1 readers online now  |  69 million page views

Problem with the quality of Arabic language instruction, or the quality of translations?

Reader comment on item: On New York's "Khalil Gibran International Academy"
in response to reader comment: Pre-2003 Arabic Instruction at USF

Submitted by James Vesce (United States), Jun 26, 2007 at 20:35

While it may or may not be the case that Hammoudeh and his ilk provided quality Arabic language instruction, one must consider if there is not a much more important question to ask: how often they were consulted for translation services by federal security agencies or by the military, and how often they fudged their translation products to the advantage of our enemies.

How often have Muslim Arabic Language faculty, or even grad students, been used by our intelligence community and by the military as translators, or in the capacity of informants or even analysts, before their disloyalty has been discovered? How many "Arabic-speaking moles" are still undiscovered, and what security clearances do they hold? On how many campuses? How well were their backgrounds and loyalties checked?

It has been asserted that our national security agencies, eg., FBI, use Muslim Arabic language translators, and that we cannot trust those translators to provide accurate translations in situations where complete, accurate translations might create some trouble or disadvantage for a fellow Muslim, and that would of course include Arabic-speaking Muslim terrorists.

The list of problems includes: inadequately checking the backgrounds and loyalties of translators before they begin doing translations; failure to have independent translations done on the same untranslated data and then comparing translations for agreement ; and failure to have translations checked by a second translator to ascertain the accuracy of translations that have been performed.

Excuses/explanations have included: the sheer volume of materials needing translation; the inability to make priority determinations about Arabic language intelligence data before translations are done so it all has to be translated before urgency or importance can be determined; the huge backlog of untranslated material that has accumulated, creating political problems for the agency sitting on the backlog; the use of "code words", slang, and dialect terms by terror suspects who protect their operational security by communicating with each other in code, slang or vernacular expressions that wouldn't be recognized by translators who never had street-level experience in Arabic; and concerns that we might antagonize Arabic-speaking Muslims in the USA by looking too critically at their suitability for security clearances or by denying them employment in jobs they claim to be qualified for.

It has been reported that a cadre of Sephardic Jews have applied for work as Arabic language translators at FBI, and that not a single one has ever been approved. One must wonder if using this source of translators should be re-considered. Where else did they apply? Has anyone else had the sense to use them? After all, how much worse could it get?

Submitting....

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Comment on this item

Mark my comment as a response to Problem with the quality of Arabic language instruction, or the quality of translations? by James Vesce

Email me if someone replies to my comment

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

See recent outstanding comments.

Follow Daniel Pipes

Facebook   Twitter   RSS   Join Mailing List

All materials by Daniel Pipes on this site: © 1968-2021 Daniel Pipes. daniel.pipes@gmail.com and @DanielPipes

Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum.Daniel J. Pipes

(The MEF is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Tax-ID 23-774-9796, approved Apr. 27, 1998.

For more information, view our IRS letter of determination.)