Skip to comments.English Impatience: Iraqis Rush to Learn American
Posted on 07/29/2003 10:11:57 AM PDT by ellery
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Sitting at a rickety desk with only a ceiling fan to cool Baghdad's searing summer air, Sajida hopes learning English will help her talk to the U.S. soldiers she sees as saviors.
It could also save her life.
She and the four other students in her beginners' English conversation class at Baghdad's Mamoun language institute are trying to gain an upper hand in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq -- where the streets are largely ruled by U.S. soldiers.
Few soldiers have a command of Arabic and misunderstandings have been blamed for more than one fatal checkpoint shooting.
But Sajida has other aims in learning a language she feels will open up a world previously closed to her by Saddam.
"If I have any information about Fedayeen or Saddam's followers, I must tell them. We must make friends with the Americans. I see them as angels. I call them God's army," said Sajida, a Shi'ite Muslim who says her two brothers were killed by Saddam.
"Saddam destroyed all our lives. We just want a new start."
Language institutes in Baghdad shut their doors during the U.S.-led war that ousted Saddam in April. But students are trickling back, demanding to learn American English, and fast.
Iraqi English teacher Dhia' Saadallah prefers a British accent, but says that's not the popular choice. "I teach them American English. What can I do? They want it," he said.
At Mamoun, around three dozen students hope the barely audible decades-old language tapes they are using will help win them jobs at U.S. companies they expect to pour into Iraq.
"Saddam Hussein made us backward," one student said. "We didn't learn the computer. We didn't learn English language very good."
NOT ALL PEACHY
Asked if they feel anything other than gratitude toward U.S.-led troops who have occupied Iraq for more than three months, the students clam up and avert their eyes.
But when pressed, they say they are less than satisfied though keen to get along.
"The electricity is not very good. The water is not good," said Jaafar, a student trained as a maths teacher who said he was denied work under Saddam.
"We have not seen anything from the United States of what they promised," he said. "I want to help them help me."
U.S. troops have been battling to restore order to Iraq, where attacks have killed 50 soldiers since President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1.
Iraqis complain the Americans have not done enough to restore basic services and security to the capital, where only half the phone lines work and power outages occur daily.
Teachers say privately that students complain about the Americans, and that lack of security was scaring away students.
"We want security to be restored so there is a better atmosphere for learning," said Muhammad Majed Abdel-Wahab, director of the rival Mansour language institute.
He said student numbers were still lower than before the war, but students were more "zealous" about learning English.
Teachers said they expected demand to surge in the next four to five months as ordinary Iraqis realized the Americans could be in Iraq for a long stay. They were also eyeing a new market.
"I think in the future, Americans may even ask for the Arabic language," Mamoun director Ali Sabour said.
GACK! From Reuters?!??!!? New low temps in hell.
Things have changed!!!!
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I hope she said that in private and this isnt her real name... Hells army might hang her from a light pole.
"Hey, they're not saying anything bad about the US. Quick....ask them a question that makes the troops/US look bad. We may have to beat it out of them, but we'll get our quote."
Do they mean English?
Oh noooo... the English police... we ain't gonna be saying the wrong lingo now is we?
Do they mean English?
Learn American, eh?
My Mom was teaching communications (they weren't allowed to call it English) at a Vo-Tech school in the late '70's. There was a Vietnamese that had escaped by boat and had come to the US who asked her one day if she knew of anyone that could give him a daily ride to the school so he did not have to walk the five miles from his house. She told him to post an ad on the bulletin board and see if he could find someone that way.
Two weeks later she inquired whether he had been successful in finding a ride to school.
"Yes, I found a man with a very nice car" he replied.
"How did you find him?" my Mom inquired.
"He saw my ad and he axed me!"
Really? What exactly did we promise? Removal of a tyrannical regime is the main one I recall. And I'd say there's a check in that box, for sure.
Do they mean English?
When I was an exchange student in France, I had to explain many times that there is no "American" language and that we speak English. Apparently, this is a common misperception not only in France, but in other countries as well.
It would be amusing to think of Americans as expert in Arabic. it would be more amusing if while everyone is learning English, the Americans adopt Arabic. We must throw off the language of our oppressors. Dump English! Too much fun.
Hmmmmmm.... I can't see the day when all international airports require Farsi as the primary language.