Wednesday, April 25, 2007

# Posted 9:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW DO YOU SAY 'ISRAEL' IN ARABIC? In case you missed it, that the title of a short piece I wrote for the Weekly Standard.

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(17) opinions -- Add your opinion


Easy way to score points, but I might add another hypothesis to your list - both books are hopelessly out of date. Arabic language teaching materials are inadequate.

As someone who worked through such texts to learn arabic, and having spoken with a great many others who have experienced the same in a post-secondary or professional setting, its stunning how much arabic instruction lags behind the teaching of any other 'foreign' (to English speakers) language.

The one interesting aspect of the "dispute" you are engaging with is how easily either "side" can score points. I've seen both books excoriated in the arabic media as evidence of the anti-arab bias in "Western" universities.

In reality, they are simply bad books. Arabic instruction was virtually unheard of on U.S. campuses (even at those theoretically being funded on that basis by the U.S. government - Chapter Six programs) prior to 9/11. The immense ramping up of such language programs following that tragedy has only seen itself dwindle back to pre-9/11 levels of enrollment ... and the principle reason given? Its hard to learn arabic.

One of the major factors in that is the lack of modernized programs of study. Compared to the other non-Latin program (i.e. Mandarin, Japanese etc.) the tools provided to students are simply three decades behind. This in spite of the best efforts of a great many arabic instructors I might add.

Finally, a query. Has the government of Israel established territorial boundaries that can be adopted for use by such cartographers?

My understanding is that such territorial demarcations are not agreed due to the conflict.

All my best,

John Measor (jmeasor@uvic.ca)
John, the texts were published in 1995 and 2000. The pedagogy of the books may be outdated, but why would the maps be 40-60 years behind the times?

Apparently the authors were able to include Yemen on their maps (I'm assuming David would have noted the omission of an Arab country), though it had a disputed border in the 90s. If Yemen was present as a single country on those maps, it implies the authors had access to geographic data from as recently as 1990, when North and South Yemen merged.

David, did you try writing to the authors and asking about the irregularities you found?
I work at a major global financial services firm. We still produce specific marketing materials for arab countries that do not show that we have an office in Israel. It is not censored outside of the arab states.

As long as the west keeps appeasing the arabs, they just will never learn.
From one Anon to another: hopefully we can continue to invade and occupy their countries and kill them by the thousands. Look how quickly the Iraqis are coming around.
John, from what angle did the Arabic media criticize the two textbooks I mention?

I would suggest that the authors have something of a nationalist-secularist bias, so perhaps that was it.

With regard to the materials being out of date, both books' year of publication have already been pointed out. With regard to the pedagogy, I'm not sure I would be as critical as you are. Ahlan wa-Sahlan is somewhat weak, but I thought that Al-Kitaab was really an excellent text. Turns out it was developed in concert with the language program at Middlebury, which is generally regarded as superb.

However, what certainly is out of date is the printing technology used by both textbooks. The graphics are mostly awful. But I don't think that explains much about Israel being invisible.
hopefully we can continue to invade and occupy their countries and kill them by the thousands.
Are you part of al Qaeda, anon? We (meaning the US, UK, and the rest of the civilized world) wish you would stop killing Iraqis by the thousands.
It was Al-Qaeda that assaulted Fallujah from the air for days, was it? That's news to me.
No, but it sounds like al Qaeda propaganda to claim that thousands of civilians died in the assault on Fallujah. Not even the Guardian goes that far.

Turning back to the point of the thread, do you have an opinion on the textbooks David mentioned?

David, when you posit the authors have a nationalist bias, what nation do you mean?
David, I liked the piece and actually wrote about it briefly here (http://davidbkenner.com/2007/04/further_adventures_in_arabic.html#comments). It reminded me of one of my first adventures in Arabic. We were learning how to say X was in Z, ie: Parees bi Faransa. The question "Wayn Quds?" (Where's Jerusalem?" came up and, without thinking, I answered "Quds bi Yisrael."

Judging from the expression on my teacher's face, that was the wrong answer.
I am just finishing up with "Alif Baa", which is a precursor to "Al-Kitaab" written by the same authors and published by Georgetown in 2004. Page 138 has a map of the landmass that is Israel. The matching word for this landmass seems to be "Israel or Palestine". Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Israel but certainly not invisibilty either.

Furthermore, both the words "Palestine" and "Israel" appear (separately) in the index. I don't move on to "Al-Kitaab" until next week but now I'm curious to see it. Perhaps there is something to the previous posts' suggestion that there has been a recent change to these books. But my book, at least, certainly doesn't make Israel nonexistant.

I will say, though, that I have been struck some of the vocab words in "Alif Baa". (I had already learned the Arabic words for "shrapnel" and "checkpoint" before learning the entire alphabet.) Bias? Perhaps. But even so, these are words that a Westener learning Arabic probably will indeed use in the future, whatever his political pursuation.
That's a good point about Alif-Baa. I still have my copy and I'll check to see if my copy is the same as yours.

With regard to the secular nationalist leanings of the textbooks, I took that away from a couple glowing discussions of Nasser.

I'm pretty no Islamist would like to see him held up as all that is (or was) good about the Arab world. On that count, at least the Islamists and the Israelis have something in common.
One minor clarification from my previous post--On second thought I believe that instead of "Israel or Palestine", the book "Alif Baa" calls it "Israel and Palestine". (I'm obviously still a beginner).
Hi David,

Sorry for the delay in reply ... grading is all consuming :-) ...

Interesting thought on the secular/nationalist angle, though my take was that the vocabulary was quite dated (indeed having moved through the program I'd say that that is accurate), that it has a strong Egyptian bias (always a concern from a Levantine perspective), and that the teaching methods were more apropos to how arabic might be traditionally taught (act as though the student is five years old and move forward rather than using phonetics and other modern techniques as most other language training has adopted - without appropriate vocab for adult conversation).

As an aside, in Syria - where I have spent most of my time over the last four years - Israel is referred to in colloquial arabic as "Disneyland". That way you can't get in trouble from the mukhabarat :-)

I think the 'can't mention Israel by name' issue is somewhat unimportant in the region itself and simply a legacy. People there refer to the country by name with ease and on a regular basis. If they are politically upset or opposed they use 'the Zionists' though that can be rare.

I restate that I believe the real issue here is that arabic instruction is woefully inadequate in north america (I went to school in the UK and at the University of Damascus) and that these materials are laborious to use. I know several people working in the academy who instruct in arabic language training (I research and teach politics) and they all bemoan this as well - even if they use the sources you mention. Basically, the next time you are in a university bookstore compare the arabic language methodology used and that of a Spanish or Chinese language text. Moreover, I'd be shocked to see any significant changes from the current versions - when placed side-by-side from those of 20 and 30 years ago (hence the Nasser references in the current text).

All my best,

John (jmeasor@uvic.ca)
I bought my first VCR, yesterday, to record the 1st Democrat debate. After the 1-800 tech support kid walked me through the set up, to test the machine, I threw in an old, unmarked VHS tape that had been gathering dust, from house to house, on a shelf for years.

It was me getting interviewed as a candidate for president, on local TV in Buffalo, NY; that followed by the 30 minute speech in New Hampshire, 1988.

In the New Hampshire speech I displayed some pages from the Television Scripture, stated I sought the nomination of both parties, referred to my Television Scripture as a "Vehicle for World Peace," and read out loud the passage that was / is an exact, explicit description of the global warming and the arctic ice caps melting. Cool! Or should I say hot.

I am going to see about transferring the VHS tape onto DVD and then I am going to make it into a video pod cast. Everyone - all the blabberific talking heads want candidate Mike Gravel "off" the demo debate team. But he was the best. He made sense. I am going to invite him to join my kitchen cabinet. I invite you to visit www.alphabet-learning.com where you will see my software for teaching kids the alphabet and numbers, along with "New World Hors D'oeuvres," my recently published book, with the Exit Strategy out of Iraq, available for reading on the site.

The last time I sent articles for publication to newspapers, fb-eye knocked on my back door, waving the email. Hopefully this posting is under their radar. My building manager admitted to me they had come to him to see about they getting an advance copy of New World Hors D'oeuvres. In conclusion: It has been recently reported that fb-eye conducted 120,000 (illegal) 'name checks' over a two year period.

The issue is: where did they get the names to check? Upon election I intend on publishing their list, excluding the half dozen people who probably needed a look at. Was the Virginia Tech psychopath on their list? This is Michael Stephen Levinson (Google me for the campaign 2000 repository).

Did you have any idea about Israeli text books for the primary school and what they teach them?

Any idea what those books includes?

Education Minister Yuli Tamir late last years introduce textbooks depicting Israel's map with the Green Line in Israeli text book for schools, so Israel Borderless State! Now they draw “green lines” in those text books!!

You are right in your accusations about Arabic books, but let be honest what Arab gain from Israel peace process till now?

While any one he have the right to express his view on this earth its really mater of fact that the west did harts Arabs for more that 100 years and the beigest error that they gifted Holy land for the Israelis to correct their gilts toward the Jews.
Education in Arab nations seems to be the basis for their current problems. They have used education as a tool for brainwashing young people more effectively than facists regimes in the early 20th century. closets
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