Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL): MA and Graduate Diploma

student in hall attending orientation session

AUC's Master of Arts program in teaching Arabic as a foreign language (TAFL) is a distinctive degree program with few, if any, counterparts in other American universities.
Several institutions in the United States such as the University of Texas, Georgetown University, Michigan University and Ohio State University, to name a few offer linguistics courses with some focus on Arabic. However, the comprehensive MA program that AUC established in 1979 is one of a kind. That the Department of Arabic Language Instruction (ALI) has been approached on more than one occasion to establish some kind of shared degree with universities in the United States is no doubt a testament to this fact.

Among the reasons for its success is the fact that TAFL’s mission and that of the ALI dovetail very nicely: ALI’s various programs host a large pool of non-native learners, while TAFL students, through a combination of study, research and hands-on training, gain experience and competence in teaching. TAFL students enjoy the opportunities they have to: interact with the experienced faculty members of the institute outside of classes, as is possible during workshops and in mentoring situations; and to directly observe and participate in the teaching process, furnished by the practicum courses whereby our students are expected to observe and teach up to 35 hours per semester.

Also, opportunities for unpaid assistantships are available. The cooperative exploration of practical pedagogical issues is deemed valuable. As a result, our students become familiarized with theory as well as practice in the field of language teaching.

  • The increasing number of learners of Arabic has resulted in a steep rise in the demand for teachers of Arabic as a foreign language in Egypt and abroad. More and more universities and private institutes are offering Arabic as a foreign language course, which led to a rise in the need for TAFL graduates. This is reflected in the increasing number of TAFL students who teach in prestigious Language programs abroad even before their graduation, and the participation of our more promising students in international conferences.

  • The master’s degree requires two years of residence and covers the areas of linguistics, second language acquisition, and methods of teaching foreign languages. Although it is preferable that TAFL MA applicants have teaching experience, those with little or no teaching experience are also accepted into the program, and are required to work as unpaid assistants for at least one semester before graduation.

    The courses have been structured to promote research as well as to develop highly trained teachers. A number of issues related to the role of Arabic in modern society are also freshly examined, such as current methods of teaching Arabic to children, reform of the writing system, grammar reform movements, and the problem of diglossia. The TAFL program seeks to inspire new approaches to these problems.

  • TAFL is a program for students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Although a native-like level of proficiency in Arabic language and an expressed ability in using the language is required, this does not mean that applicants for TAFL have to be specialized in the Arabic language. In fact, TAFL welcomes applicants whose first language is not Arabic. While most TAFL students are Egyptians, a number of our students come from other parts of the world.

  • “Being at AUC is like being in the middle of a bridge between two worlds that usually are in conflict with one another. I have had the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of classical Arabic teachers from the prestigious Dar al-Ulum and from Westerners. AUC gave me the unique chance to teach Arabic and to apply the theory I was
    learning in class on the same day. I will leave AUC not only with a recognized MA degree but also with a two-year experience in teaching Arabic.”

    Jean Druel, a graduate student from France

  • Language Requirements

    Non-native speakers of Arabic and holders of university degrees with specializations other than Arabic language or Islamic studies must demonstrate that their proficiency in Arabic is adequate for study in the program through an Arabic language entrance exam and an interview offered by the TAFL program.

    The level of language proficiency required for admission should not be less than the “superior” level as specified by the guidelines of the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Those at a lower level but showing an exceptional promise may be recommended for AUC preparatory training for a period of time that does not exceed one year. An applicant who is not a native speaker of English must have sufficient command of English to qualify for admission as an AUC graduate student. Those who are not at the optimal level but show an exceptional promise may be recommended for AUC preparatory training for a period of time that does not exceed one year.

    Learn more about admission to AUC graduate programs and English language cut off scores.


  • Recipients of TAFL fellowships are usually students registered in the TAFL program who have shown outstanding performance as well as students who show outstanding performance in their BA or postgraduate studies before coming to AUC.

    Full TAFL Fellowships

    Full fellowships consisting of a full waiver of tuition plus a stipend are available for select students in return for carrying out nine hours per week of fellowship tasks that are assigned by the program.

    Partial TAFL Fellowships

    Partial fellowships consist of waivers of up to two-thirds of tuition fees (i.e. a waiver for one or two courses). In return, students are expected to carry out six or three hours per week of fellowship tasks that are assigned by the program (depending on the number of courses that tuition waiver covers).

    TAFL Fellowship Renewal

    Fellowship renewals depend upon the fellow's performance in his/her graduate courses. Learn more information about the TAFL Fellowships requirements’ and the application process. 

    For other fellowships offered by AUC, please refer to this page.

  • What are the conditions for admission to TAFL?

    The admission requirements for the TAFL program are similar to those of AUC's other graduate programs, except that an Arabic entrance exam is required. This requirement aims to ensure that applicants are qualified and knowledgeable in oral and written classical Arabic, and are at a level that allows them to become successful teachers of Arabic as a foreign language. This test is only given to graduates who are not specialized in the Arabic language and/or non-native speakers. Non-native speakers who have reached
    native-like proficiency in Arabic are welcome to apply to the program. The exam is divided into a written and an oral section.

    What are collateral requirements and who has to take them?

    Collateral requirements are introductory courses needed to ease applicants who are not specialized in the Arabic language into the TAFL program. These include Arabic grammar, phonetics, and history of Arabic linguistics.

    Am I eligible to receive a TAFL fellowship?

    Conditions for being eligible for a fellowship include that the applicant has an outstanding academic record as an undergraduate and that there are fellowships available. For more information about eligibility to TAFL fellowship, please refer to this link

    What is the language of instruction in TAFL program courses?

    The language of instruction is both English and Arabic. Courses such as Arabic grammar, phonetics, morphology, and history of Arabic linguistics are in Arabic. Other courses on linguistic analysis, methodology, second language acquisition, and sociolinguistics are in English. Whether covered in English or Arabic results of all fields of research are applied to Arabic language acquisition and instruction.

  • For further inquiries concerning studies in the TAFL program, contact us using the information below. We are more than willing to respond to your questions.

    MA TAFL Program
    The American University in Cairo (Mail Code 08103)
    AUC New Cairo, AUC Avenue P.O. Box 74
    Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Hall, Room 2040

    tel 20.2.2615.1916
    fax 20.2.2795.7565

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