Today, while I was at Starbucks a Saudi student came by and we had a quick chat about what each is doing over the Christams holiday. After he left the smart looking senior American man who was sitting in front of me asked “Arabic or Farsi?” I answered “Arabic.” I waited a moment, hoping for his follow up question but he returned to his laptop instead. I wanted to start a conversation so I asked him “Do you know Arabic?” His answer was quite unexpected. He said “I wish!” and continued to say “It is a talent that brings lots of money these days.” I said “Ya, I have seen many Americans learning Arabic. You know… [I wanted to say after September 11 but I stopped talking].” We both then returned to our laptops.
It is a fact though that after September 11, 2001, many Americans preferred to learn Arabic more than any other language. Universities everywhere in the USA started opening more classes for teaching Arabic. Some universities which never offered Arabic course started new ones. Also, more American students wanted to spend a semester or two in the Middle East than before 2001.
Americans have different reasons for learning Arabic after 2001. Here are a few reasons:
- Know your enemy – The impact of the 2001 on Americans was equivalent to the Pearl Harbor attack. Americans were shocked and wanted to know more about their enemy and the people who hate them that much.
- Job security – Knowing Arabic is a guarantee for getting a job with the American government.
- Good Samaritan – Some Americans felt that the actions of their government do not present their personal beliefs about Arabs, Muslims or Islam. So, they thought learning Arabic and spending a semester or two in the Middle East would help them learn more about the Arabs’ culture and also show Arabs the good side of American citizens.
- Curiosity – Arabic was, since 2001, and maybe still a hot language to learn at least in America.
Do you think there are more reasons for Americans to learn Arabic?