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BYU's Middle Eastern language center has funding renewed

The U.S. Department of Education has renewed funding for the National Middle East Language Resource Center at Brigham Young University.

The center represents a consortium of language experts from more than 20 major universities. It works across the four Middle Eastern language groups — Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish — to foster cooperation and joint utilization of expertise and resources. The center, founded in August 2002, is one of 14 created by the Department of Education to improve foreign language teaching in the United States and is the only one focused on the languages of the Middle East.

With the new funding, BYU's center will receive about $1 million through 2009. It will continue its coordination of efforts aimed at improving opportunities for learning the languages of the Middle East through projects such as teacher training, materials development, testing, integration of pedagogy and technology, study abroad and elementary and high school programs.

"The mission of NMELRC is to effectively and substantially improve the nation's Middle East language learning and teaching capacity," said center director Kirk Belnap, a BYU associate professor of Arabic. "We plan to build on our extensive study of the needs of students, teachers and program administrators." NMELRC surveys identified professionalization as one of the greatest needs of the Middle Eastern language fields.

Belnap said the center's focus in the next four years will include training teachers, developing effective language proficiency measures and improving intensive summer and study abroad programs.

NMELRC was created after fieldwide evaluation revealed that no single institution had the resources to mount an effective national language resource center. As a result, educators and professionals from a variety of institutions banded together to create a network of expertise and resources. NMELRC will continue to work with other national language centers, schools and language associations to provide quality training and materials to teachers and students of Middle Eastern languages.

For more information, contact Maggie N. Nassif, the center's administrative director, at 422-7192 or

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