Jan 05 2008

Arabic Lessons

Learning Arabic has been like that: moments of elation alternating with grim, soul-churning despair. The language is not so much hard as it is vast, with dozens of ways to form the plural and words that vary from region to region, town to town. With every sign of progress it seems to deepen beneath you like a coastal shelf.

For anyone who knows only European languages, to wade into Arabic is to discover an endlessly strange and yet oddly ordered lexical universe. Some words have definitions that go on for pages and seem to encompass all possible meanings; others are outlandishly precise.

One of the pleasures of learning Arabic is hearing long-familiar words in their natural context, shorn of the poisonous ideological garb they often bear in this country. Once you begin to do that, American attitudes toward the language itself, along with all things Arab and Muslim, can begin to seem jarringly hostile and suspicious.

Although enrollments in postsecondary Arabic study more than doubled from 2002 to 2006, the attrition rate is high, and the number of students who persist and become truly proficient – much harder to measure – is very small. The government and military are still struggling to find the translators they need.

“Don’t worry,” one of my teachers told me half-jokingly. “Arabic is only hard for the first 10 years. After that it gets easier.”

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Nov 29 2006

Global Naming “Gotchas” Trip Up Microsoft and General Motors

…Later this year PC users in Latvia can look forward to a chicken on every disk when Microsoft releases Vista, which in Latvian means “frumpy woman” or “chicken.”

Meanwhile, closer to home, Microsoft media users in Quebec raised their eyebrows last summer when the company announced its new Zune media player. It seems that “Zune” sounds like “zoune,” a dated, cutesy slang term for genitalia in la belle province. Microsoft dismissed the homophony as a nonissue and said that the association of the slang term with its music player was “quite a stretch.”

The bottom line: We assume that Microsoft decided that giving 1.3 million Latvians a good laugh or unduly offending a few million Québecois wasn’t worth sacrificing otherwise good product names.

Microsoft isn’t alone. Last year General Motors rolled out its Buick LaCrosse in Canada, causing sophomoric twitters among those same francophones in Quebec. It seems that “la crosse” is a slang term for self-gratification. Every guy wants his ride to make him feel like a stud, but this name went a bit too far for Buick, whose average buyer is 68 years old.

….Whenever one of our clients decides to take a product or a brand name beyond its home turf, I always recommend that they get help on linguistic, cultural, economic, and legal issues.

…don’t take the chance of being the subject of blog entries and sophomoric twitters for something so easily avoided.

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Nov 29 2006

Global Handshake

Sooner or later, it happens to everyone running a business. You notice that more and more of your meetings are with people with unpronounceable last names or in cities far removed from North America or Western Europe. You find yourself eating sushi with a big customer in Osaka or jetting off to meet with a Nanjing-based cog in your global supply chain. Your passport fills up with stamps, your airline miles increase, and your spouse forgets how you take your coffee. Welcome to the age of global business.

When it comes to doing business globally, most people immediately assume that language will be the first issue they face. It will not. Assume that the person on the other side of the table can speak English well. If not, he will have an interpreter who probably speaks the language better than you do.

But do be prepared to deal with some very different ideas about how things should work. Cultural differences will be your most enduring challenge in doing business internationally.

Language can be learned to the level of fluency, but few people can leave their culture behind. Sociologists in the 1930s hypothesized the notion of “habitus,” a set of rules for viewing and interacting with the world around us that we learn as we grow up within a society. These schemas drive our language, beliefs, dispositions, habits, styles, and even ideas. Taken as a whole and shared by everyone in a social or national group, they become general-purpose cultural models. They help individuals learn and live their culture.


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Nov 28 2006

Syrian Arabic Language Course

Today, I added a link to a free online Syrian Arabic Course to the Linguistic Solutions – Links page, under “Arabic.”

Syrian Colloquial Arabic, a Functional Course is a 400-page illustrated and fully indexed textbook, accompanied by 180 minutes of authentic recorded conversations.

It deals with modern colloquial Arabic as it is spoken in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, with an emphasis on practical, everyday language useful to the foreign resident.

Use it for:

* self-study,
* with a teacher
* or in a class.

The downloadable book leads you through a variety of real-life situations, and the language necessary to deal with them — directing a taxi, negotiating for a hotel room, haggling with the greengrocer, speaking on the telephone, and so on.

While written Arabic is generally Modern Standard Arabic, an ability to read road and shop signs, Arabic numbers, restaurant menus and bills, and to write your name and telephone number is a valuable skill for the Arabic speaker.

The book is fully transliterated and can be used without learning to read Arabic, but we do recommend making the extra effort as this will help you if you go on to study Modern Standard Arabic.

With comprehensive vocabulary lists and full index, Syrian Colloquial Arabic is designed to be a handy reference even after you have finished the course!

PDF files of the book are now available for downloading
Sound files are now available for listening through streaming and in downloadable MP3 files.

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Nov 28 2006

Al-Jazeera English and Press Interpreter

Today, I added links to the Al-Jazeera English – Front Page and Press Interpreter | The foreign language news in English to the Linguistic Solutions – Global Culture page, under “Read a Foreign Newspaper – Expand Your Point of View,” one of 7 Strategies for Expanding Your Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity.

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Nov 26 2006

Al Jazeera English Goes Live

Al Jazeera English, the new international news channel from the Qatar-based television network, has begun broadcasting from its main studios in Doha.

The opening broadcast, which was expected to be available in 80 million households around the world, took place at 3pm Doha time (12:00 GMT) and featured a clip introducing the channel.

Aiming to be the channel of reference for Middle East events, Al Jazeera also has broadcast centres Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington.


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Nov 26 2006

LibraryThing Author: Christopher P. Hurtado / churtado

Christopher P. Hurtado is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

See churtado’s profile page.

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Nov 16 2006

Iraqi Pressure Vault

From a geographic standpoint, Iraq is caught between a rock and a hard place. Its neighbors offer either pressure or non-support. Syria creates pressure by encouraging insurgent elements to freely enter western Iraq. From the east, Iran inflicts pressure on Iraq’s political institutions by funding Shiite militias. Friendly support from Iraq’s northern border has been limited by clashes between the Turkish forces and Kurdish nationalistic groups, which create a hostile environment for the two neighbors. Saudi Arabia, disappointed from what it views as a Shiite-dominated Iraq, offers no substantial help to solve Iraq’s southern issues.

The result is a ‘pressure vault’…

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Nov 16 2006

Learn Surah Al-Fatihah, Al Fatiha

Learn to recite Surah Al-Fatihah off by heart and learn the meaning.

Surah Al-Fatihah, “The Opening”, is the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an. It’s seven verses are a prayer for God’s guidance and stress the lordship and mercy of God. This chapter has a special role in traditional daily prayers, being recited at the start of each unit of prayer (rak’ah).

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Nov 16 2006

Understanding Arabs: A Westerner’s Guide

Most people, especially in the West, have a pre-conceived idea of what constitutes an Arab. These ideas usually fall into the 1970s western image of the urban Arab as excessively wealthy, or the more romantic desert Arab portrayed by Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia. These images may be mixed with those of religious fanaticism, often rendering the visitor nervous or anxious about what he is to behold.

Often there is confusion between Muslims and Arabs. Simply, most Arabs are Muslim but not all Muslims are Arab. As examples, the Muslims of Malaysia, Indonesia and Iran are not Arab. Within the Middle East, there are some wide differences between nations but the fact they share a common language, albeit with dialectic differences, brings cohesiveness, as does the shared sense of identity as both Arabs and Muslims.
Basic Arab values are quite different to those of the Westerner. Whilst people in the West value independence, self-determination, subjectivity and privacy, in general the Arab thinks quite differently. Because of the fact that most Arabs are followers of Islam, there is a crossover between religious and cultural attitudes, appearing most clearly in the belief in fatalism. This comes from the belief that God has ultimate control and that we should accept his will. Hence the constant use of the phrase “Inshallah” (God-willing) throughout conversation.

The more traditional will believe that bad times and experiences are a gift from God who only sends these things to strong people for them to be tested. It is very rare to hear the phrase “It is not fair…”

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Nov 16 2006

Imperial History of the Middle East

Who has conquered the Middle East over the course of world events?

See 5,000 years of history in 90 seconds…

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Nov 13 2006

On-line Foreign Language Instruction Flashcards

I’ve recently created a free FlashcardExchange account. FlashcardExchange is “the world’s largest flashcard library.” I’ve made flashcards for BYU’s Egyptian Arabic 101 (by Parkinson) and UVSC’s Chinese 1010 (Chinese Odyssey by Xueying Wang, Li-chuang Chi, and Liping Feng). With a free FlashcardExchange account, you can create unlimited flahscards, share your flahscards with friends and students, study on-line (no account required), and play memory. With a lifetime premium membership (for a one-time $19.95 fee) you can print flashcards in multiple formats, export flahscards to Word or Excel, study with Leitner flash cards, and create flahscards with images. See : Christopher Hurtado for all the flashcards I’ve made.

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Nov 13 2006

Foreign Language Instruction Links

The Linguistic Solutions – Links page has links to foreign language instruction resources for Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

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Nov 13 2006

Translation, Interpretation, Foreign Langauge Instruction, and Cross-cultural Training Resources

The Linguistic Solutions – Resources page has links to translation, interpretation, foreign langauge instruction, and cross-cultural training resources.

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May 30 2006

SAP Opens New Global Service Center in Brazil

Published by under Globalization

SAP AG has recently announced the opening of a new SAP Global Service Center in São Leopoldo, state of Rio Grande do Sul, where SAP plans to add 80 new employees by the end of this year. The new facility is located on the “Unisinos” university campus and will focus on custom development and localization services for customers in Latin and North America.

The São Leopoldo Center will support the company’s long-term global growth plans and localization efforts. SAP Custom Development and Globalization Services team will gain from the IT and development professionals available in this region.

São Leopoldo was chosen as the site of the new center due to the city’s excellent infrastructure, cost competitiveness, proximity to higher educational institutions such as the facility host, University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Unisinos), and the strong support of the region through local government initiatives.

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