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!

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Al Jazeera: Bush confesses to torturing prisoners

http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/D704AE2F-30F9-47FE-AF19-8D5DCA909729.htm?

Khalid Shaykh Muhammad is accused of being the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

The Washington Post reported that former American President, George Bush, confessed in his memoir that he gave permission to members from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to use waterboarding in the interrogation of Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, a Pakistani who was accused of being the mastermind of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Human rights experts told the paper that Bush’s confessions regarding his authorization of torture, made in his upcoming memoir that will be released next week, opened up the possibility of him being prosecuted, in principle, despite the small chance of that happening.

The Washington Post added that in his memoir, Bush confessed that he personally authorized the use of different torture methods and techniques against Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, and he was prepared to take the same measures against other detainees to save American lives.

The paper claimed that an unnamed individual close to Bush mentioned that he read the book and said that Bush said “Yes” to members of the Central Intelligence Agency when they asked him if they were able to use waterboarding in the interrogation of Khalid Shaykh Muhammad.

Saving Americans

The paper explained that Bush, in his book “Decision Points”, said that Khalid Shaykh [Muhammad], who was accused of planning the attacks on 9/11, possessed a lot of critical information regarding terrorist attacks against the United States that were still in the planning stages.

America’s [current] president, Barack Obama, along with Attorney General Eric Holder, have already described the technique [of waterboarding] that Bush’s administration introduced during the “War on Terror” as a torture technique.

Feelings of drowning

The torture technique of waterboarding is done by continuously pouring water over the mouth and nose of those being tortured, while they are shackled with their head covered with a wet rag, pointed towards the floor, and they feel as if they are drowning, moment by moment.

In the same book, the former American president starts off his memoir talking about his personal problems with alcohol abuse and addiction during his younger days, before he was “born again” and began following the teachings of “the savior” as taught by the evangelist church when he was around 40 years old.

Despite Bush’s insistence that he had recovered from his addictions, rumors continued to hound him even after he took the helm of the presidency, indicating that the man in the White House might have truly broke with his old addiction. What is certainly true though is that Bush never lost the “language” of addiction, such as when he described the United States, in one of his famous speeches as president, as “a nation addicted to oil.”

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)

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Al Jazeera: 18 killed in new explosion in Baghdad

http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/B32F96E6-B23F-4E39-B4F4-EB317271F673.htm

Smoke rises from the Investigations and Criminal Justice building.

This morning 18 people were killed and another 80 injured in a car bomb attack targeting the Iraqi Ministry of Interior’s Directorate of Investigations and Criminal Justice in Hayy al-Karada in downtown Baghdad.

Sources within the Iraqi Police said that a number of the victims were from their ranks, and they indicated that the Directorate’s building collapsed due to the explosion.

The sources added that the body count is expected to rise, especially since the targeted building normally has a large amount of people (in it) at that time.

A rescue team has already been successful at extracting a number of injured from the rubble of the building that had tens of employees in it before it collapsed.

From his point of view, a photographer belonging to the Reuters news agency said that ambulances and civil defense vehicles rushed to the scene of the incident, adding that the building had suffered vast damage.

It’s worth mentioning that Baghdad had witnessed a new string of car bombings yesterday despite intensified security measures. (The attacks) targeted three hotels and resulted in 36 dead and 71 wounded.

The two attacks came on the same day that the Iraqi Government announced the execution of ‘Ali Husayn al-Majid, the previous Iraqi Minister of Defense and cousin of the late Iraqi President, Saddam Husayn.

Likewise, these attacks also came just a few weeks before the Iraqi elections set for this coming March 7th and could represent a blow for Nuri al-Maliki’s government, according to observers.

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Al Jazeera: al-Huthi announces an initiative to end fighting

http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/F058CFDD-1850-49CC-BBFE-0FF840FFE911.htm

al-Huthis accuse Saudi Arabia's army of advancing into Yemen.

The leader of the al-Huthi group, ‘Abd-al-Malik Badr al-Din al-Huthi, announced a “withdrawal from all Saudi locations,” in a new initiative that he said was the third (try) to put out the crisis’ fuse as well as the clashes on the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

al-Huthi said in a voice recording released on one of the websites, “We announce our carrying out of a full withdrawal from all Saudi positions and from all land that is under control of the Saudi regime, and emphasize that our seizure of those locations was completely necessary in order to combat the enemies coming from there.”

Likewise, al-Huthi threatened to open what he called multiple new battlefields, and all out war, in the event that Saudi Arabia continues its operations and refuses the initiative.

On this point he said, “If after this initiative the Saudi regime continues its aggression it will find that it has commenced an invasion into our lands, and this will give us the right to open multiple new battlefields and launch an all out war. This is what will happen if it’s aggressions continue after this initiative.”

al-Huthi (also noted) that he believes that the civilians have suffered the most in this war, and he accused the Saudi Forces of what he calls indiscriminate bombing of the cities and villages, and all aspects of civilized life.

He also said that the initiative comes about to spare the blood of Saudis and Yemenis, and indicated that the al-Huthi’s operations didn’t target Saudi soil, and in that context he (described) what he called attempts to distance Yemenis from the border and form a buffer area.

Likewise, he believes that there is no justification for Saudi Arabia in this war, and described his initiative as a valuable opportunity, “That should be appreciated by all reasonable people in the Kingdom (of Saudi Arabia),” as he put it.

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Al Jazeera: Tens dead in explosions in Baghdad

http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/4B22413C-5847-4034-BF58-96967DA48275.htm

A huge noise and a heavy cloud of smoke in the aftermath of the explosion.
Reuters news agency quoted police sources who confirmed that 36 people were killed, and at least 71 injured in three simultaneous explosions that rocked the center of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in an area that includes a number of big hotels near the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The three explosions, which security sources said were carried out by car bombs, came minutes apart with the first occurring around 15:30 in the afternoon (12:30 GMT). An extremely massive reverberation was heard and clouds of dust and smoke were able to be seen in the sky.

The explosions were carried out at the peak of rush hour when employees are leaving their offices and when the streets are packed with cars and people.

The first explosion was located in Hayy Abu Nawwas near the Palestine and Sheraton hotels, and the other explosions were located at the Babil and Hamra’ hotels that are frequented by foreign journalists.

Cement blast walls collapsed on the ground.
Massive Damage

The images broadcast live from the scene by local television stations of the location of the explosion showed the cement blast walls collapsed on the ground and many cars completely destroyed.

These explosions come two months before the parliamentary elections despite the strengthening of security procedures in Baghdad after the explosions last August that were named “Black Wednesday” or “Bloody Wednesday”.

106 were killed and 600 wounded in a massive explosion aimed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance last August 19th.

Another 153 were killed and 500 wounded on October 25th in two explosions targeting the Ministry of Justice and the Baghdad Governor’s Office.

Most recently, on December 8th, 127 were killed and 448 were wounded in five successive explosions.

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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)

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Dar al-Hayat: 3 Yemeni Soldiers killed in Shabwa by bullets from armed fighters of al-Qa’ida

http://international.daralhayat.com/internationalarticle/101000

Sana’ – Faysal Mukaram

At least three soldiers were killed and two others belonging to the Central Yemeni security forces were injured in the province of Shabwa (In the eastern part of the country), by armed fighters believed to be members of the “al-Qa’ida” organization in Yemen. In the early hours of yesterday morning, they attacked one of the military positions in the ‘Amashiya area of the ‘Atuq district (Around 600 kilometers from Sana’), and then ran away.

Local sources said that the attack might have been a response to security operations that have lately targeted “al-Qa’ida” in Shabwa and a number of provinces, and the authorities continue their pursuit of the organization’s members.

In the southern province of Lahaj witnesses confirmed to “al-Hayat” that tens of armed fighters belonging to “al-Harak al-Janubi” looted businesses, lit them on fire, and cut off the main highway connecting the province with the capital, Sana’, and the neighboring province of ‘Adin. (These acts) forced businessmen, particularly those who have come down from the northern provinces, to close their shops down and flee the province.

The neighboring province of al-Dhalia’ witnessed clashes between demonstrators belonging to “al-Harak al-Janubi” and police (forces) which arrested tens of the (demonstrators) after they blocked off the main highway leading to Sana’ and raised flags opposing (national) unity. At the same time, armed fighters in the demonstration seized three members of (Yemen’s) security forces, who they later released after (the three captured soldiers) confirmed that they were from the southern provinces.

On another front, in regards to the battle in Sa’da’, witnesses indicated that violent fighting has been going on since dawn of yesterday between the Army’s forces, supported by volunteers from tribes (al-Jaysh al-Sha’bi), and al-Huthi insurgents, especially in the entrances to the old district.

In the latest news, local sources indicated that the army has possibly wiped out a number of the positions that had been in the hands of the al-Huthis, due to the damage to their positions along the Buni Sufyan area and the foiling of their attempts to infiltrate near the Tibba al-Burka (area.)

Note: The “Harak al-Janubi”, or “Southern Movement” is a secessionist movement in Southern Yemen that is distinctly separate from the al-Huthi rebellion in the north and al-Qa’ida’s country-wide presence. For more information, follow these links:
http://www.isim.nl/files/review_22/review_22-50.pdf
http://www.criticalthreats.org/yemen/yemens-southern-challenge-background-rising-threat-secessionism

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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: Amman investigates the bombing of an Israeli convoy

http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/8A8F3BEE-BB27-4B46-A8A5-0E15C3C4DF5F.htm

Jordanian bomb squad members inspect the site where a bomb targeted a convoy of cars from the Israeli Embassy in Amman, Jordan.

Jordan declined to comment on reports that a “terrorist” group was behind the bombing that targeted two diplomatic vehicle belonging to the Israeli embassy that were leaving Amman on Thursday.

Nabil al-Sharif, the Minister of Media and Communications Affairs said that his government will announce the results of the investigations when they are finished, refusing to disclose any other details related to the explosion or the type of explosives used in it.

Earlier, Nabil had explained in a report that an IED exploded along the side of the road which led to a depression (in the road) near Na’ur as some civilian vehicles passed, including the two Israeli diplomatic vehicles. He added that the attack didn’t result in any damage or injuries.

Targeting the Ambassador

al-Jazeera correspondents in Amman said that the Israeli Ambassador’s car was targeted in the attack that occurred as it was crossing the al-Malik Husayn bridge.

Yasir Abu Halaal clarified that the Israeli Ambassador travels amongst extreme security measures by the Jordanian side and the the ambassador’s car is armored.

On it’s side, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Embassy, Mirav Hursanbi, said that Jordan opened up an investigation into the incident. The Israeli TV station, Channel 2, said that the two cars were on their way from the embassy in Amman back to Israel, but that the ambassador, Dani Nevo wasn’t amongst their riders.

The channel added that the passengers were “Diplomats and personal guards,” indicating that the convoy continued it’s trip and one of the two cars received light damages.

Eyewitnesses said that security measures were intensified around the (Israeli) embassy and the Ambassador’s residence, after the attack that was the first on an Israeli target (in Jordan) in a number of years.

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