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Is Arabic underestimated?

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Serpent
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 Message 9 of 75
08 July 2015 at 8:30am | IP Logged 
I might actually "have to" start it soon. My fave footballer's contract has expired, and apparently there's interest from UAE. I hope this will be clear before the August 6WC :)

Another possibility would be Turkish, btw. I admit I would totally prefer that, as I already know that agglutinating languages are awesome ;) And in general I feel like most of the cool stuff can be explored through Turkish/Turkey and in a more Westerner-friendly way. Yes, that's polished and less authentic but I'm totally fine with that.

IDK, outside HTLAL I don't even know any learners of Arabic. So that's a downward spiral - when nobody you know is learning Arabic, you're more likely to go for a language that your friends are also interested in.

The size of the community does more harm than good too. They have more than enough people to talk with, and they know they're likely to face racism/prejudice outside their own world.

I also think that it would be harder to learn passively, due to the writing system and especially the roots/lack of vowels in writing.

For polyglots it also opens less doors than Spanish or Russian.

Outside Northern Europe and Germany, all the talk about "easy" languages also exaggerates the difficulty of Arabic btw. Monolinguals wonder how hard Arabic must be if English/French/whatever is supposed to be easy (and same applies to those who do speak English but learned it with lots of textbooks and very little input). For Japanese and Korean there's addictive content to balance that out, for Arabic not so much.

Also, makes me remember Luso's post(s) about the forgotten Arabic heritage in Portugal. English and Spanish are understandably more relevant. Not sure if this applies to other countries that have Arabic-speaking neighbours. I wonder how many people from Malta can read Arabic, certainly less than Italian.

If I end up learning Arabic, the only things I'll be excited about are GLOSS and belly dance, really :D And the similarity with Maltese.

(Another possibility could be Kazakh, btw. though I don't think I'll even need it to follow the local league. And yes, I would prefer it to Arabic too.)
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Medulin
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 Message 10 of 75
08 July 2015 at 12:20pm | IP Logged 
Surtalnar wrote:


If we look at this, Arabic should be a booming language with a bright future, and the
potential to be more important than Spanish, French and Portuguese.

The same can be said of Hindi and Bengali ;)
-
I would study pick them over Arabic anyway.
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hp230
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 Message 11 of 75
08 July 2015 at 3:46pm | IP Logged 
Well well well. I really don't know from where to begin. I think no arab spoke in the subject yet, so I'm allowing myself to respond to what was written so far (hoping that you have another angle on the subject).
   First of all, why is arabic hard to learn? you need to get back more than 14th century to answer that. Arabic was basically a spoken language ( it was written by really few people), there was no grammar and no conjugation rules, it all depended on if the sentence sounded good or not, that's why poets were the most respected people back then (and even feared for their lashing tongues). Rich people were spending good money on poets so they praise them, and since the arab speaking people were divided into tribes, these tribes were well-known for their poets. Words were litterly very powerfull.
And then came the Islam and specifically the Quoran, and now you'll know why is this mother_son ralationship between the language and the religion. In fact, the Quoran was the miracle of the profet Mohammad ( peace be upon him) and it was a linguistic miracle (compared to the miracles of Moses and Jesus that were basically material). The arab people who were like "language-gods" were shocked by the text of the Quoran that was much more eloquent and entertaining to listen to than their poetry, and especially coming from someone who had nothing to do with writing, reading or making poems. Even the ones who didn't believe the prophecy of Mohammad were astonished by the text and how it sounds when spoken.
Then comes another chapter for the language. All the linguiqtic rules that we study at schools are derived from the Quoran's style. Arab linguists have set those rules, (looking to comprehend more the Quoran basically), during the period after Islam's appearence.I'm not saying that anyone who wants to learn Arabic should refer to the Quoran at first, the Quoran is in fact the "high level" of Arabic.
Poetry continued to have it's remarquable position within the people ( it's really fading nowadays and I assume many of you reading to this point are surprised that arabs were known for poetry which was basically the most valued expressing art).
   This is briefly the story of Arabic-Islam relationship (hope it wasn't boring or very long).
So, the language was very well spread afterwords (with the spread of Islam) and learning arabic was "fashionable" and was the key to many sciences and so on (like English today). So the question is why it has "lost its place" not only worldwide but also within the arab community?
Many of you gave reasonable explanations that I can add on them and explain more some of them.
First of all, I can say that political strategies affected badly the linguistic situation in arabic countries. From my position in Tunisia, I can say Arabic is giving up it's place to French and English since the school programs are giving more importance to foreign languages. In the University, non-literary studies are all taught in French and English ,unlike the situation in Turkey or Iran for exemple , where Turkish and Farsi are the main teaching languages.
That's not the end of it, when applying for a job, Arabic is as important as nothing since 90% of job interviews are made in French or English.
This negligence of the language is for me the cruelest thing that ever happened to Arabic. Even the dialects are getting seriously affected by other languages, half of the words I speak during the day are french mixed up with the Tunisian arabic.

Furthermore, some of you question the presence of TV series and movies in western channels, well I question their presence on arab TVs as well and I'm not exagerating, all what we see nowadays are movies or series that are made in the local dialect of every country, (the egyptian model is the exception) and the production is almost confined to one month in the hole year (the month of Ramadhan), otherwise, all we see are subtitled or dubbed turkish, mexican or obviously american shows ( again egyptian series and movies are the exception) and even the dubbing is in the syrian/lebanese dialect.
Is it due to lack of creativity, I don't think so, I think it's basically a financial problem. Most of the finances are unfortuately directed to reality shows more than anything esle.
Another point to mention, is that even the serious shows and the TV formal news which are presented in MSA are 70% linguistically boring, all we hear is what we call in French " la langue du bois", the beauty of the listening to the arabic expression is fading away progressively :'( .
This negligence of the language is the reason why arabs in Europe or America aren't capable of spreading their culture and make their hosts eager to go for arabic rather than other language.
We have a proverb in arabic that says litterly: "The one who doesn't have the thing can't give it",   and that explains why the first thing arabs leaving in western countries look for is to adapt to the new culture and try to have a new "identity". We talk a lot nowadays about the "arabic identity" and how it's "getting lost" in the midst of globalization. Anyway, this is not what we are here to discuss.
I was really sad reading what Cavesa wrote about the situation of arabs in Europe and America since I have plans to travel (and why not work) abroad. The racial prejudices make people go for other languages, that's obvious for me.

Finally , I have to mention that there are arabs out there who are still proud of their language and try to make people love it (I hope I'm one of them), and there are initiatives to spread it (out of religion purposes). For exemple, in Tunisia, we have summer programs where people from around the world can come to learn Arabic ( Bourguiba school for exemple). Unfortunately, most of those who take these programs are arab's descendants who have been raised abroad and want to know more about their parent's culture.


Writing this, I may seem to be so pessimist, but I'm really looking for the arabic future with big eyes, things change easily and who knows, maybe Arabic will rise again. From my position, I can only encourage people to go for it and enjoy it.


Edited by hp230 on 09 July 2015 at 12:41pm

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cod2
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 Message 12 of 75
08 July 2015 at 4:52pm | IP Logged 
I seriously wanted to learn Arabic at one point.
Then I came to know about MSA and all the dialects.
That killed it for me.
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Cavesa
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 Message 13 of 75
08 July 2015 at 5:19pm | IP Logged 
Thanks a lot hp230 for a very informative post.

The history of the relationship quoran-language was amazing to read, thanks for explaining it in such a good way. It is certainly understandable that quoran is such a central piece of culture: I was just saying the problem is most learners don't strive for the classical masterpieces of the literature, they strive for a variety. And such variety is not being presented often in connection with the arabic culture. It is very rare to read about any of your authors. And usually when we get to hear about one, it is in a bad context, not often among the bestseller reviews.

It is sad to hear Tunisia is giving up on Arabic. I've recently read a few blog posts by a Marocan who has been living in the Czech Republic for a decade or longer and he wrote about related issues. About quoranic based arabic being on the decline and the dialects being on a downwards spiral (the dilect doesn't have enough vocabulary for the educational system-education happens in other languages-the vocabulary isn't being developped). And he offered some pretty sad insights in the consequences, such as the low vocabulary having impact on thinking about the world. He actually finds this low vocabulary to be one of the key problems of educating the youth and teaching them to logically think, to debate and so on.

A question. We've more or less agreed in this thread we don't know enough arabic media (like movies and tv series) to get us motivated to learn. You mention the egyptian production. Would you say the egyptian movies and tv series are good in content and plentiful enough to motivate learner, to give us enough material for a super challenge, would be enrichment of our cultural horizons? If it is so, than we are back at the point of bad cultural PR of the Arabic countries. But it is sad you find them so linguistically boring.

Really it is weird how one of the best civilizations of the middle ages got to this point in a few centuries. What would you say was the historical reason, please?
In our history classes, the teacher presented quite a well spread theory that it was the lack of secularization of the state and public life from religion. Christianity had been a huge cultural engine as well but had to be cut from power after some centuries. Is it possible this point came too late for arabic countries (and never for some) or is this theory wrong and the reason is different?

I'm sorry to have made you sad. It wasn't my intention to offend in anyway, I apologize if I have. But I was just trying to illustrate the bad attitude towards Arabic and arabs is not just a matter of some abstract prejudices (which is what even some european organisations try to convince us) but a matter of widely spread bad experience. It has happened to many nationalities and ethnics already, basically majority of european history is a mix of prejudices and bad experience. Another example: It is a stupid prejudice when a host family expects a czech guest not to know an oven or a washing machine. But it was result of bad experience when shops near the borders with the freshly unlocked and by then poor Czech Republic (nearly a quarter century ago) had Czech posters "don't steal here". Of course vast majority of people was being offended and suffered for faults of others but that is how it works. And of course we still are being considered second class europeans by many. Similarily, there has been far too much bad experience with Arabs in Europe lately and it will probably take decades to the polite and easy going majority to change the image caused by a number of bad individuals.

We are not talking just about htlalers here, if we were, than the linguistic and learning challenges would be top priority. Most htlalers are people who travel and understand vast majority of Arabs are normal people, not a nightmare. However the general public often doesn't.

Thanks for the information about the summer school and similar iniciatives, it is very good to know and a light in the darkness for sure.

I think you might be a bit too much of a pessimist, Arabic can still rise again, but only if it is a priority to the countries and their peoples, true. Hey, even Czech got exhumated in 19th century from much worse conditions and it is now doing quite fine for a language of its size :-)
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hp230
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 Message 14 of 75
08 July 2015 at 8:36pm | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:

It is very rare to read about any of your authors. And usually when we get to hear about one, it is in a bad context, not often among the bestseller reviews.


I toatally agree with you, good arabic authors are well under the ground, that's why they don't exist among the bestseller reviews. It's really rare to find good recent stuff to read in Arabic. The quality has dramatically dropped compared to what was available 50 years ago (there are some exceptions obviously). However, I'm totally convinced that there are good arabic plumes who are not getting what they deserve. The lack of publishing companies has it's impact, knowing that the biggest ones are located in Egypt, Baghdad-Irak and in Syria -both last countries are suffering from war-
Otherwise, anyone who wants to read good arabic, should see some old stuff, it may not reflect the current cultural situation, but there is plenty of it.

Cavesa wrote:

He actually finds this low vocabulary to be one of the key problems of educating the youth and teaching them to logically think, to debate and so on.

Recently, it has been put on the table that terrorism is one of the consequences of that low vocabulary. It's even questionable that young arabs may be easily misled and brainwashed.

Cavesa wrote:

Would you say the egyptian movies and tv series are good in content and plentiful enough to motivate learner, to give us enough material for a super challenge, would be enrichment of our cultural horizons?


The egyptian massive production of movies and series had it's effect on all the other arabic countries, especially with the big number of egyptian tv channels. It would't be so popular if it wasn't good stuff eventually (drama- comedy ...), but it's only in the egyptian dialect and many reviews are beginning to question the quality of the recently produced shows.
For the arabic learners I would recommend historical Syrian series. In these series, MSA is really well spoken and appreciated from the arab community ( maybe beacause it shows our glorious era). I personly found them far more interesting than any other MSA spread by the PR. Unfortunatlyn the current situation in Syria may effect the production of such masterpieces.


Cavesa wrote:

Really it is weird how one of the best civilizations of the middle ages got to this point in a few centuries. What would you say was the historical reason, please?

"Every civilization should come to an end", said "Ibn Khaldoun" in his book "Al Muquaddimah", I recommend reading this book for every single earth citizen.
I am so lucky to have read it in it's mother tongue, but there are many translations to it.
In this book, many stories about how civilizations rise, the causes of their decline after a period of time, and a view on the society's characteristics during all that period. The islamic arabic exemple is obviously treated in the book (even if Ibn Khaldoun didn't live to see it's decline).

Cavesa wrote:

I'm sorry to have made you sad. It wasn't my intention to offend in anyway, I apologize if I have...

No offence was taken, what you said was unfortunately true, I have a cousin who went to study in Canada and she told me such stories. So we're not here to hide what is clear as crystal. And as you said, arabs are not the only people suffering from prejudices.


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kanewai
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 Message 15 of 75
08 July 2015 at 10:28pm | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
Really it is weird how one of the best civilizations of the middle
ages got to this point in a few centuries. What would you say was the historical
reason, please?


I love history - here's a quick timeline that might give some answers:

pre-6th Century: Arabs are tribal nomads living on the periphery of the Roman
(Byzantium) and Persian (Sassanid) empires.

541 - The Justinian plague decimates both empires. This was one of the deadliest
plagues in history. Plagues thrives in areas with dense populations, and the desert
nomads were mostly spared.   Despite the plague, both empires continue to fight
seemingly endless wars with each other.

621 - Mohammed has his night journey. For the first time in history the Arab tribes
are united under the banner of Islam. The Roman and Persian empires are both weak
from the plague, the wars, and a discontented populace. The Muslims conquer the
Arabian peninsula under Mohammed, most of the Middle East (including Persia) under the
Rashidun caliphate, and North Africa and Spain under the Umayyad Caliphate of
Damascus). Byzantium manages to survive, but has lost most of it's empire to the
Caliphates.

750-1258 - A 500-year 'Golden Age' of Islam under the Abassid Caliphate based in
Baghdad.

1200's - The Mongol invasions. Entire kingdoms are reduced to dust from China to
Arabia. Baghdad is sacked, and it's libraries, mosques, and schools burned. The city
lies in ruin for centuries.

From The Mongols (Steven Dutch): Iraq in 1258 was very different from
present day Iraq. Its agriculture was supported by canal networks thousands of years
old. Baghdad was one of the most brilliant intellectual centers in the world. The
Mongol destruction of Baghdad was a psychological blow from which Islam never
recovered. With the sack of Baghdad, the intellectual flowering of Islam was snuffed
out. Imagining the Athens of Pericles and Aristotle obliterated by a nuclear weapon
begins to suggest the enormity of the blow. The Mongols filled in the irrigation
canals and left Iraq too depopulated to restore them.


And there you have it - the end of the Golden Age for the Arabic people. In Egypt the
slaves took over and established a military dictatorship-style sultanate (the
Mamluks), and eventually the Turkish Ottomans replaced the Roman/Byzantine Empire in
the region.

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Serpent
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 Message 16 of 75
08 July 2015 at 11:36pm | IP Logged 
I'm so angry that I was never taught about the Mongol invasions of the Muslim countries, despite the fact that my country went through similar stuff (but we didn't have much or anything to lose, we just didn't progress while Europe did).


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