Language school expects new demand.
Thursday, October 11, 2001
''Where''s A?" asks Gary Munsinger of his wife Mounia as they sit in an upstairs office off Forest Avenue in Pacific Grove. On a table before them is a chart of the Arabic alphabet. There are 28 letters that look nothing like any of the alphabet that starts with A and ends with Z.
Not only is Arabic immediately indecipherable, it doesn''t follow the same order as any Western language. Arabic is written and read right to left. Books open from the back.
Amid calls for holy war and reports of air raids into Afghanistan, national interest in Islam and the Arab world is jarringly renewed. The Munsingers are looking over a book of Arabic instruction because they''re banking on locals wanting to understand this language.
Mounia who is Moroccan, met Gary when he was visiting a friend in Marrakesh. Gary runs a publishing company here. His conference room was once filled with salespeople selling ads in his computer manuals. With the high tech industry drying up, the room was empty more and more often.
"It was tapering down before Sept. 11, but that put a stop to the whole deal," Gary says.
Through friends who work at the Defense Language Institute, Gary learned that there''s likely to be a whole lot more Arabic students in Monterey soon. Since Mounia is a native Arabic speaker, they decided to open the Arabic Language Institute. After putting out the word two weeks ago, they''ve gotten a half dozen calls. An office is now filled with Arabic language instruction manuals on the bookshelves and Arabic written on the dry erase board.
Mounia, who also speaks French, taught Arabic in Morocco. She just learned English over the past year at the Adult School in Pacific Grove. Her classmates were from countries spread around the globe. In class, they could only communicate in English. "I cannot talk because if I talk, who understands me?" she says.
Arabic is not impossible, Mounia says. "Nothing is hard. It''s all about the student. You must be patient."
The new institute plans to have three classes a day of six or more students. Two other instructors have been brought on in addition to Mounia.
Although it would have been better to begin under more peaceful circumstances, the Munsingers are looking to fill the classroom.
"Hopefully it will grow in time," Gary says.