Sunday, October 16, 2005


Today's Washington Post has couple of interesting articles about the Arabic language.

The Foreign Service classifies language ability into five levels, with "1" being the lowest (able to handle only the very simplest social situations) and "5" the highest (a level rarely assigned to anyone but a native speaker).


No responsible person would ask a 3 to speak before an unfriendly crowd at the local university (or at the embassy gates), much less put a 3 in front of a television camera and expect a clear, engaging and cogent discussion of U.S. Middle East policy in Arabic. For that you need a 4, and preferably a 4+ or a 5. So how many of these 4 and 5 level speakers do we have in Arabic? As of August 2004 -- 27. At the highest levels (4+ and 5), we have a grand total of eight individuals worldwide. (emphasis added)

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