Welcome to the Arabic Language Discussion Forum

Being a retired professor of Arabic and Linguistics, I have elected to publish an archive on how the Arabic language is used in America and across cultures.

I hope to establish a dialogue with people interested in the language, the teaching of the language, the learning of the language, and the interaction of Arabic and English while learning the language.

I am also interested in having a discussion as to the use of Arabic within the contexts of globalization.

Arabic is very much a language that binds a culture and defines a people. This blog is dedicated to understanding how American use, learn, and teach the Arabic language, and how Arabic, in Arab countries has been impacted crossculturally.

Sep 27, 2009

An Observation on the Arabic Used in the U.S.A

Copyright © 2009 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

Language contact or language conflict situations explain the changes that occur in the Arabic spoken by first, second, and third generation Arab Americans.

Arab Americans are quite diverse. They have emigrated from different parts of the Arab World. They use different dialects. They constitute a linguistic community that incorporates many different 'speech communities.'

In the Detroit metro area there is an interesting double contact situation. Different Arabic dialects come into contact, as well as two different languages come into contact: Arabic and English.

What will then be the future of Arabic as an ethnic language in the American diaspora?

The diglossic nature of Arabic, colloquial versus standard, is a factor that ought to be taken into consideration when examining the future of Arabic as an ethnic language.

Standard Arabic acts as a unifying force between all speakers of Arabic who belong to different 'speech communities.' It creates an interesting relationship between the learning of Standard Arabic as a foreign language, and the maintenance of the different dialects. However, the learning of Standard Arabic will not prevent the changes that occur whenever, the different dialects or languages come into contact. These changes result into a lingua franca, that acts as a bond among Arab Americans.

Strangely enough, the rise of a lingua franca used by Arab Americans might lead to the maintenance, or learning of one's ancestral language - as a foreign language.

In future posts, I will give some examples of the Arabic used among Arabic Americans belonging to the different 'speech communities.'

Any comment or addition to the above post on the Arabic used in the U.S.A will be informative.

Sep 25, 2009

A Statement Made in an Egyptian Newspaper

Copyright © 2009 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

An Egyptian newspaper, al masry al yom ( 9/25/09), quoted a statement made by the American ambassador in Egypt, Mrs. Margaret Scoby.

The ambassador maintained that 43% of American diplomats working in Egypt do not know Arabic. She further said, that such inability will limit any form of communication between the diplomatic staff and the Egyptians, and prevent them from understanding the culture of the country.

Some countries make it a requirement that their diplomatic staff learn the language of the host country in order to be able to communicate with the people of that country.

Since the Arabic language is taught on many American campuses, it is in our interest to make sure that diplomats going to the Arab World learn the language in order to be able to communicate with Arabic speakers.

If one controls the language, one controls the mechanism of communication.

Sep 17, 2009

Arabic as a Foreign Language

Copyright © 2009 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved
Is the teaching of Arabic as a foreign language in the USA on the increase?

When it comes to learning a foreign language, Arabic should be a choice for students at all levels.

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of schools offering the Arabic language. It was reported that in Kalona City, rural city in Iowa, "230 students from kindergarten to fifth grade...are learning Arabic."

Today, the Montana's News Station reported that the US Department of Education awarded Missoula County Public Schools over 700.000 in grant money to bring Arabic language into schools. The program was developed jointly by the University of Montana and the public school officials.

Opportunities to obtain funds for the teaching of Arabic in schools and colleges are, hence, available.

We need here in the US all the Arabic speakers we can have.The reference to Arabic as among 'the less commonly taught foreign languages' should be reversed. Both Arabic and Chinese ought to be among the most commonly taught foreign languages.

Sep 7, 2009

Arabic in the Business World

Copyright © 2009 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved
The importance of learning Arabic in the business world is on the increase.

The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) launched an Arabic language version of its corporate website in order to create better communication and understanding in the world of business.

Furthermore, it was recently reported that Yahoo Inc. has acquired the Arabic website Maktoob. Such move will increase the use of Arabic online, since Yahoo stated that it will translate many of its content in Arabic.

Yahoo will reach millions across the Arab world. The company chief executive, Carol Bartz, said "the acquisition will accelerate Yahoo's strategy of expansion in high-growth emerging markets where (she believes) Yahoo has unparalleled opportunity to become the destination of choice for consumers." August 25, 2009

This is a reflection of the increasing global interest in the learning of the Arabic language. The knowledge of such language will facilitate linguistic and cultural communication in the business world

Sep 4, 2009

Globalization and the teaching of critical languages

Copyright © 2009 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

Despite the fact that the US consists of numerous ethnic and racial groups, its educational system has failed terribly to emphasize the importance of learning foreign languages and cultures.

Recently, however, there were discussions in the American media about the lack of American aptitude in understanding people in different cultural settings, and on the significance of learning foreign languages. The events of 9/11, the Iraqi war and the crisis in Iran and Afghanistan spurred such discussions.

In a statement by Dr. Robert O. Slater, Director of the National Security Education Program (NSEP), before the House Armed Services Committee (9/23/2008) stressed the need "to more effectively communicate in a wide array of critical languages" and to be more "adept and adroit in regional and local culture."

The NSEP "from within" the Department of Defense has been working with the US Education Department to create programs that will train Americans to be linguistically and culturally aware of other cultures.

In 2004 the Department of Defense and the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland sponsored a Language Conference to address the issue of how to increase the number of Americans learning critical foreign languages. The President formally announced the plan in January 2006 as the "National Security Language Initiative (NSL).

Presently, there are many federally funded programs that academic institutions have competed for and obtained. Many institutions have created effective educational language programs (see details in the full report by Robert O. Slate ,9/23/2008).

It is obvious that the study of foreign languages in our American academic institutions has taken a different path. The discussion of international programs offerings has been politicized, and the teaching of foreign languages and cultures is considered a contribution to national security.

Some academicians are still objecting to the NSL language planning initiative. However, we are all aware that the US is a leading power in advocating globalization, and that the American education system must drastically improve the "concept of global education." Hence, we have to train Americans to be linguistically and culturally more suave and aware of other cultures.

Do you have any constructive suggestions about the teaching of a critical language, such as Arabic, in American academic institutions?