Daily Archives: Friday, 14 September, 2007

Surge in Demand for Arabic Instructors


Since 9/11, the number of students interested in the Middle Eastern language has been skyrocketing. More than 20,000 people in the USA enrolled in an Arabic-language higher-education program in 2006, double the number who signed up from 1998 to 2002, according to projections from a study the Modern Language Association expects to release this fall.

Education experts agree that Arabic is a difficult language to learn, more so than French or Spanish, the traditional alternatives.

Not surprisingly, the student dropout rate is high.

“We estimate that 20,000 students are studying Arabic at the collegiate level, but not even 5% are likely to graduate with functional speaking proficiency,” says R. Kirk Belnap, director of the National Resource Center at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

The remedy? Teach Arabic to students at a younger age. Like they intend to do at the Khalil Gibran academy, the school where the principal was hounded out of her job before the school ever opened for business.


Filed under arabic

Culture and Language Program for Marines Heading to Iraq

On September 1st I posted about a flight being cancelled because some passenger was frightened by the presence of Arab-looking men. The men were working for the Marine Corps as part of a program to teach Marines about Iraqi customs and some basic Arabic. Here’s an article about that program:


Since then, more than 50,000 Marines have completed the curriculum. They’ve learned phrases as diverse as “hands up” and “may peace be upon you” and studied the importance of honor, family and tribe in Iraq’s complex society.

The benefits can be seen in Anbar province, said Capt. Dave Meadows, who attended the session yesterday.

That vast region west of Baghdad was once a haven for insurgents. In 2004, the Marine Corps fought one of its most intense battles ever in the city of Fallujah, which is part of the province.

Today, the Sunni majority in Anbar has chased off or killed most of the homegrown and foreign insurgents. Sunni sheiks have aligned with U.S. forces, thanks in part to the Marines’ heightened cultural awareness and language skills.

“Having someone who can speak good Arabic is like having another infantry battalion,” he added. “It’s just that valuable.”

(Bolding mine)

Mehson recalled how a serviceman prevented an agitated Iraqi man from being shot by his unit when he shouted the Arabic word for stop – pronounced “owe-giff.”

“If you learn just a few words and phrases, you will make the Iraqi people happy and you will surprise them,” said Mehson, who peppers his sentences with the word “sweet” when describing the payoff of learning Iraqi ways.

“At the end of the day,” he added, “these words will help the Iraqis fall in love with you.”

The article includes a sidebar about Iraqi customs. This is one of the pointers:

Servicemen should avoid making eye contact with women. Speak only to men.

Another blogger complained about this one. I want to point out that there are American servicewomen serving in Iraq, and there would be no reason for them not to make eye contact with or talk to Iraqi women.

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Filed under arab, arabic

Fake Holy Water Health Risk Averted


Environmental health officers carried out on-the-spot inspections at about 50 stores to ensure fraudulent Zam Zam water was not being sold.

They said the water was known to contain high levels of nitrates and arsenic, was not being sold.

The water is advertised as coming from the sacred well of Zam Zam in Mecca, the most holy city in Islam, and demand increases during Ramadan.

The warning does not cover genuine Zam Zam, which is sourced from the Well of Zam Zam, located within the Masjid al Haram in Mecca.

Councillor Audrey Lewis was concerned Muslims may be exploited into buying counterfeit Zam Zam during the holy month of Ramadan.

She said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia forbids the commercial export of genuine Zam Zam, so we have no idea of the true source of the water which ends up on the streets of the UK.

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Filed under miscellaneous, Saudi Arabia