Arabic at ACOR

The ACOR CLS cohort from Summer 2010.

ACOR’s mission is to advance knowledge of Jordan and the interconnected Middle East, past and present. We pursue this mandate through cultural exchange, knowledge creation and sharing, research, and dialog. Appreciation for the unique history and culture of Arabic-speaking communities is paramount to these endeavors. Below is a brief overview of some of our programs as they relate to the study and celebration of the Arabic language.

Since the 1980s, we have hosted and facilitated a series of externally funded open-discipline fellowships from the U.S. Information Agency (1986–2000), Near and Middle Eastern Research Training Program (1993–2001), National Endowment for the Humanities (1996–present), and U.S. Department of State and Council of American Overseas Research Centers (2001–present). Their recipients have addressed a wide range of research topics across the humanities and social sciences, specifically including Arabic and linguistics. Whether or not a fellow’s research was focused on language, ACOR has offered them Arabic language instruction for many years as well. We have also hosted several dedicated programs for advanced Arabic immersion, including:

The Andrew W. Mellon Arabic Speaking Academic Immersion Program (1991–1995)

Governed by a consortium of 17 American universities, the ASAIP was offered to both faculty and graduate students and facilitated a full semester’s enrollment at the University of Jordan in seminars conducted entirely in Arabic. Participation was targeted at non-native speakers of Arabic “on the threshold of fluency” who sought an immersion experience in order to improve their communication skills in Educated Spoken Arabic. A total of 21 scholars passed through the ASAIP program.

The Critical Language Scholarship (2006-2012)

In the recent past, ACOR directly administrated Arabic-as-a-second-language (Arabic SLA) programs, particularly the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). CLS at ACOR brought nearly 300 students to Amman for

intensive Arabic study over seven consecutive summers. With instruction provided in partnership with the University of Jordan followed by the Qasid Institute, under the direction of former ACOR associate director Chris Tuttle, and with support from specially hired program coordinators and assistants, CLS students at ACOR were provided a comprehensive study abroad experience that included classroom study and directed opportunities for cultural enrichment/exchange. Students mostly resided at ACOR, as well as at nearby hotels, and were provided tutors, language partners, and opportunities to meet with business and community leaders in Jordan. During field trips to cultural sites across Jordan, ACOR ensured bilingual guides to help reinforce language learning. Many CLS alumni have gone on to become involved with AMIDEAST, CASA, and other advanced learning programs, and several have received Fulbright awards. You can learn more about CLS summers at ACOR through related articles in past newsletters, namely: volumes 18.2 (page 9), 22.1 (pages 4–7),  22.1 (page 8),  23.1 (pages 6–7), and 24.1 (page 6).

Other ACOR initiatives and major projects have also included language instruction in various forms, including:


The Sustainable Cultural Heritage through Engagement of Local Communities Project (SCHEP) is a cooperative agreement between ACOR and USAID (2014–2021). The project seeks to connect cultural-heritage professionals and research practitioners with community members living near key cultural sites all across Jordan; thus, our ability to facilitate bilingual international exchange has been key to the project’s implementation. All components of SCHEP—capacity-building, tourism and economic development, institutional development, site development, and awareness—have required ACOR to engage bilingually with diverse stakeholders both inside and outside the center and, at times, to directly assist in translating across communicative gaps. We encourage you to explore SCHEP’s wide-reaching bilingual community and institutional engagement on their dynamic Facebook page.

Library and Archival Holdings

ACOR’s library and archive has for decades served scholars in need of Arabic resources, as well as users for whom Arabic is their preferred language. To support such use, our team has diversified library and archival holdings with an eye towards improving bilingual searchability. Our library catalog contains approximately 2,000 titles in Arabic, ranging from books, journals and journal articles, and maps. We also frequently provide tours to local university groups who are interested in making use of our free library spaces and services.

The archival team especially has been at the forefront of expanding Arabic-language accessibility at ACOR. As a part of a recent four-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), through which over 30,000 archival images were digitized and published online, we developed archival standards to improve Arabic-language searchability in our public database, knowledge that will serve as the basis for archival practice and collection management at ACOR for future work. In conjunction with our digitization project, we also convened three archival methods workshops (2017–2019) to build capacities among colleagues in this field throughout Jordan and the wider region. A new ED-funded project (2020–2024) will expand upon such work while addressing use and preparation of public multimedia collections at ACOR, including newly digitized archival images and, for the first time, video and audio recordings from prior decades.

Public Events: Edit-a-thons, lectures

Each year, ACOR hosts several flagship events through which we engage the public with the latest academic research. Though usually in-person, we have also offered lectures online since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With increasing frequency ACOR has provided simultaneous translation at our public lectures. One example is the September 2019 presentation by Dr. Omar Al-Ghul (Yarmouk University), who spoke about the Petra papyri and what they can demonstrate to scholars today about practices of language use in southern Jordan during the 6th century AD. This event was attended by about 150 people and simultaneously translated from Arabic into English.

In addition to our public lecture series, ACOR engages with the local Wikipedia editing community for “edit-a-thon” projects. In collaboration with Wikimedia Levant and the Jordan Open Source Association, we have held four public edit-a-thon workshops since October 2019, including online iterations in 2020. We have also hosted two “Wikipedians in Residence” as volunteers in our library, including 2019–2020 CASA fellow Neal Feldman and local Wikipedia organizer Areen Abu Rumman. Thanks to the contributions of such volunteers, through these activities tens of thousands of words have been added to Wikipedia in both English and Arabic, with emphasis on articles about Jordan’s cultural heritage. Please visit the Facebook group Open Jordanian Heritage for the latest activities and announcements in the ACOR Wikimedian community.


Our digital publication Insights, which was upgraded and re-launched in July 2020, includes articles written in both English and Arabic, with increasing bilingual capabilities. With ACOR’s hire of an assistant director for Arabic language and culture in October 2020, translation capacities are expanding, and we are eager to increase the number of Arabic-language articles we publish on the site in the years to come. You can subscribe to receive new articles on Insights at, and if you believe your research and ideas fit the interests of the ACOR community, please reach out to development and communications officer Jackie Salzinger ( with an article pitch.

Do you want to support expanded research opportunities and community outreach programs at ACOR? We would love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out with your ideas to us at

Please make a donation today to our Annual Fund, which supports all the above activities and more!

This page was last updated on 10 December 2020.

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