Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ordered to Learn English

This is from BBC News: Americas. If I were living in the USA, I might think that is a good thing. Living here in Kuwait, speaking some Arabic, pretty laughably, I shudder to think what could happen here. . .. guess I’ll have to stay out of the Kuwait courts, insh’allah.

Judge orders men to learn English

A judge in the US state of Pennsylvania has ordered three Spanish-speaking men to learn English or go to jail.

The trio, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery, were told they could remain on parole if they studied English and got full-time jobs.

Judge Peter Olszewski said the unusual sentence was supposed to help the men. They will serve their full jail terms if they fail an English test in a year.

Lawyers for the three said they had not yet decided whether they would appeal.

You can read the rest of the news article HERE.

So I am curious. If you are Kuwaiti, what do you think about the fact that about 50% of your population (the not Kuwaiti part) doesn’t speak Arabic, the native tongue in Kuwait.

If you are an expat, if you had to learn Arabic, would you continue to work here?

March 28, 2008 - Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, Kuwait, Language, Living Conditions, News


  1. This is a good example how good intentions may turn to illegal actions. Judges are not here to invent the law. Of course, any judge, as any other person, may be engaged in humanitarian work, but not while on duty and using public resources.

    Comment by Milan | March 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. I would LOVE it if they threaten me with jail if I dont start learning another language!! God, *scratches head* I would probably start with French and Farsi, then for my second lawsuit I would go for Hebrew and Mandarin.

    and about your question, I will answer on behalf of my family members and friends that only speak arabic:
    I never heard them complain about communicating with “expats”, its true that its harder sometimes for the older people (like grandmother and such)but theres always that improvised on-the-go sign language 🙂

    Comment by Typical Kuwaitia | March 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. Good point, Milan. On the other hand, these guys were conspiring to commit robbery. Maybe if they want to stay in the US they will have a better chance for legal lucrative employment if they learn to speak English.

    Typical Kuwaitia – I like your attitude. And you already speak (at least) two languages fluently, I am guessing, Arabic and English. (?)

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 28, 2008 | Reply

  4. Well thats a good move in my opinion, helps the obtain decent jobs and stay out of trouble. Most non-english speaking immigrants turn to crime because they can’t hold jobs which require English!

    I’d love to have a local judge order me to learn Arabic, I’m a disgrace in my family because of my weak Arabic lol. 😛

    Comment by Я | March 28, 2008 | Reply

  5. First why would you be in a place if you don’t even make a effort to know the basic survival knowledge ofthe native language? When i first came to Kuwait i started with the ‘ bad language’ as for me if you want to learn a new language learn the bad words first …

    Comment by GreY | March 28, 2008 | Reply

  6. I think out of respect for the place they are going to work/liv in people should learn at least the basics of the language of the country. Imagine living somewhere and not knowing simple phrases.

    Comment by Chirp | March 28, 2008 | Reply

  7. Odd how it’s part of a punishment… and I’d think it would be hard to uphold on appeal – provided the defendants have money for that kind of legal action! Personally, I wish everyone who moved to the US took the time to learn the language. Ironically, China is soon to be (if not already) the largest English speaking population in the world.
    I think I’ll just stay here in Texas… I can speak hick pretty well. 🙂

    Comment by Lofter | March 29, 2008 | Reply

  8. I’m with you, Khalti – I have extremely mixed feelings about this ruling. I can see the judge’s desire to help: I’m guessing that he believes they turned to robbery because their employment options were so limited, and that learning English will help them by addressing the source of their problems (while a jail sentence will do nothing).

    On the other hand, plenty of people have come to the US and done just fine with limited or even no English skills – including 200 years of immigrants. And I don’t like the way this ruling might feed into conservatives’ push to make English the official language of the United States.

    As for applying this case to the Gulf or even the Levant: I’m not sure its totally applicable. People who come to the US to work can become citizens, and English while not required does help them move from resident to citizen. People who come to this part of the world remain foreigners, regardless of their language skills.

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | March 29, 2008 | Reply

  9. Я, are you serious? Like your English is SO good I would have bet you have a native English speaking parent, but why do you say you don’t speak good Arabic? I see you post in Arabic?

    Chirp – you are right. And I can tell you that most of the time, when I greet someone in Arabic, they answer me in English. So we have these entire conversations where the English speaker is speaking Arabic and the Arabic speaker is speaking English – how hilarious is that?

    Lofter – I wish Americans had mandatory second and third language classes like the rest of the world does. We are an embarrassment overseas.

    good point, Little Diamond – the Gulf is different. And yet, I think even the man sweeping garbage off the street would be happier if he spoke a little Arabic and a little English. His life would be easier.

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 29, 2008 | Reply

  10. LOL! True… we are an embarrassment here, too! But the people keep on comin’ anyway, huh. I’ve never been overseas, and don’t have any desire to go, so I suppose I can just remain an embarrassment at home to those who love me! 😀

    Comment by Lofter | March 29, 2008 | Reply

  11. Yep I’m serious. English was the dominant lingo here, I speak Arabic but any Kuwaiti can tell that it’s not that good. As for the Arabic posts, those are my brother’s…now he’s excellent in both languages.

    Comment by Я | March 29, 2008 | Reply

  12. Touche’ Lofter, you’ve made a good point. 🙂

    How funny, Я. I have to admire anyone whose second language is good enough for them to go to university in their second language, not their first. Do you ever get back to P-cola?

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 29, 2008 | Reply

  13. My father used to make it a point to speak to people who worked at places frequented by Kuwaitis in Arabic. I thought it was him being obnoxious at the time, since he can easily communicate in English.(A lot of times we’d get inferior service because of that.)

    I’m starting to understand it know. It’s annoying to me that people who work at starbucks get frustrated when the customer is ordering in Arabic and try to speak English back to them.

    I don’t think everyone needs to learn Arabic to live here. Although, I think it’s a matter of respect. I get annoyed by companies who employ non-Arabic speaking people to fill jobs that require interaction with people who may not speak English.

    Comment by G.E&B | March 29, 2008 | Reply

  14. I don’t speak much Arabic, but I am glad I speak some, and I am glad it is all religious and respectful. But it’s funny, GE&B, you never now when speaking with Kuwaitis; some will only speak English, I think they are trying to put me at ease, and some appreciate my attempts to speak Arabic.

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 30, 2008 | Reply

  15. Actually nope never got back there again. I originally lived in TN, NC, CO & IN…then came back to Q8 for awhile..and P-Cola was just a visit during my college days at FL. 🙂

    Comment by Я | March 30, 2008 | Reply

  16. Я, why does your comment not link back to your blog? Really loved your most recent entry, it was very clear.

    What?? Florida? as in Gainesville? (gasp! falls over in a faint! Son and DIL both FSU!)

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 30, 2008 | Reply

  17. I’ve tried real hard to learn and communicate in Arabic for the past 32 years that I’ve been in Kuwait and I am ashamed to say I never did progress beyond ” hada”, ” hadi”, ” cham hada” and ” Hadi Mumnoo”.
    It helps if you have an Arab partner though who will only speak to you in chaste Arabic all the while you are with him in Kuwait.

    Comment by Pardon my Kuwaiti | March 30, 2008 | Reply

  18. I have no clue why it doesn’t link back..I’m pretty much ignorant when it comes to technical details involving the blog lol..

    hahahaha..FSU! Welllll I went to Valencia C.C. in Winterpark, Orlando…used to live right down the street from UCF 😉

    While the older bro was in NAS P-Cola, I used to go there alot (6 hr drive!)…was considering Uni. Western Fl. for awhile

    Comment by Я | March 30, 2008 | Reply

  19. LLoooLLL, BL, and you using the word “chaste!”

    Я, I’m just glad you’re not a Gator! 😉 And very glad to see you back on the blogging scene with a ROAR. Now . . . about those family stories, Я. You’ve got a book in the making. What a great novel, two pirate Grandfathers.

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 31, 2008 | Reply

  20. On a side note, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if authorities in the Emirates very soon decided to order expats and nationals alike to learn Belarus and Russian in keeping with the demographic dynamics there.

    Comment by Bas Ya Diabetes | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  21. I have heard it is a kind of Russian Riviera developing there! And how do you do that, how do you keep shifting your IP address?

    Comment by intlxpatr | April 2, 2008 | Reply

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