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On the need to learn Arabic 27, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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“This American is a donkey who can’t read Arabic. Your brother, Abu Jihad.”

One of my (many millions of) eagle-eyed readers pointed out that the soldier should surely have some kind of insignia visible? No? Isn’t that more or less mandatory? Any thoughts? Special forces? Getting dressed?

A kindly hat-doff to said reader.

Arabic: so near and yet… 26, May 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Hat tip: V Arabic

Law to protect Arabic 21, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Gulf.
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Plans are afoot in the Emirates to protect the Arabic language. The perceived loss of ground of Arabic to English stems from several factors.

  • The language of international commerce, trade etc is English. The Gulf’s headfirst dive into the very heart of these worlds in recent years, has therefore, forced Gulf countries to improve their English to the point where it is the language of the vast majority of business.
  • Emiratees are a minority in their own country. The lingua franca for all – Europeans, Arabs, Asians and even Americans – is, therefore, English.
  • Also, because the Emirates need so many foreigners, their systems, companies etc need to accommodate the English language in order for skilled Westerners to do the necessary jobs.
  • English is generally taught better in schools than Arabic. Arabic teaching is taught through rote learning and memorization. English language teaching, however, has advanced and is far more interactive.
  • Countless interviews and conversations in the Gulf tell me that English is fast becoming the language of choice of the younger generation to the severe detriment of Arabic. Access to Western culture and Western travel are two precipitants of this.

Feel free to add to (or argue with) the list…


Map of Arabic dialects 16, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Random.
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Here’s a fascinating map of the various Arabic dialects found throughout the Middle East. Being far from an expert or even someone overly proficient at Arabic I’ll just make two quick comments.

1) It must not be forgotten that this map does not at all account for the differences in Arabic. Whilst, for example, Iraqi and Gulf Arabic might not be that dissimilar, Gulf and Moroccan Arabic are, I believe, hugely and almost incomprehensibly different.

2) This map also significantly underestimates the importance, spread and general dissemination of Egyptian Arabic. Whilst the map shows that this dialect is spoken only along the Nile and in its delta, Egyptian Arabic is, so to speak, the lingua franca/arabica of the Arabic speaking world and will be understood essentially everywhere. This is due to the profusion and ubiquity of Egyptian media (notably films and music) throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Though to some degree this is changing today, with Lebanese film and music coming to the fore, Egyptian Arabic is still entrenched and widely understood.

Hat tip: Simon Kerr

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