Arabic to be taught at six Nashville schools

Six public schools in Nashville will offer Arabic language classes in grades 7-12 starting in August, district officials announced Tuesday.

Arabic is the fifth most commonly spoken language in the world.

“[The new program] gives our schools yet another unique and attractive feature for families, and helps meet the demands of our increasingly diverse city,” said Jesse Register, director of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, in a news release.

The schools — Antioch High School, Margaret Allen Middle Prep, Cane Ridge High School, Antioch Middle Prep, Overton High School and McMurray Middle Prep — were selected based on a survey of students’ home languages. Because all of the schools have several Arabic-speaking students — in some cases, hundreds — two different courses will be offered: beginning Arabic and heritage Arabic, for native speakers to deepen their knowledge of the language and learn to read and write in Arabic.

“Native Arabic speakers have this innate skill they can take into adulthood. We want them to develop it further and use it to also strengthen their English skills,” said Jay Steele, the district’s chief academic officer. “We believe it will help them be more engaged in school as a whole and also help them stay connected to their native culture.”

The district is in the process of recruiting teachers and working with the Tennessee Department of Education to ensure teachers can be certified in Arabic. The district is targeting to hire three Arabic teachers to teach at two schools each.