A university that speaks your language

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An illustration of parchment with fancy calligraphy script. Next to it, a feather pen is dipped into a bottle of ink.
It might surprise many closed-minded people, but learning a foreign language actually does not kill you. Mohamed_hassan via Pixabay

Electives can be a way to get in touch with one’s roots

University is not just about ticking off boxes and fulfilling degree requirements. It is also about self-discovery, intellectual growth and, perhaps, finding a new passion. That’s exactly where electives come in. These courses are often underestimated yet they can add to your GPA, or bring it down if not chosen wisely.  

Do you find it hard to choose which electives to take? Meet Degree Audit, your virtual academic advisor, accessible at the tip of your fingers through UR Self Service. This tool provides a comprehensive roadmap for all the courses available at the University of Regina (U of R), whether it be part of your Bachelor’s degree, concurrent program, or even for a standalone certificate. In this article, let us delve into the often-overlooked realm of language electives, with a particular focus on an express desire for more classes on Asian languages. 

Like many institutions across Canada, the U of R attracts a great deal of international students every year. The last Fall semester had seen a record-breaking enrollment surge, totaling 16,860 students. This increase in enrolment, especially in international students, adds to the diversity of the campus.  

However, as we celebrate this diversity, a gap becomes apparent – an unmet need for courses in Asian languages, such as Arabic and Urdu. While it is impressive to note that at the U of R we do have a main hub for French-speaking students in La Cité universitaire francophone which is centered on Fransaskois (French-Saskatchewan) culture, there is a noticeable absence of language courses that cater to the specific needs and interests of the multilingual student community. 

In addressing this gap, the faculty, staff, and administration can come together to advocate for more inclusive curriculum options. For instance, the introduction of Urdu and Arabic classes, with their rich histories and global relevance, would lead to more meaningful connections as elective classes.  

These languages capture the essence of history, philosophies, and vibrant culture. Urdu, a major language of South Asia, holds a distinguished position as an Indo-Aryan language, closely related to Hindi with both sharing the same Indic base. Although phonologically and grammatically close, at the lexical level, they have developed into independent languages due to extensive borrowing from different sources.  

Urdu, influenced by Arabic and Persian, is a linguistic asset that is intertwined with the culture of the Indian subcontinent. Arabic, on the other hand, stands as a language with deep historical and religious roots. It beckons students to an intellectual exploration of classical literature, modern media, and an understanding of Islamic civilization and Middle Eastern cultures.  

Imagine having an Urdu or Arabic 101 course that you could take at the university. It would be an opportunity for international students to practice and refine their language skills, thus helping them stay connected to their cultural roots. For domestic students, learning a new language is a plus. It offers a captivating insight into different cultures, histories, and philosophies. It gives them a chance to explore the poetic beauty and historical significance of languages rich in literary tradition. 

Some famous classics that one can enjoy reading in Urdu literature include Mirza Ghalib’s poetry, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s works, Prem Chand’s novels, Intikhab-e-Kalam-e Iqbal, and Manto’s short stories, among others. Each of these poets and authors offers a unique flavor and perspective on life, society, and human emotions.  

For instance, Mirza Ghalib is considered as the “Poet of the East” and is an iconic figure in Urdu literature. His ghazals and poems are a blend of philosophical musings and exquisite linguistic beauty. His poetry explores themes of love, loss, existential reflections, and the complexities of life. Each of his verses carries a layer of meaning and emotion.  

As for Faiz Ahmed Faiz, he is celebrated for his revolutionary and socially conscious poetry. His works, found in collections like “Nuskha Hai Wafa” and “Dast e Saba” reflect deep engagement with political and societal issues. Faiz’s poetry resonates with his passion for justice, freedom, and human rights. Muhammad Iqbal, a philosopher, poet, and politician is considered one of the pillars of Urdu literature. “Intikhab Kalam-e-Iqbal” is a compilation of his poetic works that explore spiritual and philosophical themes. It is a journey into the complexities of human existence, self-realization, and the pursuit of a higher purpose. 

Saadat Hasan Manto’s short stories are a reflection of the socio-political realities of his time. Known for his raw honesty, Manto’s tales, such as Toba Tek Singh and Khol Do explore the human psyche during partition and societal upheaval. His narrative style, coupled with a keen observation of human nature, makes Manto’s short stories a compelling and thought-provoking read. 

As for Arabic literature, it boasts a rich heritage with classics that delve into diverse genres including poetry, philosophy, and storytelling. Some Arabic classics that offer profound insights into the culture, history, and human experience include “One Thousand and One Nights” (Arabian Nights) or Alf Laylah wa-Laylah, The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun, and The Rihla by Ibn Battuta among others. One Thousand and One Nights provides a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales, fables, adventures, mysteries, and many more through the form of an imaginatively framed story.  

The Muqaddimah is authored by the medieval historian Ibn Khaldun and lays the foundation for sociology and historiography. It explores the cyclical nature of societies; the role of geography, and the factors influencing the rise and fall of civilizations. Ibn Battuta provides readers with a vivid depiction of cultures, societies, and historical events from his own experiences with The Rihla. 

Thus, the call for Arabic and Urdu courses goes beyond addressing a gap in the curriculum, it is a call for a more inclusive and culturally enriched university environment. The introduction of these language courses will certainly help transform the campus into a vibrant hub of cultural exchange. As we advocate for these additions, let us envision a university community where students not only fulfill the academic requirements but also embark on a journey of cultural exploration and linguistic enrichment.  

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