Unconventional Arabic Language Resources, Vol. 1

1950s DLI students sit riveted by another mind-blowing Arabic lesson.

In the military, within the language analyst community (government speak for ‘translator’), there is a phrase that sends shivers down the spines of most service-members. The phrase is… “language maintenance.” It makes the language retention process sound as interesting and thrilling as changing a car’s oil, which is probably why most military “language maintenance” materials are so damned boring. From my experience, most materials consisted of either a written article from Al Jazeera or BBC Arabic, or a 2-3 minute audio passage from the same sources. Bilateral trade agreements! Weather reports! The Joy! Now, these sorts of materials are certainly important – especially since the DLPT draws almost exclusively from them – but they can become stale very quickly, especially at the higher levels. It’s also understandable that since the personnel tasked with putting together materials for language maintenance are swamped with a million other tasks, they naturally reach for the same resources time and again. In that regards, I thought I’d list a few places where you can find Arabic Language materials that are both authentic and engaging.

Disclaimer: I like Arabic, but I love Iraq and Iraqi Arabic. As such, you’ll probably notice a certain bias towards materials related to Iraq. You just got to deal with it, yo. Also, most of these materials are probably in the 2+ and higher range of the ILR scale. If you aren’t there yet, you might not get as much out of these.

1. The Harmony Program Documents from West Point’s Countering Terrorism Center
These documents are probably some of the most unique documents of their kind on the internet. Documents captured from insurgents and terrorists across Iraq and Afghanistan were made available by the US Military to researchers at West Point’s CTC under the agreement that they were allowed to be publicly published. It doesn’t get more “real” than this. Want to read the letter that al-Qa’ida’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sent to the former leader of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? What about the form that al-Qa’ida required its soldiers to fill out if they were quitting jihad in Iraq? There are tons of different documents that you can pore over; all of them interesting and historical. The best part of all, however, is that every single Arabic Language document has an English translation accessible by clicking the “View English Translation” button in the upper right corner of the page. It not only provides a word-for-word translation, but adds context and background history on the who/what/where/when/why of each document. You almost don’t need your trusty Hans Wehr!

2. Baghdad TED Talks
Yeah, you read that right. Official TED talks… in Arabic… from Baghdad. This is actually very, very recent (last week). The footage isn’t actually up on the official site just yet, but you can still watch a replay of the livestream here.

3. Iraqiyah Confessions
These are pretty wild; there isn’t really any correlation to this practice on mainstream American TV. Basically, some of the most “infamous” of Iraqi terrorists and insurgents that are rounded up by US/Iraqi Forces are brought on TV for dramatic one-on-one mea culpas where they detail their sordid jihadi ways. One of the lengthiest interviews is one done with Munaf al-Rawi, the so-called “Wali of Baghdad,” who led al-Qa’ida in Iraq’s Baghdad operations and who was captured back in 2010 and sentenced to death this March. The entire interview can be found conveniently pieced together on my youtube playlist. There’s plenty more out there. I should note, some people might find it repulsive to dedicate 30-40 minutes listening to a terrorist talk, but I think most people will see the value. Maybe I’ll post a transcript some day for the non-Arab speaking folks out there?

4. al-Jazeera Sports
I have a theory that sometimes the best thing to do on certain days is just put on some Arabic in the background and let your mind absorb and work with the Arabic passively. Don’t worry about looking up words, don’t mess with trying to understand everything, just get in that messy stream of Arabic and let it wash over you like a warm shower. That’s right. And, in my opinion, the best way to do that is to put al-Jazeera Sports on. They generally have soccer (football lol) on at some point during the day and it’s super easy to just pull it up and watch some soccer for 30 minutes. This method is even more beneficial if you follow American sports, as a lot of the chatter between broadcasters is the same so it is fairly easy to figure out what they are chatting about after a while. al-Jazeera Sports streams live from this website. Enjoy!

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 27 Jan 2010


(Intro Music)

(00:11) Hello.

(00:13) The international meeting to determine how to best support Yemen and stabilize the country started today in London. The American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, arrived in London today to participate in the meeting that is being attended by 24 countries.

(00:32) In other news, the Washington Post newspaper quoted American officials who said that American teams were working in secret operations with the Yemeni Army against the al-Qa’ida organization. The officials clarified that American advisors helped plan an operation against al-Qa’ida in December of last year.

(00:51) The United Nation’s sections committee announced today that the names of five previous members of the Taliban were scratched off a list of those described as involved with terrorism. Diplomats believe that this step paves the way for the conference in London on Afghan affairs that will be held tomorrow.

(01:10) The official (1m) in Sri Lanka announced that the current President Mahinda Rajapaksa won a second (presidential) term. The (Sri Lankan) army surrounded the headquarters of the opposition leader for the second time. (The opposition leader) requested the protection of one of the neighboring countries.

(01:25) The spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Unity spoke about the country’s stance in the face of Pyongyang’s decision to implement a “no-sail” zone in a contested area between the two countries, saying that it was “still under review.” Pyongyang and Seoul had exchanged fire the previous day in the contested area.

(01:46) An official in the Lebanese army said that they will expand the search area for the remains of the wrecked Ethiopian airline if the black box is not found today. The official said that improving weather conditions will help further facilitate the (search) teams’ mission.

(02:04) Until next time…

(Exit Music)

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 26 January 2010

(Intro Music)

(00:11) Hello, and welcome to this news summary.

(00:13) Iraqi Police said that at least 17 people were killed and another 80 injured in a car bomb explosion in front of the Criminal Forensics building belonging to the Ministry of Interior in downtown Baghdad. They added that most of the victims were members of the Police.

(00:31) The office of ‘Abd-al-Malik al-Huthi reported that his group completed its withdrawal from Saudi Arabian lands, while the spokesmen for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense has already said that the al-Huthis had already been pushed back by (the Saudis) from the land that they had taken.

(00:47) Lebanese authorities (announced) that hopes had diminished of finding passengers that survived the crash of an Ethiopian plane shortly after takeoff from the Beirut airport two days ago. Officials from the Civil Defense (force) indicated that the efforts are now focused on finding the bodies of the passengers as well as the black box recorder.

(01:08) The summit for countries neighboring Afghanistan began its activities today in the city of Istanbul, Turkey, with the participation by the Presidents of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The summit is dealing with how best the summit’s participants can provide solutions to Afghanistan’s problems, as well as building bridges of cooperation between its neighboring countries.

(01:28) A French Parliamentary Committee called for a ban on the Niqab (Islamic head covering) in transportation offices and areas, nationwide. The committee’s report states that the Niqab displays a rebellion against the republic and freedom. The French Minister of Justice warned against a ban on the Niqab, and (he said) that there was no way to enforce it.

(01:50) Thus ends the summary, until next time…

(Exit Music)

NFTR//
DMD

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 25 January 2010

(Intro Music)

(00:11) Hello.

(00:13) The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines said that he hasn’t heard any news yet about survivors from the crash of one of its passenger airplanes early yesterday morning after its takeoff from Beirut airport. There were 90 passengers on board. Rescue teams have so far recovered 30 bodies and numerous (1m) from the airplane’s wreckage. 54 Lebanese were among the passengers, along with 22 Ethiopians and the wife of the French Ambassador in Beirut.

(00:44) The Lebanese President, Michel Sulayman, has already held a meeting at the Ministry of Defense to look into the circumstances surrounding the airplane crash and ruled out any sort of act of sabotage. Likewise the Lebanese Minister of Defense, Elias Murr, confirmed that American planes would participate in the rescue operations, with permission from the Lebanese (Government).

(01:03) The American General, Stanley McCrystal, Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that he hopes that the increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan will lead to the weakening of the Taliban to the point that it will sign a peace treaty and end the war.

(01:25) Five soldiers were injured in an attack on a military checkpoint in the province of al-Dhaliya’ in Yemen, which the authorities said was launched by armed fighters from the “Harak al-Janubi” (Southern Movement) Elsewhere, 3 students were injured, one seriously, in an outbreak of gunfire by the Southern Movement’s forces which it said was accidental and unintentional, whereas the authorities said that it was the result of the Southern Movement’s attempts to force students to participate in the insurrection that the Southern Movement has called for.

(01:55) Preparations continue in Sri Lanka for tomorrow’s Presidential election, and ballot boxes began to be distributed to voting centers country-wide. The current President, Makinda Rajapaksa, and the former commander of the Army, Sarath Fonseka, are among the most prominent of the candidates in this election.

(02:17) Until next time…

(Exit Music)

NFTR//
DMD

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 15 January, 2010

(Intro Music)

(00:11) Greetings.

(00:13) al-Jazeera’s special team in Haiti reports that donations for the victims flooded into the capital of Port-Au-Prince on Thursday, in the aftermath of the devestating earthquake. He added that most people are living in the street or protecting their (1m), and that the bodies of the deceased have begun to decompose. In this regard, the Red Cross in Haiti has reported that it expects the number of victims from the earthquake to reach 50,000.

(00:40) The People’s Movement to Liberate Sudan nominated the Deputy Secretary of the movement, Yasrah ‘Uman, for the presidential elections that have been set for this coming April. Likewise, the movement nominated it’s President, Sethakir Iyardat, the current Deputy for ‘Umar al-Bashir, for the presidency of southern Sudan, which is the position that he currently holds.

(01:01) A (human) rights organization that 138 people were killed and 344 others injured during clashes in Somalia over the past two weeks.

(01:15) A European Parliament delegation of 50 members representing 12 countries is headed from Cairo to the Rafah border crossing to enter the Gaza strip in the framework of the popular campaign in Europe to raise the blockade on Gaza and express (their) solidarity with the Palestinian people.

(01:35) Various areas around the world will see a partial solar eclipse, said by scientists to be the longest (such) eclipse in 3,000 years. Many people have gathered in Western and Eastern Africa, the Middle East, and different countries in Asia to witness this phenomonan, where the moon comes in front of the sun without completely covering it from view.

(01:57) Russia has said that it has clashes with what it describes as an Islamic revolution in neighboring Georgia, has led to strikes launched against Shishan and neighboring areas.

(02:09) Until next time…

(Exit Music)

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 14 January, 2010

(Intro Music)

(00:11) Greetings.

(00:12) The American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, expects the number of victims from the earthquake in Haiti will be extremely high, similar to the aftermath of the tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean in 2004, killing 230,000 people. Clinton’s statements came a few hours after the Haitian President expressed his fear that the number killed in the earthquake that struck his country could be in the hundreds of thousands.

(00:41) Qatar has announced that it’s sending humanitarian aid to Haiti. An airplane took off from Doha International Airport transporting medicine, medical and first-aid supplies, as well as food supplies.

(00:53) The Afghan Police said that 15 civilians and a police officer were killed by an explosion in an overcrowded market in the Rosghan region, south of Kabul.

(01:07) An al-Jazeera correspondent in Islamabad relates from a military source that 18 people were killed and 14 others injured by UAV drone strike on a gathering in Waziristan believed to have been carried out by American (forces). It is not clear yet whether or not the Taliban leader in Pakistan, Hakim Allah Mahsud, was killed or injured in (the strike), or if he escaped the area before the attack.

(01:35) Thousands of Iranians participated in the funeral of the nuclear scientist, Mas’ud ‘Ali al-Muhammadi, who was assassinated last Tuesday by a bomb hidden in a motorcycle near his residence in northern Tehran.

(01:51) Religious scholars in Yemen have established a call to jihad in the event the country is subjected to what they describe as an aggressor or invasion. They announced their rejection of any security or military interference (in Yemen), as well as the establishment of any (foreign) bases on Yemeni soil or it’s regional waters.

(02:09) Until next time…

(Exit Music)

NFTR//
DMD

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 13 January, 2010

(Intro Music)

(00:13) Newsman: Greetings.

(00:15) An earthquake with a strength of 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the Haitian peninsula in the Caribbean Sea has led to the destruction of vast areas and many buildings. It’s been reported that there could be up to thousands killed (still) under the rubble of the collapsed buildings. Already, governments from countries around the world have announced (their intent) to deliver hasty support to supply to the victims of (this disaster).

(00:39) An al-Jazeera correspondent in Yemen reports from the Shabwa province that a (person) named ‘Abdullah Mahdhar, leader of an al-Qa’ida cell in the area of al-Hawta, was killed in clashes with Yemeni security forces in the southern Shabwa province.

(00:53) Riyadh announced officially that the President of Syria, Bashar al-Asad, will visit the Kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) today, and will take part in talks with the Saudi family, and the King ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abd-al-‘Aziz. The discussions between the two sides will revolve around bilateral relations in addition to regional and national issues.

(01:11) Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, apologized for his conduct with the Turkish Ambassador. He said that the foreign embassies were not amongst his opponents. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had criticized the statements of the Israeli Foreign Ministry as disgracing Turkey in the latest (1m), and Israel promised that it would respond appropriately.

(01:36) In Beirut, the seventh annual conference of the International al-Quds Foundation began with the participation of associations of scientists, intellectuals, and politics. The conference will be discussing issues and developments in al-Quds(Jurusalem) and a number of steps to preserve it’s Arabic and Islamic character.

(01:53) The International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in Afghanistan said that two American soldiers were killed this morning in an IED detonation in the southern part of the country. Meanwhile, the United Nations said that this past year was the deadliest for civilians since 2001.

(02:14) Until next time…

(Exit Music)

NFTR//
DMD