Arabic is not an easy language. The alphabet is the least of worries. It is more of a problem that there are a dozen sounds that do not occur in any European language. but hardest of all is the huge vocabulary. The old joke has it that every word in Arabic means itself, its opposite and something to do with a camel. After I had been struggling for twelve years, I met a white father in Tunis, an elderly schoar called, I think de Meersman. He told me: 'Don't worry, the first fifteen years are the worst'. I think he was right; it did eventually get easier.
My second language was medieval and Modern Hebrew. I wanted to learn a second Semitic language for comparison, and I was persuaded that by doing modern Hebrew I would be able to see the evolution of the language through three thousand years. In fact it was a disappointment, as modern Hebrew seemed to be completely Europeanized and had lost its strong Semitic features. But what nobody told me in 1959 was how Israel had been created. It was only 11 years since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and there was total silence on the subject. When I read the history I felt I never wanted to visit Israel as long as Palestinian rights were trampled on. I think I have lost more sleep over the situation in the once-Holy Land than over anything else.
Between finishing my Arabic degree and starting forestry, I started and abandoned a PhD on modern Arabic literature. To get out of my scholarship without empty hands, I translated an Arabic novel. What became of my translation is quite a story. I attach two or three articles about it.