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For information on the language requirements for specific Major/Minor tracks, please see Major & Minor Requirements.

The CMME department at Macalester offers courses in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic. Students are encouraged to select the language which best suits their long-term goals, or which language interests them the most. In order to be accepted into the next higher language course in the Arabic, Greek, Hebrew or Latin sequences, a student must have received a grade of C- or higher in the previous course. All four languages offered by the CMME Department can fulfill the Macalester Language Requirement. To fulfill this requirement, students must successfully complete the equivalent of four (4) semesters of college level study in a single language. For those with some experience in these languages, placement into a language level is done through an interview with a department faculty member during orientation or the first week of class. 


A knowledge of Latin makes studying Classics or learning other modern Romance languages more accessible. Elementary Latin I is offered yearly, and students gain experience with Latin vocabulary and grammar, as well as reading from sources such as Pliny, Caesar, and the Bible. Latin is a great option for students interested in the expansion and influence of Rome or in Medieval Studies. 

The Latin Track (Advanced Latin offered every other year):


Ancient Greek is a highly-inflected language, and a satisfactory understanding of the systems of Greek grammar can open the doors into the world of studying other ancient languages. Elementary Greek I is offered during alternating Fall Semesters, rotating yearly with Elementary Hebrew I, and begins students on a two-term sequence of Elementary Greek. During this year, students will be taught the basics of Greek syntax, vocabulary, and grammar, as well as reading excerpts from sources such as Plato, Xenophon, and the New Testament. Greek is a good fit for students interested in the greater Hellenistic World or in Religious/Biblical Studies.

The Greek Track (Offerings vary by year):


The modern dialects of Arabic are spoken by more than 280 million people, making Arabic one of the five most widely spoken languages in the twenty-first century. Modern Standard Arabic is the official language of 26 states across the globe, particularly in the Middle East and southeast Mediterranean. Literary, philosophical and scientific work in the Arab world was composed in Classical Arabic for centuries, and it has also been the liturgical language of Islam since its inception in the seventh century.

Macalester regularly offers five semesters of instruction in Modern Standard Arabic. When coordinated well with study abroad, students can thus complete three full years of study.

What is Modern Standard?

The Macalester department of the Classical Mediterranean and Middle East offers courses in Modern Standard Arabic, the international and literary form of the language that is closely related to Classical Arabic. In the Arabian Peninsula of the seventh century, Classical Arabic was used by Muhammad to deliver his revelations in the Qur’an, and the language spread largely with Islam into Asia, Africa and beyond. In different areas, different forms of colloquial Arabic have developed over time. These spoken dialects differ in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary from each other, and from Classical or Standard, which is still used in most forms of literature, news reporting, academics, international relations, political speeches and sermons. Colloquial Arabics are used interpersonally, in movies and in some popular fiction. This phenomenon of diglossia — of actively using two versions of a language — is explored in some classes, but the greatest student exposure to a colloquial Arabic is during their study abroad experience.

How Can I Use My Arabic Toward a Major or Minor?

Arabic language courses may be used to build a major or minor in the department of the Classical Mediterranean and Middle East. Alternatively, students use Arabic to fulfill the language requirement in International Studies or to declare an Individually Designed Interdepartmental major.

Arabic is a language still widely spoken today, and a fluency in Arabic can provide endless opportunities to learn about the culture and history of the Middle East. Elementary Arabic I is offered each year, in which students learn to read, write and converse in Modern Standard Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic is the form of Classical Arabic used in contemporary news media, documents, literature, education and religious practice in the many countries of the Arab world. The purpose of this course is to develop beginning students’ proficiency and communication in the four basic language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students who are interested in teaching English abroad in the Middle East or in specializing in Middle Eastern studies should consider enrolling in Arabic.

The Arabic Track (Advanced offering varies by year):

For students interested in furthering their Arabic speaking experience and in connecting with other Arabic speakers should consider applying for residency in Macalester’s Arabic House.


The study of Hebrew is exceptionally valuable in the field of Middle Eastern studies. Hebrew is a Semitic language that shares origins with other languages such as Aramaic and Akkadian. Elementary Hebrew I is offered during alternating Fall Semesters, rotating yearly with Elementary Greek I, and begins students on a two-term sequence of Elementary Hebrew. During this year, the study of grammar and vocabulary will be supplemented with practice in oral recitation and aural comprehension. Basic biblical texts are analyzed and translated, including selections from the books of Genesis and Ruth. Hebrew is a great option for students interested in linguistics, the ancient languages of the Middle East, or in contemporary Middle Eastern studies. 

The Hebrew Track (Offerings vary by year):

  • CLAS 117 – Elementary Hebrew I
  • CLAS 218 – Elementary Hebrew II
  • CLAS 237 – Intermediate Hebrew I
  • CLAS 338 – Intermediate Hebrew II
  • Advanced Hebrew offered as needed

Guidelines for Latin Placement

Rather than administer a placement exam, our department prefers to place students into our Latin program on the basis of either the number of years they have studied Latin previously, or their performances on an Advanced Placement Latin exam. The guidelines for these are listed below. If there are further questions, please contact Professor Severy-Hoven at 651-696-6721 or [email protected].

Latin Program Primer:  Every fall, we offer the first semester of elementary (CLAS 111) and the first semester of intermediate (CLAS 231). Every spring, we offer the second semester of elementary (CLAS 212) and the second semester of intermediate (CLAS 237). Every other year we offer advanced Latin (CLAS 483). Contact the department for further information on these advanced options.

Placement Based on Course Experience

For those who have not taken an AP exam, students with two years of high school Latin or less are strongly encouraged to begin again with the first semester of elementary. Some material will be review, but review is good, and is far superior to feeling lost. Students with three years of high school Latin may consider starting at the second semester of elementary, which usually begins with participles and the subjunctive mood. (Note, however, that the first semester is offered only in the fall, the second only in the spring; therefore, if you discover that the second semester is too hard, you’ll have to wait until the following fall to take up Latin.) Students with more than three years experience may enroll in the first semester of intermediate to find out if this level is appropriate, but many may find that they prefer to drop back into the second semester of elementary in the spring.

Placement Based on Advanced Placement Exam

College credit is obtainable only through the Latin AP exam. For a score of 4 or 5, a student earns credit for a course equivalent to the first semester of intermediate Latin.  In order to fulfill the college language requirement, students need to take the second semester of intermediate in the spring.  If they would like some grammatical review and have not read much prose, however, students are strongly encouraged to enroll in the first semester of the intermediate in the fall.

Students who earn a 3 receive credit for a course equivalent to the second semester of elementary Latin. They should enroll in the first semester of intermediate (CLAS 231). They will be able to complete the college language requirement by taking one year of intermediate Latin.

Students who earn below a 3 should begin again with Elementary Latin I (CLAS 111)

Finally, anyone with experience in Latin who intends to pursue Classical Mediterranean and Middle East more broadly while at Macalester is strongly encouraged to begin their study of ancient Greek during their first year.

We look forward to seeing you around the department of the Classical Mediterranean and Middle East!