Thursday, December 21, 2006

Silly Item Of The Day

The Community College of Baltimore County has a new Arabic program but the following is unbelievably silly and such a waste of time

The majority of the course -- nearly two months -- is spent learning the Arabic alphabet and how to make sounds that go with it.

I spend 90 minutes on the Arabic Alphabet on the first day of class and then move on into the language. In two months, with the proper methods, you can take a language learner who is encountering the language for the first time to intermediate low or novice high levels congruent with ACTFL standards.

Auralog Releases It's Arabic Product

Auralog released their Arabic product and the description looks impressive but they provide no Iraqi or Levant which are crucial to learn for anyone trying to learn Arabic today. The focus seems to be completely on North African dialects. It is too expensive to buy for the regular student (almost 500 USD) which will guarantee that it is available only in labs of large educational institutions. I heard some good reviews though from some military folks who had access to it.

My Training Gets Mentioned In AP

This is one of very few training classes I am allowed to talk about. The students were unscreened for language learning ability and ages ranged from 18 to 43. They took the new Iraqi DLPT 5 and scored 0+ , all in less than 100 hours of class time and in less than 30 days. I believe their skills were above 0+ (a solid 1) because the Iraqi DLPT 5 focused so much on geopolitical material rather than the practical usage of the language (which is what I was asked to train them for). Nevertheless, it was a success as it takes the military usually up to 400 hours to achieve these results. The article contains a little error about my biography. I learned the Iraqi dialect growing up in Kuwait and visiting Iraq frequently but I never lived in Iraq.

Here is a part of the full article:

Cultural, language skills part of Navy's new onshore role

By MELISSA NELSON, The Associated Press
Nov 24,:19 AM

- Boats and weapons are Lt. Joseph Michaels' priorities in getting his 53-man squadron ready to patrol Iraq's rivers. But a close second is something the Navy sailor hadn't given much thought to before now - Iraqi language and culture.

Michaels and the men of Riverine Group 1 will head to Iraq in January from their training base in Little Creek, Va. While preparing to deploy, they are among the first sailors learning about the day-to-day lives of Iraqis - everything from their more-limited sense of personal space to traditional Arabic greetings.

Their Jordanian-American instructor, who spent years in Iraq, taught squadron leaders by speaking to them only in Arabic. He also had them greet one another every morning according to the customs of a traditional Iraqi family.

"There is a lot more holding hands and touching cheeks. It's more touchy-feely over there and it was really uncomfortable the first few days," said Michaels, who will oversee a detachment of four river boats patrolling the country's dangerous inland waterways.

"He taught us about as much language as you could learn in 30 days. I thought my head would explode," he said.

And Michaels said he was surprised to learn that even making extended eye contact with an Iraqi woman could cause the woman to be punished.

"The Iraqi men look down on a woman even if she is just looked at by an American man," he said.

The Navy developed the training as part of its expanding onshore role in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its new Expeditionary Combat Command at Little Creek opened this year. The command oversees about 40,000 sailors who work inland, including the Riverine squadron, Navy construction crews known as Seabees and explosive ordnance technicians. There are about 4,300 sailors currently in Iraq and 1,300 in Afghanistan.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Language and Culture Training, a Military Tool

Language and culture training for the military is not new and has been going on for a while. I think that in one month though you can do much more than just the basics of the language. I can actually put my students at 1+ or even 2 in that amount of time.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

An Example of Name Analysis

This article is a great example of using cultural, historical and linguistic knowledge in analytics. A good read.

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Public Libraries as a Resource for Foreign Language Learning

Public libraries in America are one of the best functioning and worth while public institutions. Making language resources available there is a wonderful idea. Language material is usually very expensive. Buying it through the public library system is a great idea. I have been learning Farsi for three years now using the resources of our great public library system here in the Salt lake City area. I also use it when I am designing curriculum or tests for other languages. Since we are now in a phase where we are trying to encourage the learning of critical foreign languages in this country I totally believe that public libraries should jump on board and use some of the available public funding to finance their purchases of foreign language learning material.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Phenomenal Growth in Demand for the Arabic Language

This is a great report on the demand for Arabic language instructors. A recommended read.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Olive Tree Dictionary

The Olive Tree Dictionary is one of the oldest Arabic English dictionaries. It was written to help people connect and communicate. This article features Yohanan Elihay the author of the dictionary. A good read. I have lost my OTD a while ago and now I want to go get one.

Language and Wealth

This article wonders whether there is a relation between wealth and language. It also makes other good points. A great read.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

New Immersion Course for Arabic

Concordia Language Villages is adding Arabic to its successful language immersion programs. The article doesn't mention the audience for this program but historically they targeted youth. I believe that they should target adult learners also leveraging their experience in other immersion programs.
I don't have enough knowledge about their program and methodology or data about historical performance. Concordia historically used a mix of cultural and linguistic education. This style is usually the most successful. In general, a successful immersion program for Arabic that makes the language stick is harder to design and administer compared to other languages. Here in the United States we lack the skills and enough teachers who are experienced with this kind of teaching style, we lack the curriculum to make it successful and there is no effort that I am aware of for developing rapid acquisition-by-immersion curriculum. Having a group of students in a classroom or even living with a language speaker, and forcing them to speak the language has its advantages for sure but doing it for short periods of time (2 to 9 weeks) without the proper curriculum and methods rarely produces significant acquisition or reinforcement (personal opinion based on 15 years of experience). At any rate, good luck to Concordia. I will investigate the program and come back to you all with a better assessment of it or new information.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Explosion of Arabic Material on the Web

With Western news operations expanding into the Arabic market there will be more and more opportunities for Arabic language learners. What I am hoping is that some of these organizations would actually provide dual materials that display both the Arabic and English side by side. This would be very useful not only for the Arabic reader but also for the English readers trying to learn Arabic. I also hope that these organizations would go into areas like podcasting and other kinds of audio-visual material.

"July 5, 2006
Western News Operations Expand Into Arabic Market

PARIS — A media competition for minds and market share in the Middle East is evolving as a crowd of Western news organizations prepares to deliver headlines — and geopolitical views — in the language of the Koran.

Backed by government financing, Germany's public international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, is poised to beam as much as 24 hours of daily news programming in Arabic this autumn. France's yet-to-be-named CNN-style channel is in development for a year-end opening, along with a Web site in Arabic and later in 2007 an Arabic television version. And the state-owned Russia Today has similar plans for an Arabic Web site and television presence.

From the United States, CNN is watching the development of its Arabic Web site, which attracts more than 300,000 unique visitors monthly, before it decides whether to pursue television plans.

'I'm losing track,' said Jerry Timmins, head of the BBC World Service's operations in Africa and the Middle East. 'There's pretty much of an announcement a week.'

The BBC World Service itself is also in the fray, with £19 million, or $35 million, from the British government for"

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Piece of Advice for Minnesota

This news from Minnesota is very encouraging. I just hope that this enthusiasm spells over to other states. It seems to me from this article that the people in charge are aware of the challenges, or at least most of them, namely:
1) Lack of qualified people to teach.
2) The need for training the teachers on modern teaching methods.
A third challenge I add here is that the students need to "learn how to learn". I am not aware of any current language program that takes this need into consideration. I am not talking here just about discipline and love for learning but more specifically about teaching student modern Psycholinguistic and memory techniques to help them memorize and understand. Pimsleur has the best approach in the field followed closely by the Rosetta Stone. These tools work directly with the student's memory and language control centers in the brain to aid the memorization experience.
Another problem I spot is that these classes might become to academic in their approach. The best experience a language student can have is to be able to communicate in class with peers and his/her teacher. Always communicate in class! Talk about anything and everything. Textbooks DO NOT have everything the students need to learn.
A final comment on the subject. My military students always complain that they have been taught the 'biggest words' like 'nuclear war' or 'conference' but in the meantime they don't know things like car parts' names and household tools, etc. Teachers should focus More on that during their in-class time.This could be done imply by using any of the 'commercial' material out there rather than academic Arabic text books. This commercial material is extremely valuable because its main focus is on the things that people 'must' know. Unfortunately, Academic teachers do not use such material in their in-class instruction and never take it seriously.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Success Story

I am against self-promotion when blogging but I guess a teacher and an author gets revived when receiving praise for his work. My book Ace The DLPT-Arabic Edition has been a success story in the military circuits and I am very proud of it. I designed it using the latest techniques in computational linguistics to guarantee that when you read it, and do all 406 exercises, you will pass any standardized Arabic test in existence with flying colors. Since the book got published, many people who followed my instructions have proven that Ace The DLPT delivers on its promise. Chief L.B is just one example. Here is what he says (some details were omitted to preserve identity):

Just wanted to relay a little success story for you and your book.

As you recall after attending your class in *** I achieved the highest scores ever in the 13 years I had been taking the DLPT I was a 3/3 (raw scores were 50/52) after your excellent instruction in December of '03.
After returning to *** I studied a bit, but not as much as I could have. In January of '04 I attended a 4 week class at our JLC. The instruction was good, but not up to the Jabra standard. Despite the one extra week I came out of the class with lower DLPT scores, 2/3 (raw scores were 44/52) My lowest listening score in a very long time.

Since January of '04 I have been extremely busy. My work did not afford me the opportunity to attend a class. I knew that I would not be able focus only on language. In October I started using your book almost exclusively. I read each night (almost). I loaded your audio onto my MP3 player and listened as I folded clothes, did chores, drove to and from work.

On Friday 3 March I took my DLPT, a bit nervous. I felt good about the listening and breezed through the reading, finishing the 65 passages in just under an hour. I've been waiting on pins and needles since then.

Today I received my scores. Without any formal training throughout the year, only your fabulous book to guide me I scored the highest I've ever scored in my 16.5 years as a linguist, 3/3 (raw scores of 56/54, 60 being perfect).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Small Mindedness @ Princeton

This article shows that small minded thinking can exist even at Princeton. For the good of this great country I only hope that Mr. Sheltzer is not a student of International business, Lawyer or, even worse, an International relations student. For one I am glad the PU has such intensive requirements for foreign language studies of all of its students. My personal belief , some of which has been confirmed by studies, is that when you study a foreign language you develop skills, as well as brain cells that you can use throughout your life. Have you ever tried to use your limited German, Arabic, Russian, or whatever to communicate with a native speaker? your listening skills are instantly magnified, your brain is thinking at rates much higher than it does usually. Trying to put those sentences together, using your memory. All of that and more happens also when you are studying a foreign language. Seeking to understand other cultures and being able to read, even gist, newspaper articles and news casts in other languages can provide you with real advantages in the real world. Princeton 'should' continue its language program especially now with the country scrounging for foreign language speakers and spending billions of dollars to produce them.

Helping Future Officers

I totally agree with this article, ROTC is a great place to start preparing if ‎you intend to join the military as an army officer. Not only would it save the military ‎billions of dollars it will also supply them with soldiers who have no need to spend time ‎at DLI or other military language schools.‎

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Say No To More Subsidized Academic Language Training

This is the an article you must read. Aside from the politics involved, which I might address later, Mr. Kurtz, expresses very well a very important fact. Our security needs and Arabic language training needs are not going to be addressed through more programs financed by title VI subsidies. Those programs might have had value on university campuses but those same programs have NO or very little value in a military setting. It is time to try new things and more effective methods. It is also time to produce some programs and curriculum that addresses the practical needs of our soldiers. I just hope that the President doesn't give up the fight or yield to political pressures on this one.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Language Program Promises Culture and Linguistic Education

The Concordia Language ‎Villages program promises not only to teach you the language in an immersion ‎setting, but also to work on the cultural background of the target language. I believe that ‎there is much need for this kind of approach. I know that this kind of approach would ‎make a huge difference. My main concern though is the time period assigned for such an ‎‎'immersion program'. I don't believe that two weeks would be enough to ideally achieve ‎what is needed. But I have to say here that I have no idea what the curriculum is like, ‎how the material is distributed or how it is weighed. It also depends on the knowledge ‎and level of the students the program accepts. My gut feeling says that two weeks are not ‎enough. From my experience, immersion programs need to be at least 8-10 weeks long to ‎have any impact (moving from one level to the next). Still, the concept is great and I wish ‎CLV the best of luck. If I have time I will try to get more information on the program. ‎You can click here to go to their website and I am adding it to the blogroll as well.‎

Thursday, February 09, 2006

University of Oregon Adds Arabic & Korean

New Arabic program announced at the University of Oregon. Looks like they also have a Korean resource.

Language Learning Software

Here is another article about the different tools out there that anybody from a beginner to an advanced student cn use to enhance their language learning process.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Rosetta Stone Review

This is a good review of the Rosetta Stone program. It emphasizes what I wrote about earlier; RS and other programs are great but a curriculum need to be constructed to give balanced instruction that covers all aspects of learning. The reviewer emphasizes that RS doesn't include a very strong grammatical component which I agree with. I use both Pimsleur and Berlitz since I find that they give the learner both the grammatical and the vocabulary components at the same time.

A Great Opportunity

making Arabic a part of a bushiness training program is a great idea. I pray though that the language portion of these programs at least would have some depth to them beyond teaching the basic alphabet soup and a few phrases. This will never accomplish what the military wants. Baylor University has a class that can serve as model for such education. Arabic language training in such a setting should include applications such as business negotiations, legal and business terminology, and extensive readings in business reports, etc. There is lots of opportunity here for an enlightened language trainer and an open-minded faculty.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tech Gadgets Aid Language Teaching

I love this article because it describes exactly the way I believe ‎language should be taught, or at least how to use some of the high tech gadgets out there ‎in language teaching. Eventhough I believe that the computer lab in a school environment ‎is great, I also believe that students should be able to carry their language learning tools ‎with them wherever they go. I have an HP iPaq on which I added a 1 GB SD memory ‎card. On the card I keep my audio lessons (Berlitz, Pimsleur etc.) I also keep my ‎vocabulary lists and some other stuff. I use Wikipedia to access Farsi articles and read blogs ‎to sharpen my knowledge of spoken Farsi and how it is expressed (much better and richer ‎than formal news sources). I also use a Walkman for some audio tapes that haven't been ‎digitized yet.‎
I talked about the Rosetta Stone program the other day and I love it but I don't think they ‎have it in MP3 format. Pimsleur on the other hand have converted their lessons to MP3 ‎format and they sell it along with an MP3 player. As I said before, I love both, but I ‎prefer the mobility of the MP3 format.‎

Thursday, January 26, 2006

How To Find An Arabic Program That Meets Your Needs

New Arabic Programs seem to be ‎everywhere. Universities hungry for federal funding or those that want to capitalize on ‎the interest. So how do you know what to choose? I would investigate first of all the ‎infrastructure provided by the university and how long this infrastructure has been there. ‎By that I mean: Is there a language lab? Does the program seem innovative enough? or in ‎other words what is unique about the program? does it offer more immersion, unique ‎curriculum, seasoned professors or all the above? I would look at the syllabus and try to ‎find the value proposition. There are many Arabic programs out there but extremely few ‎have any declared value propositions (or in other words the thing that makes them unique ‎and useful for the student). I they have a unique method or idea then by all means sign up ‎otherwise don't waste your time and keep looking. ‎

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chu Interview

Media Roundtable with Dr. David Chu, Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness)
Interesting interview...

Learning Arabic Abroad

Learning Arabic abroad is a good idea if you have lots of money and you know your way around. I happen to be from Jordan and I have known many people who went through the UOJ Arabic program and who told me later that they didn't get much out of it. But being in Jordan they ended up hiring private tutors (less than 7 dollars an hour) and built their own immersion course. Those courses abroad, according to the experience of many, still leave much to be desired despite their benefit of letting the student understand the culture better. It all depends on needs and what results are desired.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I like the Rosetta Stone But...

Army offers foreign language training - Minnesota Daily

Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, Berlitz and anything you can get your hands on in the initial stages of learning is great. I love all of it. I have been working on my Farsi and Dari for the past year and a half and I have used the Farsi curriculum from all the above and the results were amazing. But I am a linguist and a language teacher. I know how to motivate and guide myself and how to avoid the trappings of frustration when you're stuck. Online learning is a great idea but giving our soldiers and language learners in the armed forces the Rosetta Stone without any further instruction or interaction is not sufficient and will not produce the desired results. RS needs to be supplemented with classroom instruction and the human touch. Maybe the military is doing this already, I don't know because I don't have access. But what I know is that commercial grade language materials should be supplemented by things like online conferencing, Podcasting and voice enabled instant messaging. If you have some good feedback on the subject I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

National Security language Initiative

I still haven't had time to look at the text of the initiative, but for those of you who have the time to look here is this link and this link to the fact sheet.
I also found a good discussion of the initiative on this link. The writer has a unique idea but I am not sure he is familiar with the needs of the military and other agencies as far as languages are concerned. The military language student is a unique individual with extremely unique needs. Following a strict academic and scholastic approach to language teaching and learning with military and security students DOES NOT work. Following the strict academic and scholastic approach is slowing down the production of capable military intelligence students. I have proven that point several times. Most recently I did a 53 weeks project for the US Navy where we managed to get the students to graduate in 46 weeks (down from 72 currently at other institutions). I hae developed my methods now to where it can be done in 36 weeks. I also managed to raise the scores of a refresher class by one full point into the 2+ and 3 territory in 15 days. I will not go into the technical details of that but it is sufficient for me to say that things like that are doable by NOT following the academic approach.
The language trainer that is needed for projects like that is a unique breed and I doubt that they are bred in the Middle East either. For language instructors to produce results they must be familiar with a wide range of fields and skills including psychology, motivation, communications, computer science, curriculum planning and development, knowledge of the Internet and technologies that can be used in the class room and above all fluent, level 5, knowledge (and cultural awarenes) of the English language and English-speaking people so that they can communicate freely with their students. My advice is to spend some of that money the President is authorizing on developing such teachers and teacher-training networks. The worst thing that can happen is for the money to end up in the hands of teachers' unions who still cannot produce kids who can read English from our public schools.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


LINGUISTIC NEED: A step in the right direction. "Lost amid the debate over English as America's 'official language' is the fact that foreign language study in U.S. schools and universities has been on the decline.
Not only has a serious shortage of linguists resulted, but some experts contend it poses national security issues in the wake of 9/11.
The Bush administration is seeking $114 million to boost foreign language study in fiscal 2007. Although this isn't a lot of money by federal standards, it is a step in the right direction, one that also should include granting more visas for foreign students to attend American schools.

Different countries of the world, particularly those that don't agree on very much, need to learn more about what makes each other tick. Language skills and rubbing shoulders with one another can only improve the channels of communication."

Arabic Program At University of Jordan

Not a bad program and it seems that many people like it. I have friends go through it and never heard any complaints but I remember not being very impressed with the curriculum.

School Officials Propose Adding Arabic and Chinese - News - Arlington Connection - Connection Newspapers

School Officials Propose Adding Arabic and Chinese - News - Arlington Connection - Connection Newspapers: Not a bad idea. The challenge will be having proper curriculums and enough trained instructors. "This fall Arlington middle school and high school students will be able to enroll in Arabic and Mandarin Chinese courses, and earn college credits, if the School Board approves a proposal it is set to vote on next week.
The school staff is recommending the two languages be taught in a countywide after-school program, to be held at a Northern Virginia Community College facility in Arlington and conducted by the college’s professors. "


WTOP: U.S. suspending publication of Arabic language magazine
This is a really unfortunate piece of news. I think the content of the magazine as well as the name 'Hi' should be changed. Hi is a word used by people who are considered the aristocracy and is looked down on by the people we really need to be changing. Give the magazine a stronger name, give it more daring and thought provoking content and you got a winner.

Perfect Pairs

Is English the world’s oyster?: The following quote is interesting. While the need is great now for the Arabic/English pair due to the war on terror, I totally believe that knowledge of a third language always increases your value and effectiveness. I can see the need for the Arabic/Chinese or Arabic/Farsi skill or even Arabic/Russian. As the world grows and commercial ties increase knowledge of two or three languages will be your greatest asset. Here is the quote or you can click above to go to the full article which is very interesting.
"Huang You Yi, vice-president of the Chinese Translators Association, stressed that the greatest need was not for more English-speaking, but for more Spanish-proficient Chinese, due to the rapidly expanding trade ties with South America. For the same reason, he added, Arabic language skill would soon become equally important. The national television organisation CCTV has recently complemented its established English-speaking channel with a new one operating in French and Spanish. In 2004 German joined English, Japanese and Korean as a specialisation at the huge college where I taught. French, in particular, is likely to gain a strong following since France and China have just shared a Year of Cultural Friendship and signed an extensive economic and trade agreement."