Monday, November 06, 2006

Arabic – the language of peace اللغة العربية - لغة السلام

Arabic could be the language of peace.

If Americans were able to speak Arabic, we just might be able to bridge the gaping cultural abyss that currently divides us.

If Americans could speak Arabic, we would be able to converse with friends and reason with enemies in real time and with real emotion.

In both Jordan and Syria I, at times, agreed with and, at other times, argued with storeowners, taxi drivers, university students, university professors, policemen, soldiers and many government officials in their own language. It was quite a “trip” for them to hear someone defending (and sometimes criticizing) America. Many have never heard any human being speak such sentiments in their own language. We often disagreed radically on many issues and sometimes the debates were quite heated. At the end of these arguments, however, we usually became friends and respected one another much more than could have ever happened via an interpreter or any other means of communication or interaction.

If Americans could speak Arabic, we could more easily influence Arab media. There are some Americans who appear on Aljazeera, but it is a rare occurrence - especially Americans who learned Arabic in school and not at home as children of native speakers.

What happens when Americans can really speak Arabic? Here is a name for you to research: Hume Horan. He recently passed away. He was a career diplomat and Arabic speaker in the United States government. He learned Arabic in Lebanon and Tunisia (I believe). His Arabic was so good that it scared Arab government officials. The Saudis did not want an American who could speak Arabic so well (and understand the culture) on their streets mixing with the locals! Ha! They were afraid that he might give them a second opinion and cause them to really consider other viewpoints.

If Americans could speak Arabic, so much would be different. But let’s not focus on the woulds and coulds. We need Arabic learning and teaching in the United Sates and the world from a young age.

If we must talk about the war on terrorism, let’s consider that it is also a war against cultural misunderstandings and lack of communication in real time with real people. There is so much good to be exchanged between all cultures. Understanding one another might just prevent future wars.

15 Comments:

At 23:47, Blogger Amr Faham said...

it's also above the "speaking," people from both sides should be more open to each others, and learn how to accept each others diffrences.

"You should know that we ,Muslims, are the best, and someday we will defeat you," a Saudi comment in English, in one of the websites.

"what makes you so depressed in Syria? You have water and electricity, you should be satisfied with that," an Australian friend who'se been to Syria.

 
At 11:26, Blogger Alex said...

Jeremy,

Living is Damascus might be the fastest and most effective way to learn proper Arabic, but not many people in the US are as open minded as you. Living in the Middle East takes a lot of courage and social skills.

How long did it take you to learn Arabic in Damascus? and how long do you estimate will it take an American to learn Arabic in his own country?

Are you thinking of starting an Arabic language school?

Is this something that can be done through online courses?

 
At 12:15, Blogger Francesco said...

Hey Jeremy! Have you ever noticed that the words غرب and غريب have the same root? I totally agree with you: cross-cultural knowledge is the first step to build a peaceful world...

سلام
فرانشيسكو...النسوانجي الايطالي

 
At 20:33, Blogger Jeremy Palmer said...

Alex - sorry for the late response. One of our computers has been acting up lately and tried to reply a while ago. You can always email me at the address listed in my profile.

I have no plans of ever opening an Arabic school. I am not the business type at all. As for online classes - do a google search. I think I remember reading somewhere that there are online classes available from an Egyptian company.

I had studied Arabic for 1.5 years when I arrived in Damascus for the first time. It took me 2 months to feel comfortable conversing in simple colloquial Arabic.

Best!

Jeremy

 
At 14:41, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

this is a great post. I agree totally. It WOULD change a lot.
Language is very powerful, in a way, it is everything, so there is no doubt that it could be the road to more comprehension, sympathy, and thus peace.

 
At 20:23, Blogger ratbert said...

I agree with you as well. It is a shame that language learning in the US is only driven by economics and business, as if our security and peace were only linked to making money from other nations. I have found the same thing in China and Taiwan as you have in Syria. Learning language is a utopian project, or it can be, because it brings people together in communication -- a common act.

 
At 23:08, Blogger maha said...

مرحبا
وجدت هذا الموقع خلال بحثي عن مواقع متعلقة بتعليم اللغة العربية لغير الناطقين بها لأن لي اصدقاء من بريطانيا يودون تعلم العربية وانا من "سيعلمهم"..فهلا تكرمت عليا ببعض النصائح؟! اما ماذكرته عن اهمية اللغة فلاشك اني والكثيرين نوافق على ماقلته،لكن ما يحصل عادة ان لغة القوة العظمى هي اللغة الغالبة ولا يكترث اصحابها بتعلم لغة الاخرين المغلوبين الا لاغراض سياسية ولهيمنة وسيطرة اكبر،طبعا هذا بشكل عام ولكل قاعدة شواذ...اتمنى ان اكون مخطئة وان ما يحدث هو تعلم لنتقارب لا لتباعد اكثر...تحياتي
مها

 
At 02:03, Blogger Beaverly said...

I am asian learning arabic language. I just hope more people would see the beauty of our differences... :)

 
At 17:44, Blogger Bryce said...

I definitely agree that more people should learn Arabic. It would help things out a lot.

Here's a great site for learning and practicing Arabic:

العربية wiki browser

 
At 05:00, Blogger mahmoud said...

Register for an online Arabic course during Ramadan & Get a Free Quran Course, Free Speaking Classes and Free Tuition in Egypt!

http://www.arabacademy.com/en/arabic-online/register

 
At 03:33, Blogger ShannonElizabeth said...

I totally agree with your point of view on this - it is, indeed, crucial for more Americans to take the step to learn Arabic. In fact, it should be a language course offered to American youth to help in bridging the divide. I'm a Masters student in my early 20s and am currently trying to learn the language (though I feel like I'm a bit late)! I'm considering a trip/move to Egypt, Yemen or Syria for an immersion-type program, though I'm debating which would be most appropriate for an American woman. If anyone has participated in any of these programs, I'd love to hear about it!

www.thetravelingscholar.com

 
At 02:01, Blogger Francisco said...

I don't see how Arabic could be a vehicle for world peace. English, and even French, are better placed. Knowledge of English has improved dramatically in the Middle East and North Africa, and many of the great Arab nations have a great presence of French, also.

Not that Arabic is not a worthy language. But the greater part of the world could not begin to speak it.

 
At 10:11, Blogger Ismi Kyle said...

I couldn't agree more with the possiblities if Americans could speak Arabic! However, I do have to agree with Francisco, most people don't have the language ability, desire, or discipline to learn it no matter how many resources are available to them. I am doing my best to learn it, but it does take time, and my greatest challenge is finding ways to hear Arabic spoken. Not a huge Arab population in Tulsa, OK...

Survey Question for American Arabic-Speakers: How long did it take you to become fluent in Arabic and how did you do it?

Answer here: http://arabiclanguagestudy.blogspot.com/

 
At 04:38, Blogger Haris said...

Nice Blog.

 
At 21:22, Blogger eaalimcourses said...

This kind of information is very limited on internet.For people who want to learn Arabic, first you will need to use a program that is compatible with your phone or computer and can help you learn about the special needs of Arabic and how to pronounce things.

 

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