In Layan Charara’s article “Language – the tool of oppression” she condemns those in her Arabic language class for wishing to join the U.S. State Department. It’s quite baffling to me why one would object to diplomats — people whose job is to communicate with other countries — learning the native language.

While I agree with Charara that awareness of the misuse of language in politics is essential, she seems to be unaware of her ironic use of stock political phrases in place of actual evidence or argument. The article is filled with the type of meaningless clichés George Orwell railed against in his 1946 “Politics and the English language:” “clarion call,” “inherently imperialistic endeavor,” “breeding people of privilege,” “commodification of language.” I feel like I’ve just won a game of progressive jargon bingo.

The language requirement in the college of LSA is there for a reason. If Charara really does see the next Donald Rumsfeld sitting across from her, isn’t it a good thing that the potential imperialist is learning about the native language and culture from dedicated teachers? What’s the alternative — no one in the diplomatic corps or law enforcement that can communicate with an Arabic speaker? I side with Orwell: “language is an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.”

Robert Havey is a 2009 alum.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.