Just read the following article in the Washington Times and it amazes me that despite the desperate need for Arabic speakers the many institutes and colleges that teach Arabic in this country fail to turn out speakers of the language at the rate we need them. This is due, in my opinion to the failure of the methods used and has nothing to do with the difficulty of the language. I personally believe that Arabic is no different than any other language to study and I have the case studies to prove it. But I don't want to discuss that. In response to the State Department's need I am making the following challenge, send me 12 State Department employees, and regardless of their aptitude, I will have them learn MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), or any dialect of Arabic, at level 1+ in listening and speaking in one month of study. Level 1+ being defined as:
Speaking 1+ (Elementary Proficiency, Plus)
Can initiate and maintain predictable face-to-face conversations and satisfy limited social demands. He/she may, however, have little understanding of the social conventions of conversation. The interlocutor is generally required to strain and employ real-world knowledge to understand even some simple speech. The speaker at this level may hesitate and may have to change subjects due to lack of language resources. Range and control of the language are limited. Speech largely consists of a series of short, discrete utterances.
Examples: The individual is able to satisfy most travel and accommodation needs and a limited range of social demands beyond exchange of skeletal biographic information. Speaking ability may extend beyond immediate survival needs. Accuracy in basic grammatical relations is evident, although not consistent. May exhibit the more common forms of verb tenses, for example, but may make frequent errors in formation and selection. While some structures are established, errors occur in more complex patterns. The individual typically cannot sustain coherent structures in longer utterances or unfamiliar situations. Ability to describe and give precise information is limited. Person, space and time references are often used incorrectly. Pronunciation is understandable to natives used to dealing with foreigners. Can combine most significant sounds with reasonable comprehensibility, but has difficulty in producing certain sounds in certain positions or in certain combinations. Speech will usually be labored. Frequently has to repeat utterances to be understood by the general public. (Has been coded S-1+ in some nonautomated applications.)
I have been using my methods with great success with the US Navy, Army and Special Operations for the past 4 years now and I have done this, with relative ease many times.
So, if you are a State Department employee and want to take advantage of the jobs and opportunities offered by the department, call me and I will get you to speak Arabic in 5 weeks. You will get these promotions sooner than you ever thought was possible.
Article published Jun 8, 2007
State desperate for envoys to learn Arabic
June 8, 2007
By Nicholas Kralev
THE WASHINGTON TIMES - The State Department, in an unprecedented move highlighting its desperate need for Arabic speakers, is allowing U.S. diplomats to curtail their current assignments anywhere in the world and begin Arabic language training in September.
Foreign Service officers who are interested in learning Arabic or improving existing skills have until the end of July to apply for more than 100 positions in Arabic-speaking countries that will open in the next two years.
Asked why the program has been initiated only now — nearly six years after the September 11, 2001, attacks and more than four years into the Iraq war — department officials cited a lack of resources.
In a cable to all State Department employees worldwide on Wednesday, George M. Staples, director-general of the Foreign Service, urged them to seriously consider learning "one of the more difficult foreign languages for English speakers to master."
"We recognize that we must improve our ability to understand and influence an area of continuing importance to our nation's well-being," Mr. Staples wrote in the cable, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The department "will consider breaking any tenured employee out of his/her current assignment for a September 2007 language start: for either the two-year program or one-year to improve or take existing Arabic language skills beyond your current level," he wrote.
Junior officers must get tenure within five years of joining in order to remain in the service. That benchmark is separate from the promotion process.
The State Department has about 270 employees with "general professional proficiency" in Arabic — or speaking and reading ability sufficient to do their jobs — according to department figures. Another 700 have limited knowledge.
The department, on which Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen P. Hughes has put a particular emphasis on improving the U.S. image in the Arab and Muslim world, has been criticized repeatedly since 2001 for its shortage of Arabic speakers.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February that her agency is "putting a great effort into language development for our diplomats," and that "this country has been underinvested in the study of critical languages like Arabic, Farsi, even Chinese, for a very long time."
She noted, however, that "this is something that takes awhile to remedy," and officials yesterday could not explain why it took them years to make their latest decision, saying they try to do their best with the available resources.
A report by the bipartisan Foreign Affairs Council this week criticized Miss Rice for failing to request more funds for the department despite her influence with President Bush.
Mr. Staples' cable contained a list of the Arabic-language positions for which employees can bid. Those officers who require only a year of training can apply for jobs opening in 2008, and those who need two years for slots opening in 2009.
Out of the 48 positions next year, 27 are at the embassy in Baghdad. In the so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams, where State Department personnel work together with the military, Arabic is not required but is strongly encouraged.
Plucking dozens of diplomats out of their current assignments is not likely to be welcomed by the management of the "losing posts," officials said. They insist that there are important countries outside the Middle East and expressed concern that missions in other key areas could suffer from the early departure of some employees.
"The department understands that this initiative may well create some new vacancies at posts in addition to existing vacancies resulting from the deficit at the mid-ranks," said Mr. Staples, who is retiring at the end of July.
"While [we] will make every effort to find a qualified replacement for the losing post, at this time we do not foresee that existing resources will allow us to fill in behind every employee who curtails, nor do we anticipate having alternative-employment funding available to reimburse bureaus for costs resulting from these possible curtailments," he said.