectives to express emotions
  • Writing a small biography

I.A., II.A., III.A., IV.A., V.B.

I.B., II.B., III.A., IV.B., V.A.


Required readings: 

The course is essentially based on materials from:

  • Kristeen Brustard et al,  Al-kitab Fi Ta’allum Al-‘Arabiyya Part 1(2nd edition) or (3rd  edition), 2011