Uyghur is the language of everyday communication for nearly 8 million people, most of them Muslims inhabiting the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the PRC. Written in a modified Arabic script, Uyghur belongs to the Eastern branch of the Turkic language family and is closely related to Uzbek. Though there are some dialectical variations between the language as spoken in different oases (Khotan, Kashgar, Turpan), standard Uyghur is understood everywhere in Xinjiang and is an essential tool for students with a serious interest in the region—one of the fastest-developing and ethnically most complex parts of China. Two years of instruction are offered, with the introductory course taught every other year.