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insight by wfx

Welcome to Wordwide FX's new enterprise!

Insight by WFX is a synthesis of our passion for languages and the financial markets. Here you will find technical and fundamental analyses from our clients, media partners and contributors in different languages, as well as discussions on languages and translation. And of course we will keep you updated on what is happening inside Wordwide FX Financial Translations. Hope you enjoy it! Greetings from the Wordwide FX team!

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13/04/2018

The English language is the world’s Achilles heel

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via The Conversation

English has achieved prime status by becoming the most widely spoken language in the world – if one disregards proficiency – ahead of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. English is spoken in 101 countries, while Arabic is spoken in 60, French in 51, Chinese in 33, and Spanish in 31. From one small island, English has gone on to acquire lingua franca status in international business, worldwide diplomacy, and science.

But the success of English – or indeed any language – as a “universal” language comes with a hefty price, in terms of vulnerability. Problems arise when English is a second language to either speakers, listeners, or both. No matter how proficient they are, their own understanding of English, and their first (or “native”) language can change what they believe is being said.

When someone uses their second language, they seem to operate slightly differently than when they function in their native language. This phenomenon has been referred to as the “foreign language effect”. Research from our group has shown that native speakers of Chinese, for example, tended to take more risks in a gambling game when they received positive feedback in their native language (wins), when compared to negative feedback (losses). But this trend disappeared – that is, they became less impulsive – when the same positive feedback was given to them in English. It was as if they are more rational in their second language. 

While reduced impulsiveness when dealing in a second language can be seen as a positive thing, the picture is potentially much darker when it comes to human interactions. In a second language, research has found that speakers are also likely to be less emotional and show less empathy and consideration for the emotional state of others.

For instance, we showed that Chinese-English bilinguals exposed to negative words in English unconsciously filtered out the mental impact of these words. And Polish-English bilinguals who are normally affected by sad statements in their native Polish appeared to be much less disturbed by the same statements in English.

In another recent study by our group, we found that second language use can even affect one’s inclination to believe the truth. Especially when conversations touch on culture and intimate beliefs.

Since second language speakers of English are a huge majority in the world today, native English speakers will frequently interact with non-native speakers in English, more so than any other language. And in an exchange between a native and a foreign speaker, the research suggests that the foreign speaker is more likely to be emotionally detached and can even show different moral judgements.

And there is more. While English provides a phenomenal opportunity for global communication, its prominence means that native speakers of English have low awareness of language diversity. This is a problem because there is good evidence that differences between languages go hand-in-hand with differences in conceptualisation of the world and even perception of it. 

In 2009, we were able to show that native speakers of Greek, who have two words for dark blue and light blue in their language, see the contrast between light and dark blue as more salient than native speakers of English. This effect was not simply due to the different environment in which people are brought up in either, because the native speakers of English showed similar sensitivity to blue contrasts and green contrasts, the latter being very common in the UK. 

On the one hand, operating in a second language is not the same as operating in a native language. But, on the other, language diversity has a big impact on perception and conceptions. This is bound to have implications on how information is accessed, how it is interpreted, and how it is used by second language speakers when they interact with others.

We can come to the conclusion that a balanced exchange of ideas, as well as consideration for others’ emotional states and beliefs, requires a proficient knowledge of each other’s native language. In other words, we need truly bilingual exchanges, in which all involved know the language of the other. So, it is just as important for English native speakers to be able to converse with others in their languages.

The US and the UK could do much more to engage in rectifying the world’s language balance, and foster mass learning of foreign languages. Unfortunately, the best way to achieve near-native foreign language proficiency is through immersion, by visiting other countries and interacting with local speakers of the language. Doing so might also have the effect of bridging some current political divides.

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02/01/2017

The Diacritics Affair

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via Languages Around the World

By Asya Pereltsvaig

[This is a guest post, written by Roger Fernàndez from Barcelona, Catalonia]

Can a few simple accents become the center of a controversy that occupy headlines? In Catalonia, yes. Catalan is the language of this northeast Spain region, whose capital is Barcelona. The Catalan language, however, is not only spoken in Catalonia; other Spanish regions such as the Balearic Islands, Valencia and some Aragon areas as well as areas of southern France, and the Italian city of Alghero, make this Romance language the 20th most spoken language in Europe (9,4M speakers ).

On 29 September an intention was announced to eliminate the vast majority of diacritical accents. The proposal was made by the IEC, the Institute of Catalan Studies, which is the organization that, since 1911, defines the rules of grammar, spelling and new vocabulary of the Catalan language. And, as if someone had thrown a match into a powder keg, a discussion has exploded and unleashed far beyond the purely academic circles.

But what diacritical accents mean in Catalan and what role do they have? The diacritical accents are marks that are introduced in some words to help distinguish words with different meanings; they do not follow the rules of accentuation,. A few examples illustrate this:

Ma (my) / Mà (hand)

Dona (Woman) / Dóna (gives)

Pel (for the) / Pèl (hair)

Net (clean) / Nét (grandson)

Deu (Ten) /  Déu (God)

And so up to 150 pairs of words were defined by Pompeu Fabra, the philologist who created the prescriptive rules of modern Catalan orthography in the early twentieth century. The new IEC proposal reduces the number of such pairs to just 14!

Initially, the news appeared in the Catalan newspapers, but it was only a small article in the Culture section of each newspaper. But after a few hours, thanks to social networks, the debate was on like an uncontrollable fire. Soon the “Diacriticals affair” was the cover story in the media all around the country.

That day, Empar Moline, one of the most prestigious writers in Catalan, published an article in the newspaper “Ara” denouncing, in his usual humorous style, that the disappearance of diacritic marks would become an oversimplification of a language which, by constant contact with the powerful Spanish language, is already suffering a loss of rigor. Why not, Moline asked ironically, remove Catalan personal pronouns (“pronoms febles” or weak pronouns), the real nemesis for any student of Catalan.

Within a few hours, Quim Monzo, a close friend of Empar Moline and probably the most recognized living writer in Catalan, responded in Tweeter standing at the other side of the controversy:

“Please, we need an immediate crowdfunding campaign to save the diacritics” wrote the eternal candidate for the Literature Nobel Prize, Quim Monzó.

The discussion, however, was not limited only to a philological and literary milieu, and Twitter was starting to warm up. That evening #diacritics hashtag became Trending Topic on Twitter. Catalan TV channels and radio stations buzzed and the controversy grew hour by hour. Right now, platform Change.org has three active campaigns to collect signatures to “save the 136 diacritical accent marks from a death sentence.”

The following day, instead of troubled waters getting calm, tempers were inflamed even more. Even some graffiti appeared:

The sentence, which with stress marks would be written “La dona dóna un os d’ós al nét net” will hardly ever be used, considering its meaning: “The woman gives a bone of bear to the clean grandson”, but it is a symptomatic example of the sudden Catalans’ love for their 136 words with diacritical stress marks. Some online media took advantage to propose tests and surveys to determine how many diacritics readers were able to recognize, as many Catalan speakers are not able to spell all the words with diacritical accents, as required by prescriptive rules. Note that these written accents do not follow any rules and, therefore, the only way to learn them is to do it by memory.

If I had to evaluate a distribution of supporters and opponents of diacritic accents suppression, I think much of the academic world (philologists and linguists) are for this simplification, while writers are divided 50-50. Interestingly, however, a large majority of Catalan speakers, let’s say, ordinary people, are absolutely against simplifying their language. Even songs and flash mobs appeared in YouTube in defense of Diacritic accents.

What makes Catalan speakers so zealous about an alleged complexity of the language? Before trying to answer, I would like to clarify that Catalan is as simple or complex as any other language of the Romance branch of Indo-European may be. Well, back to the question: With the end of sovereignty of Catalonia (in the eighteenth century), political and cultural decline began, the Catalan language was banned from public administration and education. The language was restricted to the private sphere and suffered a clear recession, reaching an almost jeopardized state during the fascist dictatorship of General Franco (1939-1975). With the arrival of democracy in Spain and the recognition of a certain autonomy for Catalonia, the language became the center of the Catalan cultural identity. Catalonia is currently undergoing a process of independence that has made people feel more proud than ever of their culture and, therefore, of their language. Catalan language now has a strong presence in all areas of society, government, education and the media, despite being a region where two languages (Catalan and Spanish) live quite harmoniously. And maybe diacritical accents have become a symbol of Catalans’ pride for their language.

After this controversy, I don’t want even to think what will happen with the spelling reform announced for 2017! If this point was reached with diacritics reform, I hope not to see barricades in the streets in defense of the only exclusively Catalan letter “L geminada “(l·l)!

 

 

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21/11/2016

Old Norse (Dǫnsk tunga)

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via Omniglot.com

Old Norse was a North Germanic language once spoken in Scandinavia, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and in parts of Russia, France and the British Isles and Ireland. It was the language of the Vikings or Norsemen. The modern language most closely related to Old Norse is Icelandic, the written form of which has changed little over the years, while the spoken form has undergone significant changes.

The earliest known inscriptions in Scandinavia date from the the 2nd century AD and were written in Runes mainly on stone, or on personal artifacts such as brooches and swords. The majority of these inscription have been found in Denmark and Sweden, and they are written in a dialect much more archaic than Old Norse itself.

Most Old Norse literature was written in Iceland and includes the Eddas, poems about gods and mythic origins, or the heroes of an earlier age; Scaldic poetry, which was concerned with extolling the virtues and telling tales of the notable exploits of kings and other patrons; and the Sagas, stories of historical figures or groups intended as entertainment.

Between 800 and 1050 AD a division began to appear between East Norse, which developed into Swedish and Danish, and West Norse, which developed into NorwegianFaroeseIcelandic and Norn, an extinct language once spoken in Shetland, Orkney, and northern parts of Scotland.

 

 

Sample texts in Old Norse

Allir menn eru bornir frjálsir ok jafnir at virðingu ok réttum. Þeir eru allir viti gœddir ok samvizku, ok skulu gøra hvárr til annars bróðurliga.

Translation provided by a Carmenta Old Norse Tutor

Translation

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Þórr heitir áss, ok er sterkr mjök ok oft reiðr. Hann á hamar góðan. Þórr ferr oft til Jötunheima ok vegr þar marga jötna með hamrinum. Þórr á ok vagn er flýgr. Hann ekr vagninum um himininn. Þar er Þórr ekr, er stormr.

Translation

A god is named Thor. He is very strong and often angry. He has a good hammer. Thor often goes to Gianthome and slays many giants there with the hammer. Thor also has a carriage that flies. He drives the carriage through the sky. Where Thor drives there is storm.

Transliteration of the image below (The Lord's Prayer)

Faðer uor som ast i himlüm, halgað warðe þit nama. Tilkomme þit rikie. Skie þin uilie so som i himmalan so oh bo iordanne. Wort dahliha broð gif os i dah. Oh forlat os uora skuldar so som oh ui forlate þem os skuüldihi are. Oh inleð os ikkie i frestalsan utan frels os ifra ondo. Tü rikiað ar þit oh mahtan oh harlihheten i ewihhet. Aman.

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13/06/2016

Is Russian a hard language to learn?

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via lingua.ly

By Meredith Cicerchia

Russian has a reputation as being a difficult language to learn. This may be due to its Cyrillic alphabet, grammar or status as a less commonly taught world language (compared to the likes of French and Spanish). Nonetheless, it isn’t as hard as some English speakers make it out to be. Let’s take a look at the things that make Russian challenging and the less complex aspects that might convince you to give it a try!

A learner’s perspective on Russian

Keep in mind that when you start studying a language like Russian, the difficulty you actually experience is always relative to the language or languages you already speak (more on contrastive analysis). When I first began Russian classes, I had just finished 4 years of learning French and Italian and spoke English as my mother tongue.

Instead of seeing the new alphabet as a negative, I found it a refreshing break from the “similar” but “not quite the same” alphabet issues that plague romance languages for English speakers (think accents on French vowels). While pronunciation could be a mouthful for certain words, it also seemed like everything became a lot easier once I figured out the rules. Russian words were pronounced as they were written — which is more than I can say for my latest language, Danish — and there were almost no exceptions.

Sure, certain things were hard, such as understanding the whole case system, but some things seemed surprisingly easy (past tense for example). I was lucky enough to have a native-speaker teacher who mixed in Russian poetry, songs and children’s books with grammar lessons. She kept us entertained and motivated as we trudged through the more difficult aspects of beginner Russian language study.

Remember that if you learn to love a language like Russian and have fun studying it, what may initially seem hard becomes just another challenge you can be proud of later on. Plus, in the English speaking world Russian is seen as quite an undertaking so my progress was heavily praised and I felt much more confident and motivated talking about my life and hobbies in Russian than when I had tried to enquire about a train schedule in Paris (only to have someone answer me in English).

So, what makes Russian hard to learn?

The Alphabet

The bottom line is, you have to learn it. Yes, it’s different, but there are definitely some shortcuts to help you figure Russian letters out and they aren’t as hard to write as say Arabic. Also, if you’re familiar with the hair-pulling challenge of mastering Chinese characters, you can be thankful that at least there is an alphabet!

For me, the alphabet became somewhat of a secret code. An English P was a Russian R, C was an S, H was an N, a backwards N was an I and a backwards R was a “ya” sound. There were some similar letters with English, A and O for example and then there were some fun new ones like F which was written like a double P ф and P which is essentially the mathematics sign for pi п. Have a look and you’ll see what I mean.

While it does take a little getting used to when you first start reading and writing in a new alphabet, the most challenging part in Russian was differentiating cursive from print. To write a lower-case M in Russian you just use the capital form, only smaller м. That’s because if you write it in the English way an m is actually the cursive lower-case letter for t. Go figure!

Pronunciation

There is no denying that the Russian language can sometimes be a mouthful. Try greeting someone with здравствуйте (ZDRAST-vwee-tye) or apologizing using извиниться (eez-vin-EET-sya). They take some time to get your tongue around and as an English speaker you initially find yourself doing a lot of verbal stumbling as you attempt to put the sounds together.

The good things is, if you listen to a lot of Russian, you can train your ear to hear the way sounds combine. Once you do this, you’ll improve your listening comprehension as you’ll be able to pick out individual words when they’re said, but also get better at producing them. Songs and poetry memorized and recited can also be a helpful technique for learning the pronunciation.

And of course, Russian is said the way it is spelled so you don’t have to guess at how to pronounce things, the way English language learners do. Everything is straightforward and you can sound words out. Russian has a few pronunciation shortcuts too. Consider the letter ч which represents the English sound “ch” (and looks a lot like an upside down chair).

Prepositions

Prepositions are hard in Russian but give me an example of a language where they are easy! The problem with prepositions is they don’t translate from language to language and are somewhat arbitrarily assigned to different verbs. Russian adds a whole new layer of complexity by using cases instead of prepositions (more on this later) which means you really just have to buckle down and study this in Russian (and any other language for that matter). Of course there are a few easy ones like в (into, to, it, at) which you’ll need to express where you live and на (onto to) which is good for describing scenes, but sadly you can’t just stick them into a sentence and expect things to work, as the Russian case system necessitates a few adjustments (more on that later).

Conjugations

English speakers may see conjugations as hard but after learning Romance languages, they become somewhat standard fare and a to be expected step in beginners grammar. Russian has two main verb groups to learn and each one has 6 forms in present tense (but there is only one present tense so forget having to learn both ‘I go’ and ‘I’m going’). The endings for ‘I’ -ю and ‘they’ -ют look somewhat similar but you don’t have to worry about memorizing separate forms for ‘he’ and ‘she’ because they use the same one.

The good thing is, you can rehearse conjugations for a handful of verbs and then pretty much know what you’re doing with the rest of them. There are irregular verbs in Russian but usually their stem tells you all you need to know to conjugate them.

The Case System

I’ve saved the hardest for last and that’s because if you haven’t already met a case system in a foreign language (for example, German), then you may go running in the opposite direction when you understand what it’s all about. Please don’t! It’s hard, but it’s possible to get started without it and learn it when you’re a little more advanced.

Think of it this way, Russian has 6 possible labels you can stick on a sentence: nominative (subject case), accusative (object case), genitive (possessive case), dative (using to + noun), instrumental and prepositional. If you know what kind of sentence you’re using, then you can understand which endings you’re going to need. This is a somewhat over-simplified description of cases (if you want more detail, try this article) but just take it from me, they are hard, they require memorization and fine-tuning and Russian speakers will totally forgive you for messing them up in the beginning.

What makes Russian easy?

Articles

They don’t exist in Russian- hurrah! No worrying about feminine and masculine forms like ‘le’ and ‘la’ or whether it’s ‘the day’ or ‘a day’ because the case system does all that specification for you. Would I rather have articles than the Russian case system? Maybe, but that’s no reason to rain on the article-less parade.

Gender

Unlike in French where you can sometimes spend a few minutes pondering the possible gender of a word, Russian has some pretty clear markers for denoting masculine, feminine and neuter words (with the exception of words that end in ь). Consonants or an й at the end point to masculine, а and я are all feminine and o and e are neuter. Easy-peasy.

Forming Questions

All you need is intonation to ask a question in Russian. How beautifully simple is that? Just stick a question mark at the end of “You speak Russian,” make your voice go up and it becomes “Do you speak Russian?” There’s no fussing about with word order like in English, plus there’s no ‘qu’est-ce que’ which all former French students will be immediately grateful for. The rest of the question words are also straightforward to use.

Making Things Negative

Russians have a two letter solution for negatives and it comes before the verb. You just need не. If you want a more complex negative, to express ‘nothing’ for example, you can just go with the double-negative and stick your не before the verb and ничего after.

No Verb ‘to be’

If you’ve studied Italian then you know hard it can be to decide which form of “to be” you need to use for a given sentence (see our post on stare/essere). Well in Russian it’s easy because you can just skip the verb altogether!

Culture

Some languages can take a little work to get excited about, but with Russian you’re learning a language with one of the most amazing literary traditions on the planet. From poetry to short stories and classic novels, everything opens up to you when you learn the language! They’ll be challenges such as figuring out which character is which given the surplus of nicknames that can come wandering into long Russian novels (and cause mass confusion), but there will never be a lack of decent things to read.  Plus, the country is rich in history, has some great films and ballads like Oчи чёрные or “Dark eyes” that will be impossible to get out of your head.

Summing things up…

Is Russian a hard language to learn? Yes and no. All languages are hard to learn and if it’s your first time studying a second language, you are bound to struggle with the requirements of ‘learning a language’ to begin with. That’s why we have this nifty blog full of helpful hints from applied linguists who study this stuff for a living.

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27/05/2016

Easy as Aleph, Beth, Gimel? Cambridge research explores social context of ancient writing

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via Cambridge University Press

A new University of Cambridge research project is set to shed light on the history of writing in the ancient world, and explore the longlasting relationship between society and writing that persists today.  

A new research project at the University of Cambridge is set to shed light on the history of writing, revealing connections to our modern alphabet that cross cultures and go back thousands of years.

The project, called Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems (CREWS for short), is to focus on exploring how writing developed during the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, and will investigate how different writing systems and the cultures that used them were related to each other.

The project is led by Dr Philippa Steele of the University’s Faculty of Classics. Described as an “innovative and interdisciplinary approach to the history of writing” the CREWS project aims to enrich our understanding of linguistic, cultural and social aspects of the use, borrowing and development of writing in the ancient world – which can uncover some often surprising links to our modern-day written culture.

For instance, today the notion of “alphabetical order” is used to arrange everything from dictionaries to telephone books, but why is the alphabet organised the way it is?

Alphabetical order as we would recognise it first appeared over three thousand years ago in Ugaritic, written in a cuneiform script made of wedge-shaped signs impressed on clay tablets. The Ugaritic alphabet was in use in the ancient city of Ugarit, uncovered at Ras Shamra in modern Syria. Some of the surviving tablets discovered by archaeologists are known as “abecedaria”, where the letters of the alphabet are written in order, possibly for teaching or as a training exercise for new scribes.

The destruction of Ugarit in around 1200 BCE was not the end for alphabetical order. The Phoenicians, living in what is now modern Syria and Lebanon, used the same order for their own alphabet. While their language was related to Ugaritic, their writing system was not. Instead of cuneiform wedge-shapes, the Phoenicians used linear letters, which were much more similar to those we use in English today. The Phoenician alphabet began with the letters Alep, Bet, Gimel, Dalet, which are strikingly similar to our own A, B, C and D.

Dr Steele said: “The links from the ancient past to our alphabet today are no coincidence. The Greeks borrowed the Phoenician writing system and they still kept the same order of signs: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta. They transported the alphabet to Italy, where it was passed on to the Etruscans, and also to the Romans, who still kept the same order: A, B, C, D, which is why our modern alphabet is the way it is today.”

That such an apparently simple idea remained so stable and powerful over thousands of years of cultural change and movement is an historic mystery. “The answer cannot be purely linguistic”, Dr Steele said. “There must have been considerable social importance attached to the idea of the alphabet having a particular order. It matters who was doing the writing and what they were using writing for.”

The origin of the alphabet is just one of the areas that the CREWS project will explore, along with the social and political context of writing, and drivers of language change, literacy and communication. Because of the high level of interconnectedness in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, ideas could be spread widely as people moved, traded and interacted with different cultures.

“Globalisation is not a purely modern phenomenon”, Dr Steele commented. “We might have better technology to pursue it now, but essentially we are engaging in the same activities as our ancestors.” The CREWS project is the result of a long-term innovative programme of combined and comparative research at the University of Cambridge. It will run for five years and will involve a four-person team working on a variety of ancient cultures and writing systems. The CREWS project has been made possible thanks to the European Research Council, who describe their mission as being “to encourage the highest-quality research in Europe.”

Dr Steele, the Principal Investigator on the project and a Senior Research Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge, has worked on ancient languages and writing systems for over ten years and previously specialised in the languages of ancient Cyprus. She said: “Cyprus lies right in the middle of an area where ancient people were moving about by land and sea and swapping technologies and ideas. That was one of the inspirations of the CREWS project. By studying how and what ancient people were writing, we will be able to gain more insight into their interactions with each other in ways that have never been fully understood before.”

The Contexts of and Relations Between Early Writing Systems (CREWS) project will be based at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Classics, a world-leading centre for the study of the ancient world with a track record for innovative and interdisciplinary research. Running from April 2016, it will continue until 2021. - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/easy-as-alep-bet-gimel-cambridge-research-explores-social-context-of-ancient-writing#sthash.d0x8wdOv.dpuf

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18/04/2016

Seven Reasons Why Now Is The Time To Learn Arabic

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via medium.com

By Cameron Bean 

As high school graduates across the U.S. begin to piece together their freshman-year college schedules, very few will pencil in Arabic 101. Meanwhile, the need for Arabic-speaking professionals only continues to grow.

I’m not seeking to dissuade you from pursuing your top major of choice, but rather to convince you to add Arabic training to your course of study. For those interested in fields as diverse as international affairs to business, or from public health to science and engineering, learning Arabic will enable you to improve your career, your community, and your world. The time to get started is now.

1.) Distinguish yourself in the professional world with a high demand language

Given that less than 1 percent of U.S. college students study Arabic — just 32,000 out of 21 million total students — Arabic language skills will separate you from the crowd, no matter your professional field.

In the last 15 years, U.S. government agencies have expressed a much greater need for Arabic speakers to address the complex political, military, and economic questions surrounding U.S. engagement in the Middle East and North Africa.

The government is not the only employer seeking Arabic skills, however. The same trend can be seen in the private and nonprofit sectors as businesses seek to better understand developing markets and organizations work across borders to develop institutions, improve economies, and educate young people. Yet the demand for Arabic-speaking professionals in the U.S. exceeds the supply.

Whether conducting research, negotiating an international agreement, or coordinating with an overseas partner, speaking the language of your counterpart gives you an invaluable advantage.

2.) Gain critical language skills useful in over 20 countries

Languages like Spanish and French allow you to work and travel in dozens of countries around the world, but they are also widely spoken among your peers. Other languages, like Chinese, are in high demand but require spending your entire career focused on one or two countries.

Arabic offers a blend of critical language skills and applicability in over 20 countries with roughly 300 million native speakers. You will develop the skills to live, work, and interact with a more diverse set of countries, allowing you room to shift focus as you progress in your career.

3.) Develop on-the-ground expertise in critically important countries

Few of your peers will gain international experience during their education. Even fewer will experience countries like Jordan, Lebanon, or Morocco — countries where many U.S. organizations have critical interests but lack an understanding of the local context, whether that be infrastructure challenges, different business practices, or complex political relationships.

Knowledge of Arabic paired with an understanding of cultural nuances is more important than ever to successfully navigate the challenges and opportunities of the Middle East and North Africa. Relationship-building is a key skill in the Arab world. Speaking the language without speaking the culture will put you at a disadvantage.

4.) Gain insights into the second largest religion in the world

Islam is the most widespread religion in the Arab world, and it serves as a framework through which many Arabs see the world. Through your study of Arabic, you will pick up knowledge of Islamic traditions and beliefs that will allow you to become a more effective intercultural communicator and develop stronger relationships.

5.) Encourage a greater understanding of Arab culture in the U.S.

In a 2010 Gallup poll, 52 percent of Arab Americans reported that they “personally experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year,” the highest percentage of any religious or ethnic category surveyed. According to a2014 poll, only 32 percent of Americans hold favorable views of Arabs.

By studying Arabic and learning about the culture, you will gain a deeper and more nuanced perspective of the Arabic-speaking world than the typical themes found in U.S. mass media. As you share a more balanced perspective with your family, friends, and peers, you will encourage a greater understanding of Arab culture in U.S. society and more trusting attitudes towards Arab Americans and Arabs living in the U.S.

6.) Act as an ambassador for your country abroad

Although the opinions that Arab countries have of the U.S. are slightly more favorable than in recent years, their opinions often still lean towards the negative.

If you study Arabic abroad or work in the region, you will have daily opportunities to dispel negative misconceptions and promote a positive view of the U.S and American people.7.) Study abroad through scholarship opportunities

Students benefit from scholarship opportunities to study Arabic abroad at little or no cost.

The Critical Language Scholarship Program, Arabic Overseas Language Flagship Program, and the National Security Education Program’s Boren Awards each provide focused, immersive experiences that enable you to reach much higher levels of linguistic and cultural proficiency than is achievable through U.S.-based study alone.

 

 

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