The Curzons are currently resident in Dubai, and the question that appears as the title of this post has just come up. Curzon’s son, currently aged about 30 months, is attending an international nursery, and will have the option to learn Arabic starting next week. I am somewhat conflicted on this and thought I would share my thoughts with ComingAnarchy readers, to hear various opinions.
The pros and cons of him engaging in this are:
* Arabic is an important language, one of the UN’s six languages, and used across a large part of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
* The Middle East region will continue to be an important source of hyrocarbons and world energy supplies throughout his life.
* The Arabic writing system is used across Africa and Eurasia (even if it has been on the decline for the past two centuries), making it an excellent foundation to study other languages such as Farsi and Urdu.
* Lord Curzon has been dispatched to the Middle East for a period of 2-3 years, and I am almost one year into that secondment. We will probably be here until 2012 or 2013 or so, which gives my son several formative years to learn the language.
* My son may be too young to benefit from the experience.
* He is already coping with two languages and should be bilingual in English and Japanese, two languages that are both very difficult and very different from each other. It would be different if we were in a European country with a similar alphabet and with grammar and/or vocabulary simialar to English. Arabic introduces yet another completely different language, with an entirely different script.
* When we leave the Middle East, he may not have any opportunities to use it and could quickly forget anything he learns.
* We are in Dubai — English is the lingua franca, with surprisingly few opportunities to use Arabic. My workplace is 1% Emirati, 1% Sudanese, 1% Moroccan, 3% Saudi, and 3% Lebanese — less than 10% of the office is Arab. So despite what you might think, there are few opportunities to use it outside of the classroom.