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SPEAKING IN FORKED TONGUES

Reader comment on item: Teach Arabic or Recruit Extremists?
in response to reader comment: not so fast

Submitted by Abu Nuwas (Saudi Arabia), Sep 14, 2008 at 15:38

Although the comments on this forum are generally way above the cognitive level found in other internet forums, they nevertheless prove over and over the jaw-dropping - even frightening - affects that the "dumbing down" movement has had in our culture as a whole.

... But back to the "response" to my comment:

Learning Arabic is not "paramount" to our national security. Linguistically, Arabic continues to be an underdeveloped,dying and unimportant language, despite "statistics" to the contrary. I can't go into why this is true here, as it would take a major essay to explain all this. A much better case can be made for the importance of Russian, Chinese, Baha-Indonesia, Malay, Japanese, Urdu and even boring ol' German over Arabic.

It is true that if you are a career person in the diplomatic or "intelligence" field (a misnomer if there ever was one), and you are going to be involved in the Middle East throughout your career, a knowledge of Arabic would be a very useful asset to have. But the same could be said about any world area. Thus if you are going to be involved in Latin America, Spanish and Portuguese would be essential to know. But how many of us are in those fields? Not even a drop in the bucket.

SIDEBAR: In addition, almost ALL diplomats, businessmen, intelligence people and so on that I have known in the Middle East, have done and are doing EVERYTHING they can to be assigned out of the area, permanently. Once they realize what living in the Middle East is really all about, they'll sell their mothers down the river to get out.

The other area where Arabic is essential, of course, is in the academic field. But most academic pursuits in this field deal with the Islamic Middle Ages. Take a look at any list of recent PhD thesis and you'll see what I mean. Again, there is a reason for why this is true, but again, I can't go into all that here.

Not only that - most "contemporary" thesis in the field deal with such non-issues as "Feminism in Egypt since Nasser", "Auto-Erotic Practices in Modern Sudan", Tattooing Customs in the Islamic Tradition" and similar brainless themes. May as well write a thesis on "The Importance of Hopalong Cassidy in the Chinese Great Leap Forward".

Bottom line: Arabic is not "paramount" to our national security except in a very few instances. (Russia continues to pose a far greater existential threat to US national security than a thousand Al-Qaedas ever could).

I feel sorry for the commentator to my original posting here on this issue. Anyone who thinks that Urdu is a "slight variant" of Arabic must be on some potent medication indeed. It's not even worth commenting on.

Go ahead, "annmarie", continue your "studies" of Arabic and Urdu. I'm sure you'll do fine in the end. But I strongly suggest you first take a remedial course in basic standard English so you can express yourself beyond the 3d grade level.

Submitting....

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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".

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