How good of an idea would it be for me to practice my Arabic on a flight?

As I’ve mentioned a few times now, I’ll be heading to DC in a few weeks for a weekend. Being that I’ll be travelling the first week of school, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of reading to do (because I have 14 books for three classes! Of course, that is a rant for another time). That said, I’ve dedicated the summer to (starting) learning Arabic. I’ve got a computer program, a fancy book, a notebook for practicing, etc. and so forth.

The other day I realized that I might want to take my Arabic stuff with me for my airport/ flight down time. It then hit me that this may not be such a wise decision.

The logical part of me says: self, there’s nothing wrong with someone reading a book about and practicing a foreign language. No one would give me a second look if it were French or Spanish. Why should this be any different?

Of course, I little further critical thinking makes me realize that people are less than logical in post 9-11 America- especially in airports. What if someone gets worried, contacts the flight people, and I get pulled aside/miss my plane/get searched?

So, I ask you, dearest Dopers: would it be a wise decision for me to practice my Arabic on a flight? (I should note that at this point, I probably wont just because I’ll have school books and another book will just weigh me down; frankly, I’m just curious what y’all think).

The logical side of me would have to say that if you were planning on bringing down the plane, isn’t it a bit late to be brushing up on your language skills?

I would actually be less concerned about someone trying to learn Arabic on the plane. Clearly they plan on being around awhile.

Ahh, but a particularly paranoid fellow traveler may not see ‘Student of Arabic Language’, but instead, ‘Stranger huddled over laptop computer, muttering to themselves in Arabic’. If DiosaBellissima happens to have dark skin, it could soon me flight marshal and fighter escort time. Stupider things have happened. The dark skin remark may get me some flame, but don’t tell me your average Paranoid Fellow traveler doesn’t racially profile. I have no idea what DiosaBellissima’s complexion is, actually.

But really, probably nothing untoward would happen.

No worries about your comments from me, The Sonoran Lizard King. Although what you said might be inflammatory to some, I think it’s a valid point. A pretty little pale skinned, freckled, strawberry-blonde hair havin’ girl probably wont face the same problems (in re: to this issue) as the large, dark skinned man in a turban.

I am actually a fairly dark-skinned lil white girl. In fact, on several occasions I’ve had people ask me if I’m at least part Middle Eastern (or black, which is strange because, ya know, I’m not that tanned). Here in CA, no one can ever guess what I am, but back East most people can peg me properly as Italian.

In 1975 I saw an American opera singer (forgot his name) perform with the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom Music Center. He told an anecdote about flying to Europe while practicing phonetic Russian pronunciation for his part in Prince Igor or something. The woman next to him seemed nervous to hear him talking in Russian and asked him what he was doing. So he put on an accent and said Madame, I am a spy! :stuck_out_tongue:

If I were in a similar situation, I would expect to be hassled somewhat about the book, no matter how innocent my intentions. I wouldn’t take the book or practice speaking Arabic simply because flying nowadays is enough of a hassle already.

كيف تكون أنت يتمّ :wink:

The obligatory “how you doin?”

Stupider things have happened quite recently: this fellow was told he couldn’t board a plane at JFK while he was wearing a t-shirt with a message in Arabic script.

If you do decide to practice your Arabic in the airport, sadly I think you should be prepared to get hassled for it. You shouldn’t have to choose between your freedom to partake of a harmless activity and an expedient flight, but these are not rational times.

How would you feel if you were sitting next to a guy in the same plane (perhaps a Navy SEAL) reading, “How To Make A Bomb With Fertilizer.”?

Ha! You’d fit right in on Hanover Street in Boston, but in an airport or on a plane? Speaking some foreign-sounding gibberish? With a book about some Ay-rabber stuff? Hell, yeh, the paranoidly vigilant would mark you down for a Middle Eastern terrorist just like those Palestinian women who’ve gone suicide-bombing.


Hmmmmmmm… You SURE you’re not Palestinian?


I think you should do it. And if they hassle you, contact the ACLU.

Honestly, I’d be annoyed if some guy sitting next to me were practicing Spanish, French, or any other language. Flying is already a big enough pain in the ass with the security, the small seats, and the close quarters I don’t need somebody mumbling to himself from Little Rock to Sacramento sitting next to me.


I dont think anybody will be upset with you for studying a book of Arabic grammar…

But in the confined space of a plane, if you start mumbling to yourself in weird guttural sounds, it doesnt really matter what language you’re using—you’re gonna get somebody pissed off at you.

Dio, don’t do it.

There was a story in the news a year ago or so. It was about a Japanese tourist flying into the USA. He was practicing English words with the aid of an English newspaper. This was shortly after 9/11, so the papers were full with words like " bomb" and " plane" .
Our Japanese guy wrote a few of those words on a scrap of paper and muttered them to himself to memorize them.

An hysteric passenger in the same row alarmed an equally hysteric flight attendant. Both didn’t even consider how unlikely it was that an Japanese guy would mutter to himself about bombs, if he was actually planning an attack. They just put " foreigner" together with “bomb” and made the plane turn around. The airport police came and got our Japanese guy for questioning. Result: thousands of dollars of damage and a plane full of delayed passengers.

Study something else instead.

Johanna , too funny! Unfortunately, I don’t think such a response wouldn’t garnish me anything but glares (best case) or a nice cavity search (worse case, clearly).

Cuckoorex, you actually articulated your point in a way that exactly mirrors my thoughts. I know it’s a fully innocent activity, yet I also have the sense to realize this world ain’t what it used to.

Mr. Rosewater, that was smooth. Damned smooth. I wouldn’t even know how to post in another typeset on here, let alone do so flirtaciously. So, the best I can do is: fiiine.

Orbifold, wow! I suppose it might not help that I have a tattoo in Arabic? I’m definitely going to wear long pants and cover that up (it’s on my ankle). You know, I’m sure it’s been said and thought by everyone else, but the xenophobia of it all just really hit me. The fact that a man can’t even wear a shirt in another language without getting hassled. . . sheesh.

DMark, is the guy clearly military? I suppose I wouldn’t care then. Hell, I’d probably ask him about it (I’m nerdy and like learning new things anyway). If he gave me that, “Creepy dude that wants to eat my arteries, only after blowing up a federal building vibe” I might say something. But even then, I’m not sure my 'vibe" would be enough. He’s probably have to do some crazy-guy ramblings before I’d report him.

Along those same lines- when I flew last summer, I was seated next to a guy that was pretty quiet. At one point, he bumped into me and his coat fell open. He apologized, but as I looked down, I noticed he had a gun. I gave him a sort of, “What the fuck dude?” look. He put his fingers to his lips (telling me to be quiet) and showed me his ID. He was an air marshall. So, even an actual gun wont elicit a scream out of me.

EddyTeddyFreddy , Iranian. Shhhhhh.

NinjaChick, see, part of me is like, “Oh fuck them! It’s my right! Fuck them all! I’ll show them!” Of course, the other part of me is like, “You know, I’d really like to get to Washington on time.”

MGibson, it should be noted that I wouldn’t be mumbling to myself at all. I’m actually practicing writing and stuff first. So, I’d likely just have out an Arabic book and a notepad, writing down letters and small words. No mumbling at all :slight_smile: .

Maastricht, wow! Yeah, like I said in the OP, I probably wasn’t going to do it anyway. Of course, at this point, I’m definitely not going to.
It’s good to know that I wasn’t just being nutty in my thoughts that it might not be a good idea. I wonder if me having my tattoo showing would cause me any problems? Most people don’t even notice it, so probably not. At the same time, there’s no accounting for hysterical midwesterners :smiley: .

I dare you to write notes in Arabic in the margins of the in-flight magazines.