Top Secret: The Crossing Into the Unknown

I want to highlight two relatively unknown but extraordinary 2008 episodes from the Al-Jazeera program “Top Secret” ( سري للغاية). These are excellent resources for Arabic students, especially those who are studying Arabic as part of the career objectives in government or the military.

Investigative journalist Yousri Fouda snuck into Syria at the heart of the uprising against US soldiers in Iraq and interviewed rebels, the subject of Part One. The second part covers more of Al-Qaeda’s broader plans in the Levant and interviews a variety of policy makers in Lebanon and Syria, as well as Jihadis and their sympathizers.

What Should Arabic Students Focus On? 

#1 – Note the narration in Fusha whereas most of the speakers use a variety of Levantine dialects. You are on the edge of your seat for 90 minutes weaving in and out of different dialects.  Seeing those variations in action is invaluable for students.

#2 –  The unusual nature of the conversation. How often do you hear detailed discussions of this kind of thing? If you are already broadly familiar with these themes and the issues, you can make obvious vocabulary associations.  You may not know the Arabic per se, but if you can guess the themes because of background knowledge of the topic, you can advance your language skills by association.

#3 – The transcripts. See Part One and Two.  If this is the kind of topic that interests you, watch the documentary standalone.  Then read the transcript.  Watch the documentary again. Repeat. If round one you “get” 50%, round two you get 60%, keep going until you reach 100%.

#4 – A suggested goal: If you reach a point where you become an “expert” on the Arabic in this program, in the sense that you understand every single line, and can explain any point to someone who doesn’t, you would have an extremely strong grasp of this topic in Arabic.   That’s a clear benchmark reachable by anyone.

Part One: 

Part Two: 

Do you know Arabic students who might benefit from this post? If so – don’t hesitate to share on relevant social media feeds. 


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