Friday, April 07, 2006

More from Qatar

I'm here on holiday in Qatar for a while yet, and it's been great. However, I recently heard (at second-hand) a story I just have to share... Apparently, a teacher came across a kid in her second grade class who somehow hadn't learned to talk. After enquiries, it emerged that the child's parents weren't home much. The father wasn't interested in interacting with babies, and the mother was out working and socializing pretty much all the time. So, of course, the kid was being brought up by the maid... and they had strictly forbidden her from talking to their children, for fear the kids might pick up an uncouth accent or, even worse, a different language!

This may make more sense if you consider the frankly bizarre demographics of this country, one of the world's richest and most multicultural. Of the 576,000 inhabitants over the age of 15, only 110,000 are Qataris (who are well subsidized by the legal requirement of Qatari majority ownership of any businesses formed here, and by the oil money); the rest are expatriates from all over the world (in just these couple of weeks, I've heard or seen Arabic, English, Urdu, Malayalam, Persian, Chinese, Turkish, and Swahili used here). While the Qatari population has a more or less 50:50 sex ratio, the non-Qatari population is 77% male. Among the Qataris, more than twice as many women as men make it through university; male drop-out rates are consistently higher, even in primary school (!) It will be interesting to see how the country copes with this over the coming years.


Paul Davidson said...

Out of curiosity, how suitable would Qatar be as a country to learn Arabic in? It's one of the languages on my "to-do list".

Lameen Souag said...

Probably not ideal - it's simply too easy to speak English here! That said, I think Qatar University runs some courses. The best place to learn Arabic is probably Syria or Jordan.