Dec 22, 2004

Why I Blog

Seventeen years is a long time I suppose. I have been over in this part of the world now for seventeen years. In the time I have been here I have learned a lot, a lot that up until recently I thought had little to no real value in today's world. How wrong I was.

I am often asked at times how long it took me to become fluent in the local language here. It is often asked "off the cuff" and often times meant to be implied as some sort of barometer to gauge my expertise in the local dialect. My typical response has always been that Im not fluent and will never be, but that I am always learning.

I don't think it is ever possible to be truly fluent in another language and that is because one's linguistic abilty is always subjective. One tends to always compare their abilty based on their native tongue. You might find me fluent in another language, the native speakers in my host country might feel I am fluent, but I never feel it.

What I have developed over the years however is something much more valuable than a mere linguistic abilty and often times overlooked, and that is an abilty to truly empathize and understand intimately the mentality of my host country and it's subjects.

The reason for the importance and significance is because both of these abilties are "learned abilities" as opposed to the concepts of loyalty and allegiance which are not. John Walker Lindh was not able to infiltrate into the inner circles of Al Qaeda because of his linguistic abilities. He was able to infiltrate and gain the trust of Al Qaeda because of his loyalty and allegiance.

It is not only an outrage, but shameful and irresponsible that our government's intelligence agencies place more importance on one's linguistic abilities above one's loyalty. Sure people are being caught, like Ahmed Mehalba and countless others, but how many have not been caught and are still providing vital classified information to our enemies? This is our country's national security we are talking about. Why is it taken so lightly? Let me assure you that a simple abilty to speak Arabic is not going to get you into the inner circle of Al Qaeda.

Like many of you here, I became quite active politically so to speak after 9/11. I found myself actively participating in the plethora of forums, blogs and websites that sprouted up afterwards wanting to share what expertise I had and to somehow contribute where I could. At times I either found my voice being completely drowned out in the white noise of the blogosphere or I have unwittingly managed to engage myself in an endless debate with "Bob" from Hoboken, New Jersey on the subtle nuances of the Indonesian and Malay dialects only to find out later that Bob has never left Hoboken in his entire life.

Thanks for hearing me out. Hopefully you will bookmark me and stop in later. We have a lot to talk about. And if you see Ann Coulter, ask her to stop by and if you see Michelle Malkin ask her to be polite and answer my email.


  1. I just wanted to say that I agree with your concept of always learning a language. I thin we can apply that to our native tongue as well.

  2. Larry - Congrats on the 1000th hit. I've been busy this week; I'll read/write more when I get a free chance.

  3. Anonymous5:52 AM

    Hello Dear Friend:
    Your brilliant comprehension of all things considered is remarkable.
    Thomas, New Orleans

  4. I'm in complete agreement. Linguistic skills alone are worthless. Maybe one could even argue that if you are not able to appreciate and empathisize with the culture habitated by the language, then you don't truly know the language at all.

    Cheers from Bahrain!

  5. bradley9:23 PM

    Just a quick note: I have a podcast by people that have immigrated or expatriated.

    The point is to find the broadest range of voices possible; someone to/from every continent on the world. Please consider contributing to the podcast. Contributors write 4 articles per year, 2-3 pages each (10-15 minutes of audio). Check out the website, if you'd like! (We're also available on Apple's iTunes).

    Expats usually know other expats, so pass on the word if you know anyone who's a great/eclectic writer!


  6. bradley9:24 PM

    oops! my email and website were cut off...


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