Not too far from a three-mile stretch in Anaheim, known to many as Little Arabia, there are students attending Western High School learning the Arabic language.
The 2022-2023 school year marks the fifth anniversary of the Anaheim Union High School District’s Arabic World Languages program.
The diverse student body represents over 60 different languages and countries. Of the 30,000 students in the district, about 6,000 of them are learning English. The top five languages spoken by these students are Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean and Arabic.
Five years ago, Anaheim Union adopted the Arabic World Language program to be taught at Western High School.
“We are proud of our scholars and our families who bring many cultural and linguistic assets that we celebrate and learn from,” said Dr. Renae Bryant, director of multilingual services for the district. “The languages and cultures that our plurilingual scholars bring to their education are assets to their own learning and are important contributions to our learning communities.”
The district offers language immersion programs in Spanish and Vietnamese and eight world language courses: American Sign Language, Arabic, French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Since the United States has designated Arabic as a language of strategic importance, educators like Dr. Bryant believe these courses could open up more scholarship and career opportunities for students.
Those who study Arabic can find careers in a variety of fields, including journalism, business, education, finance and banking, translation and interpretation, and more. The language is the fifth most spoken language in the world, but there are currently few people who are fluent in Arabic.
“We live in a global society with a global market where the more cultural and linguistic skills you have, the more success and income you will have,” Dr. Bryant said.
The World Arabic language program at Western High is currently the only one of its kind in Orange County.
The district serves students from Anaheim, parts of Cypress, Buena Park, La Palma, and Stanton.