Friday, January 16, 2009

The Great Escape

I'm not saying that I may be in talks with a serious person who is looking to offer me a sizeable contract in Dubai, but if anyone knows any really good books on "how to learn Arabic real quick", then I'm all ears.


Bill said...

Are you going to need to use Arabic during the time you are working on the contract, or purely for social purposes?

If the former, then I know of no very quick way of achieving the level of fluency required where you might be better at using Arabic than they are at English.

English is very widely used in Dubai and the bulk of the people you will come into contact with during leisure times are unlikely to be Arabs anyway as they (locals at least) are in a minority; there are many more Indians, Pakistanis and Phillipinos, all of whom will speak English to some degree and many very fluently.

When I lived there and in Abu Dhabi (and various other places in that part of the world) I was fortunate in that a number of my clients, although speaking excellent English themselves and busy/wealthy people, took time to have conversations with me in Arabic during a part of our meetings and with a few I exchanged correspondence in Arabic which they were pleased to do - obviously people like it when foreigners take the trouble to communicate in their own language and I am lucky that my hand-writing in Arabic is a whole lot better than it is in English for some curious reason, perhaps because I am left-handed.

Anyway, having said all this, if you wish to acquire some verbal Arabic (written takes longer, because you must first learn the alphabet, not in itself difficult, but you need to learn how to recognise the letters when they are separate or at the beginning/middle/end of words) I think most large bookstores will probably have tourist/business courses on CD or DVD/video with books containing basic grammar and vocabulary, translilerated and possibly in Arabic, too. Most street signs are bilingual in Dubai, but shop-front signs are often only in Arabic (or possibly Urdu or Farsi, because of the Pakistanis and Iranians who live there).

If you are in London, I know the Waterstones branches near Russell Square (where the School of Oriental and African Studies is located and where I studied Arabic) - the one I'm thinking of might be on Bloomsbury St or perhaps Tottenham Court Rd, I don't remember - had a particularly good languages section and it's where we were sent/recommended to buy our dictionaries and course books. The Waterstones on Piccadilly is good, but of course its languages section is not so large. Failing that, try Amazon online.

Funnily enough I wrote a post a few days ago about the credit crunch as it affects Dubai and how its economy may perhaps experience some, ahem, 'correction' in the not too distant future.

Good luck!
حظ سعيد!

Bill said...


Steer clear of any Arabic courses aimed at teaching Moroccan or Egyptian Arabic because what they speak in the Gulf is very different. If you get a course based on standard arabic that will be ideal, or possibly a phrase book on 'Gulf Arabic' as that might be useful too.

I just had a look on Amazon and they offer any number of courses, basic to advanced.

Jack Maturin said...

Cheers Fellas.

My basic aim will be to learn enough Arabic so that I stand out from the usual Germanic Barbarian, in that I actually appear to care about the local culture rather than just taking them for what I can get before I head home.

As a Hoppeian/Rothbardian, I sincerely believe in the city state/privately owned monarchic state, at least as a route to full anarchism, and away from socialist democracy, so I genuinely want to blend into either a Dubai culture, or a Singaporean culture, as a permanent member of their society, or at least appear to be one aiming at such a position. I think I'll then find it easier to actually find a permanent sinecure, if I look like I genuinely want to blend in.

Anglo-Americanism is the culture I have grown up with. Alas, Anglo-Americanism has debased into a democractic socialist culture which is, basically, finished, unless some MIGHTY figure emerges in the next 15 nanoseconds, to rescue us from President Obama and Prime Minister Brown.

If I am to survive in Dubai/Singapore, then I must blend in as much as I can, even if it's only to be able to say "Hello, welcome to my office, o brave wealthy investor" in Arabic/Mandarin, rather than "Can you speak English, you filthy foreigner?"

Obviously, I'd prefer Singapore, as there I'd be able to say, "And would you like a large one?". (plus, I'm now up to 250 Hanzi characters)

But given as I'm clutching at straws, to escape Gordon Brown's socialist wonderland, I'll take whatever's going to get out of this hell-hole.

I just hope it comes off. We're still in the "wait for the phone call" territory.

But hope springs eternal.

Jack Maturin said...

PS> Sorry Bill, I thought you were two people there. My apologies. Thanks for the advice. Classical arabic it is, then.

(I hope I can cope with it being right to left!)