In the contemporary world of globalized interactions, knowledge of the languages, cultures, literatures, histories, and societies of any major world region is crucial for both scholarship and professional practice. This is especially true for the Middle Eastern region, whose influence is apparent in the politics, economics, security, and ideologies of the post 9/11 globe, as well as throughout history since the beginning of the archaeological record of the ancient Near East, through the classical, late antique, medieval, and modern periods. The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (NELC) has taken on since its establishment in 1979 the mission to create and promulgate these knowledges about the region, which spans not just its core in the Near East / Middle East and North Africa, but also in Central Asia, South Asia, and the region’s diasporas in Europe and North America.
As a cross-disciplinary, polyglot department focused on training students at all levels across the university for a wide range of careers (in international business, law, journalism, communications, translation, language teaching, government foreign service, military service, development, religious vocation, academia, etc.), NELC seeks to impart both language skills and an in-depth grasp of the cultural, literary, philosophical, and historical contexts of these societies.
Accordingly, the department teaches Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, Hindi, Urdu, and Uzbek, as well as a range of ancient Semitic and non-semitic languages such as Akkadian, Aramaic, Syriac, and Phoenician – an offering unmatched by the majority of U.S. universities. Other courses at various levels, taught in English or the target language, cover literature, cultural history, anthropology, folklore, critical theory, linguistics, and language pedagogy – a diverse set of approaches reflecting a commitment to offer comprehensive training and to maintain the strong inter-departmental links with other faculty and students throughout the university.