The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, August 31, 2003

Language and incomprehension about the Arab world

Swings and roundabouts: Arab lands have been blessed, as with manna from Heaven, by enormous resources in oil and gas. Their language, on the other hand, is not an entirely unmixed blessing.

An interesting analysis of the various regional languages (it lists 12) going under the banner of Arabic, the product of
an investigation to determine how many languages of the Arabic family a resource would need to be in to cover 90% of the people.

It seems one would require the linguistic skills of Dr Doolittle.

A short piece poses the dilemma to the foreigner: learn standard Arabic (no mean feat!), and one can read the language but be able to converse only with literate Arabs; learn one of the 12 spoken languages, and you can talk to all and sundry, but only in the region concerned [1]

For Anglophones, add in the fact that many (far from all) of those they might need to talk to will speak English to some extent.

All told, a monopolist's dream of a barrier to entry.

  1. The language used in Egyptian TV soaps and dramas (widely distributed through Arab lands) might serve as a lingua franca - but doesn't seem to be used that way.

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