March 25, 2006

La petit vessie de Chirac

I thought that I would allow myself to quietly gloat about this, but at the advice of a friend, I will laugh my ass off:
PRESIDENT CHIRAC stormed out of the first session of a European Union summit dominated by a row over French nationalism because a fellow Frenchman insisted on speaking English....

When M Seillière, who is an English-educated steel baron, started a presentation to all 25 EU leaders, President Chirac interrupted to ask why he was speaking in English. M Seillière explained: "I'm going to speak in English because that is the language of business."

Without saying another word, President Chirac, who lived in the US as a student and speaks fluent English, walked out, followed by his Foreign, Finance and Europe ministers, leaving the 24 other European leaders stunned. They returned only after M Seilière had finished speaking.

And I would have to agree that this is the best part:
Embarrassed French diplomats tried to explain away the walk-out, saying that their ministers all needed a toilet break at the same time.
Vive l'impérialisme culturel Anglo-Saxon!
Posted by richard at 04:12 PM | Comments (1)

July 07, 2004

Arabic class

Just thought I'd update everyone on my attempt to learn Arabic. Basically I got about as far as I could on my own, listening to the tapes and writing the lessons in the book, and it was starting to get hard without anyone to speak to (and learn vocabulary from).

So last night I started Arabic classes at NYU. I've got two hour-and-fifty-minute classes a week for the next six weeks. I'm a bit ahead of the rest of the class in writing, since I've practiced a bit, but I'm already learning a lot from the speaking and listening exercises.

Hopefully, someday I'll be able to read al-Jazeera in Arabic.

Posted by richard at 04:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 28, 2004

السلام عليكم

I'm in the process of trying to learn Arabic. Should you harbor any illusions otherwise, let me tell you that it is not easy. I'm finally pretty familiar with the alphabet and can read (or at least transliterate) and write very, very slowly. Surprisingly, the right-to-left thing is not as confusing as I thought it would be. On the other hand, the fact that it is an abjad, or writing system with consonants only, makes it very difficult to "sound out" words. Of course in beginner's books and in the Qur'an they do use vowels (marking the letters with little accent-like diacritical marks) but in most writing they don't.

One thing that is fascinating about Arabic is how you literally cannot learn the language without learning about the culture and Islam. Two side benefits: I finally understand why it's so hard to spell Qaddafi and I now know what some people's names mean. For instance, Kareem Abdul Jabbar means "generous servant of the Compeller" where Al-Jabbar (الجبر) is one of the many names for Allah.

It will all be pretty pointless until I get the CDs and learn how to pronounce it. For now, the letter ceyn just scares me because one book alternatively describes it as similar to gagging and "like a bleating lamb, but gentler". The explanation that it is a pharyngal voiced fricative didn't help either.

Oh, in case you're wondering (or your browser doesn't support it), the title of this post is the traditional Arabic greeting, "as-salaamu calaikum" or "peace be with you".

Posted by richard at 03:16 AM | Comments (1)