Op-Ed Reaction to Khalil Ali Haider: "The Spaniards Do Not Want to Learn Arabic"

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As a person teaching Spanish to some of the most diligent, interested Kuwaiti students of the language, I couldn't help but being intrigued by this op-ed. I agree with Mr. Khalil on many points. Spaniards are very lazy at learning languages, and can't seem to be bothered. Arabic, unfortunately, is just another victim to this. More critically, however, the Spaniards don't want to learn English either. Spain has one of the lowest rates of English fluency in the entire European Union. Its really a national embarrassment for me. To be honest with you, before promoting any other second language, English needs to be invested in heavily in Spain to bring the country's citizens to international standards regarding understanding of the English language, perhaps then we can focus on other foreign languages, such as the author writes, Arabic or Chinese.

Spain also has an integration problem. In comparison to other European countries, Spain has only recently had waves of migration into the country, and its immigrant population is still relatively new. How Spain is able to integrate the children of these first-generation citizens, will depend on how well Spain can educate its people on multiculturalism, tolerance for diversity and battling of racism--which is, unfortunately, notoriously horrible in Spain, as many national public embarrassments during several international sporting competitions can attest. For a long time, Spain was an immigrant-exporting country, and the people must never forget this fact in their discussion of integration and migration in the present day.

Now, regarding the promotion of the Arabic language, something that perhaps the promoters could learn from. Spain has what we might call soft or cultural diplomacy, in the form of El Instituto Cervantes, a center for Spanish cultural promotion and language abroad. They have offices all over the world. This is similiar to perhaps the British Council. Why not begin one focused on the Arabic language?

Last month, a Spanish citizen poured icy cold water on the Arab-Spanish cultural relations and at the same time offered it a beautiful rose. On Jan. 1, 2010 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that the local government in Andalusia Province's latest bill to teach the Arabic language as a second foreign language in educational institutions was met with strong oppositions.

The newspaper's correspondent Subaih Sadiq said that the bill aims at integrating Arab and Roman immigrants into the Spanish society. The concerned committee suggested allocating 25 million euro until 2013 to implement the proposal. The bill suggests teaching Arabic as a second foreign language in the Andalusia Province and urging educational institutions to open Arabic departments. 400 opponents commented on the bill through an electronic newspaper.

Some said that: "Teaching Arabic will not benefit them. The government should encourage studying Spanish instead." Others said: "We have always been studying English and French and now they want to teach us Arabic?" Others said: "There is no doubt that studying languages is important but what is the point of studying Arabic? All those who come to our country should study our language instead of teaching us their language." An extremist said: "I hope that Catholic rulers could be in power to dismiss them again."

Two days later, there were several calls to cancel the Official holiday of Granada on Jan. 2 which was the day when the last Arab kingdom in Andalusia fell in 1492. Granada celebrates the occasion at official and public levels. The Granada Society has announced that it would organize a celebration for dialogue among civilizations and against the fall of Granada as well as to honor the Gypsies, Jews and Arabs who were dismissed from Andalusia.

The Andalusia People's Society issued a statement in which it said: "We want to express our rejection of celebrating the fall of Granada and we call for cancelling this celebration and to replace it by June 26 as the National Day of Granada, which was the day when Maryana Beneida (1804-1831) was executed. Maryana was known for her opposition to oppression and autocracy in Madrid. (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat 3/1/2010).

If there was a proposal to teach the Chinese language in Spain, would the responses of Spanish authorities be the same? I don't know. Many schools in the US, and perhaps in Europe, encourage teaching Arabic. It is said that the annual salary of a translator working for the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is more than 180,000 US dollars. In the past we used to fear the Europeans who studied Arabic. Nowadays, the new generations in Europe have no interest in learning Arabic.
(link here)

Olympics

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I am a diehard fan of the Olympic Games, although the time zone difference is costing me my loyalty to these Vancouver games. I am sharing with you a part of the opening ceremony for the Athens Games in 2004, not only one of the best opening ceremonies that I have ever seen, but I think also up there in the top 5 visual experiences of my entire life. It truly blew my mind, and I was lucky enough to see it live on the television in 2004. This is amazing, just try not to cringe from the commentary delivery.


Love

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I hate to get preachy, but being the day of love, love yourselves, love your neighbour, love your earth.

Sarah Palin and the Hillbilly Palm Pilot

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Sarah Palin wrote her notes on her hand during the recent Tea Party Convention in Tennessee. You can see written that it says:

Energy
Budget (crossed out and replaced with "tax") cuts
Lift American Spirits


Get Out of Bribes Free

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Excellent rupee "no-corruption zone" note to pass to officials attempting to get a bribe out of you. Click on the image to see the full size.

New Indian Show on 98.4 Mix FM

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Just read in the news that Kuwait 98.4 FM is going to have a new show dedicated to Indian film music and entertainment news, 6 pm on Friday. I am so excited!!
फिर भी दिल है हिन्दुस्तानी!

BBC: "France refuses a citizenship over full Islamic veil"

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The French government has refused to grant citizenship to a foreign national on the grounds that he forced his wife to wear the full Islamic veil.

The man, whose current nationality was not given, needed citizenship to settle in the country with his French wife.

But Immigration Minister Eric Besson said this was being refused because he was depriving his wife of the liberty to come and go with her face uncovered.

Last week, a parliamentary committee proposed a partial ban on full veils.

It also recommended that anyone showing visible signs of "radical religious practice" be refused residence permits and citizenship. (link to article here)

'Integration'

In a statement, Mr Besson said he had signed a decree on Tuesday rejecting a man's citizenship application after it emerged that he had ordered his wife to cover herself with a head-to-toe veil.

"It became apparent during the regulation investigation and the prior interview that this person was compelling his wife to wear the all-covering veil, depriving her of the freedom to come and go with her face uncovered, and rejected the principles of secularism and equality between men and women," he said.

Later, the minister stressed that French law required anyone seeking naturalisation to demonstrate their desire for integration.

Mr Besson's decree has now been sent to Prime Minister Francois Fillon for approval.

The interior ministry says only 1,900 women wear full veils in France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority.

In 2008, a French court denied citizenship to a Moroccan woman on the grounds that her "radical" practice of Islam was incompatible with French values.

Wednesday's Picasso

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How to Measure the Urban Kindness of Strangers

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This man got strangers to physically carry him on his back up 9.4 miles of the grand Manhattan Isle. He wanted to debunk the myth that New Yorkers are unfriendly. Well, I wish they would do this experiment in Paris, where I found myself once lugging 50 kilos of luggage up and down the Paris metro stairs for several hours to get from one side of the city to the next, with no elevator or escalator in sight. I fell two times and no one stopped to help me except for immigrant women. It would be an interesting experiment for Kuwait? Who wants to place bets on how far someone could get?