12 letters in 12 minutes

The second most spoken language in Windsor is not French or Italian, but Arabic.

In the Windsor area, 236,000 people cited English as their mother tongue in the 2016 census, compared to 230,845 in 2011. Also in the 2016 census, 13,580 people called their mother tongue Arabic, up from 10,515 in 2011. In 2016, 9,570 people said French was their mother tongue, slightly down from the 10,560 in 2011.

The next most common language in the Windsor area is Italian, spoken by 8,615 Windsor residents in 2016, compared to 9,715 in 2011.

In general, European languages lost ground in Windsor, with the exception of Spanish, while Arabic and Asian languages grew. The trend points to an increasingly multicultural community in Windsor, often billed as the fourth most ethnically diverse city in Canada.

Census shows Arabic second biggest language in Windsor area“, Windsor Star, Craig Pearson, August 4, 2017

Not far from where I live are a cluster of businesses of the Wyandotte Town Centre that I believe are largely Lebanese but if I interrogate myself, I would have to admit that I would not be able to back up why I think this is so. There is a lot of Arabic on the windows of these businesses. To my eyes, Arabic script looks beautiful but utterly and absolutely inscrutable.

At least I thought so until I spent a mere 12 minutes watching this video of Rami Ismail teaching half the Arabic alphabet to the audience at the 2015 XOXO Festival.

I cannot recall a time when I went from stupid ignorance to dim understanding in such a short time. If there is a word for mental whiplash, that’s what I felt. 

Rami is a game developer and he knows that there are many reasons why it is so important that games get language right.

Arabic is not inscrutable. It is nothing to be afraid of. It is the language of many of our neighbours.

Spare 12 minutes. You’ll be amazed what you can learn. If you watch the above video, you will have more understanding of the Arabic language than at least one multi-million dollar company.