While I studied Chinese, my boyfriend went to the same university to study Arabic. We were both in the languages department, with intense interests in history and politics, and we were both crazy enough to choose some of the most difficult languages in the world.
People still ask us “which one’s harder?” And honestly, I’ve not got a clue. Chinese grammar is a lot easier, but Arabic has a standardised alphabet with a pretty sensible word-root system (so the word for book will be similar to the words for “library”, “book shop” etc).
The next most common question he’s asked, of course, is “why the hell did you study Arabic?” and of course “are you a Muslim?”
He’s not a Muslim, he’s just amazingly nerdy.
One of the primary thing that drew him to the Middle East is his love for history. A lot of people love history, but in the UK at least we don’t really look into really early human history. We look at the Greeks and Romans, but there is a strong argument for civilization first emerging in the Middle East. A lot of human history, a lot of the key successes and important developments took place in the Arab world. And that’s what caught my partner’s eye. He loved that mysterious, historical origin-story for humanity.
Being able to read the language just helped him to better understand it.
And of course, there’s always something happening in the Middle East. Every day when you turn the TV on, there’s something in the news about a big event in the Middle East. Maybe Saudi Arabia has angered rights activists, or we hear about the wars in Libya and Syria, or more tourists start going to Morocco and Lebanon. It’s a fascinating region, with such a wide variety of things going on. There’s always something to learn, something to look into.
And with so much going on other there, there’s always jobs available in the field.
Arabic has a lot to offer, but it’s one hell of a challenge. I can’t do it justice. But in visiting my partner when he lived in Amman, Jordan, and then our trip to Egypt in December last year, I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen of the Middle East. The language is captivating, and the culture and history are so beautiful, but I understand the disadvantage I would face if I lived there.
Personally, I’m sold on Arabic. I want to learn it at some point in the near future. We’ve got a library’s worth of books here at home, and not all of them can be bought on Amazon. But, for anyone else who’s interested, here’s a basic book on the first thousand words to learn:
And if you want something a bit more…resourceful…this dictionary has been pretty useful to him over the years:
And these are two books he asked for as a birthday present/casual reading the other year: