Thursday, December 26, 2013

Arabic is a language


For approximately ten years (1999-2009), every time I flew, I had Arabic flash cards on my person. I wasn't looking for trouble, it's just that the time stuck on a plane happens to be a good time to study. Almost (but not quite) all flights I took during this period involved Philadelphia International Airport. I never had any serious problems. Once someone sitting next to me on a flight asked me if the language on the cards were Hebrew, and about 20 minutes after I answered that it was Arabic he quietly changed his seat to another row. (All in all a win for me.) A few times I was randomly chosen for additional security check and some TSA person would find my copy of Hans Wehr, which did prompt some questions. But it's crazy to think that they could have arrested me for that.

Some segment of the population does not view Arabic as a language, like Spanish, or Russian, or Mandarin, or Swahili, but rather as a kind of secret terrorist code. As if there's no conceivable reason that anyone would want to learn the official language of 24 countries, with 290 million native speakers.