A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

“learn Arabic like a spy”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 13, 2009

I know how much you love Lebanese spam, H emailed me the other day. After forwarding me a gem of an ad from his Gmail account, H emailed me again.

Look what just came up as an ad on my Gmail toolbar, he wrote.

World’s leading Arabic method.
Same course used by FBI & CIA.

Oh, Google AdWords. Once again, your sense of targeting and timing is so close – and yet so far. H doesn’t need to learn Arabic, and he certainly isn’t aiming to be “like a spy”.

Nor, to be honest, do many of us who have spent time in the region have any confidence that speaking “like a spy” implies any degree of fluency. Or even proficiency.

When I looked into the “Pimsleur Approach”, I must confess that I was a bit disappointed. Apparently “Learn like a spy” is Pimsleur’s generic tag line, although I’m not sure that its as successful with other languages. To me, “Learn Spanish like a spy” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

In any case, if you’re looking to learn Arabic, I suggest you think twice before paying for any program that promises to help you speak “like a spy”. How about a program that teaches you to speak “like a native”? After all, one major trouble with being mistaken for a spy is that your reception among native speakers is likely to be less than welcoming 🙂 .


8 Responses to ““learn Arabic like a spy””

  1. Davis said

    Which reminds me — wonder if Rosetta Stone will drop Michael Phelps as an endorser?

  2. I got that ad in my Gmail too, and it cracked me up. Because really, I want to speak Arabic just like a spy.

  3. snarla said

    I guess that they realized that too many people were snickering at “Learn Arabic like a diplomat.”

  4. Jillian and Snarla, loooool!

  5. intlxpatr said

    LOL@Rosetta Stone and the look my husband gives me when I can say “Al wachtal an (pause) issah (Pause) ar-rabia” just like the man on the phone who gives the time

  6. Nimrod said

    I’ve bought and listened to all 60 Pimsleur Eastern Arabic 1+2 lessons. It is a good basic Arabic tutorial system, allowing you to grasp essential vocabulary while driving to work or tanning at the beach. If spies find phrases like ‘bitkhibi nishrab shai sawa’ or ‘andi shurul ktir el yom’ useful I have no idea, but that is what you get for about $300.
    Interestingly, Pimsleur has only Syrian/Lebanese or Egyptian Arabic courses. I was looking for a Palestinian Arabic course, but couldn’t find anything. Here ‘Kifac’ is ‘kif halak’, ‘hala’ is ‘issa’, ‘hanik’ is ‘honak’ and so on.

  7. Kheireddine said

    There is not much difference between Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian urban Arabic except the accent. Also there is regional accents within each country, like Damascus v/s Aleppo or Beirut v/s Tripoli.

  8. Loga said

    Here are some online and overseas arabic learning resources:
    Hope you find them useful.

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