Why Learn Arabic?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

There is this misconception that if one knows English one knows it all . True, English has become the global lingua franca over the past several decades–but that is quickly changing. This attitude that English alone is enough in this day and age is a self-imposed limitation. People who choose to be monolingual yet want to: participate fully in the global community and marketplace, assist in the effort to building bridges for mutual understanding, respect and co-existence are stunting their educational development. They are restricting their communication and thinking abilities, and more importantly denying themselves the ability to fully appreciate and understand the world in which we live in today. Indeed, learning a new language opens up new opportunities, and provides a perspective that one might never encounter otherwise. Personal, social, economic growth all point to the advantage of learning a foreign language.

But why Arabic?

Did you know that Arabic is the 5th most spoken language in the world? Did you know that there is a high demand for employees speaking arabic as a foreign language–yes, even here in the USA.?  Very few companies in the USA have Arabic speaking staff, and their need is growing with the growing influence and economy of the Middle East and the need to reach new markets. So, it’s a great way to “market” yourself. Not into business! No problem. You can easily find a job in journalism–the Middle East never runs out of stories that ought to be reported. Education, interpretation and translation are also fields that currently in need of Arabic  speaking staff.

Not interested in the financial incentives? No problem. There’s something for you in it too. Learning Arabic will get you in touch with rich Arabic culture, will destroy common prejudices which are the hallmarks of our current times, and will inform you of the  lives and thoughts of Arabic speaking people from the Middle East and elsewhere –even the very communities that reside in your state.

And by the way Arabic is already nearer to you than you may think–we use English words with Arabic origins every day. Did you know that all of these English words have Arabic origin: admiral- ami:r-al-bahr ‘ruler of the seas’; alchemy – al-ki:mi:a: ; alcohol – al-koh”l ‘the kohl‘ ; algebra – al-jebr ‘reintegration’ – jabara reunite ; algorithm – al-Khowarazmi ‘the (man) of Khiva’ ; almanac – (Andalucian Arabic) al-mana:kh. amber – `anbar ‘ambergris’; assassin – h’ashsha:shi:n ‘hashish eaters’, from the Isma`ili sectarians; attar – `itr ‘aroma’

And not to forget words such as: caliber – qali:b ‘mold ; camphor – ka:fu:rcheckmate – sha:h ma:t ‘the king is dead’ , coffee – qahwah, cotton – qutn; crimson – qirmazi:, related to the qirmiz, the insect that provided the dye; El Cid – al-Sayyid ‘the lord’ ; gazelle – ghaza:l ; genie – jinni: ‘spirit’ ; ghoul – ghu:l ‘demon’ – gha:la take suddenly; giraffe – zara:fa ; jar – jarrah ‘large earthen vase’ ; kohl – koh”l ‘kohl’ – kah’ala stain, paint ; lime – li:mah ‘citrus fruit’ ; lute – al-`u:d; magazine – makha:zin ‘storehouses’ – khazana store; muslin – Maus,il ‘Mosul’; nadir – nadi:r as-samt ‘opposite the zenith’ ; ream – rizmah ‘bundle’ ; safari – safari:y ‘journey’ – safara travel ; saffron – za`fara:n; Sahara – çah’ra: ‘desert’ ; Saracen – sharqi:yi:n ‘easterners’ – sha:raqa rise ; sash – sha:sh ‘muslin’; sherbet – sharbah – shariba drink ; sofa – s,uffah ‘raised dais with cushions’ ; souk – su:k. ‘marketplace’ ; spinach – isfa:na:kh; sugar – sukkar – from Sanskrit ; sumac – summa:q; syrup shara:b ‘beverage’ – shariba drink; tamarind – tamr-hindi: ‘date of India’ ; zenith – samt ‘path’ ; and finally yes we were the ones that came up with the zero – s,ifr ’empty’.

For sure, learning Arabic is difficult but we’ll try and make it as fun as possible. Consider it an adventure! In earnest it is, for you will start with a completly different alphabet, a different pronunciation, and eventually develop an appreciation for an entirely different type of humor, tradition and culture.Plus, Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam–in addition to millions of native speakers, many more millions of Muslims know Arabic as a foreign language because it is the language of the Qur’an. So, through learning it you are connecting with 1.6 billion of the earth’s population, among whom are those who speak it, read it, and write it or otherwise aspire to.

Please read the Handbook for Students of Arabic

Good luck!

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rosine Johnson on September 25, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Ahlan Professor Almas,

    I am very ernest and excited to be taking your Arabic class in order to learn Arabiya. My purpose for this class is to learn Arabic because I am in a serious relationship with Mark, and hopefully be married to him in the future, so I want to learn Arabiya to speak with his family as well as keep up with my multi-cultural roots. I love other cultures and enjoy learning about other country’s cultures and politics. This is due to the fact I received my B.A. from Augsburg College in Political Science, and Public Policy as well as Minoring in International Relations. I am currently in Graduate School for Public Administration. Overall, The Middle East has always intrigued me because the U.S. has had many relations with the Arabic World. I know quite a bit about the culture and language already, but would love to learn even more, so I am completely in tune with the language! I am looking forward to taking your class, and hopefully your other classes as well.

    P.S. It is quite interesting how the English language has similiar words in Arabic as well as other languages across the globe.

    Inshallah,
    Rosine Johnson

    Reply

  2. Posted by Seyfudin on November 11, 2010 at 10:57 am

    I am your student

    Reply

  3. Posted by jamshiya ali-kasim on July 14, 2011 at 11:17 am

    can you please send me a book to learn arabic to this adress
    jamshiya al-kasim
    9 durham st
    grangetown
    cardiff
    cf11 6pb

    Reply

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