Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

The major in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations is for students interested in the Near East, ancient or modern. Students acquire a solid linguistic, historical, and cultural background to study the area. Small classes and considerable flexibility characterize the major, which includes three areas of concentration:

  1. Ancient Near Eastern languages and civilizations, with emphasis on Mesopotamia, Egypt, or Syria-Palestine
  2. Hebrew language and literature
  3. Arabic and Islamic studies

Interested first-year students are urged to consult the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) or an instructor in their prospective area as early as possible in the fall, either to clarify their interests or to plan the best course of study for their needs and abilities. Majors often obtain special museum, excavation, or linguistic experience at Yale or abroad.

Courses particularly suitable for first-year students include:

More advanced courses may require knowledge of a Near Eastern language. Students considering a major with a concentration in any of the languages taught by the department are encouraged to begin language study as early as possible, especially if they plan to study abroad. Students considering a major with a concentration in Arabic are encouraged to begin language study as first-year students.

Placement examinations in Arabic and Hebrew will be held at the beginning of the fall term. Locations will be posted on the bulletin board of the department office, 320 York Street, Room 314. Placement examinations are also available in Persian and Turkish; interested students should consult the DUS. See also the Center for Language Study Website for placement examinations information.

Religious Studies and Judaic Studies offer courses in Hebrew literature and in Judaism; Religious Studies, History, and Political Science offer courses dealing with the premodern and modern Near East. Some of these related courses can count toward the major in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.


The beginning course sequence, ARBC 110 and ARBC 120, carries three course credits for the year and teaches Arabic grammar as a foundation for further study of Modern Standard Arabic, the language of educated people in all Arab countries and an official language of the United Nations. The course concentrates on reading, listening, and writing.

Students interested in modern Arabic follow ARBC 120 with ARBC 130, ARBC 140, ARBC 150, and ARBC 151. Students interested in classical Arabic follow ARBC 120 with ARBC 136 and ARBC 146.

Students contemplating a major with a concentration in Arabic and Islamic studies or a second major with an Arabic component should consult with faculty members as early as possible in the fall.


The beginning course sequence, HEBR 110 and HEBR 120 is followed by HEBR 130, HEBR 140, and an advanced course such as HEBR 160. Students who already know modern or biblical Hebrew may take advanced courses. Some of these will be listed in Yale College Programs of Study, and others in the Graduate School’s online bulletin. For information about graduate courses, consult the directors of undergraduate studies (DUS) in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and in Judaic Studies in the fall.

Additional Languages

Beginning courses in Egyptian and Akkadian are open to first-year students; consult the DUS in the fall. Modern Persian and Turkish are also offered. Near Eastern language courses are very demanding, so a high level of commitment is presumed.