Something else that amuses me is the number of people who think they can learn Arabic in a few months. It's come up more often since September 11th. Learning Arabic seems like a sure way to a job. People pack up and go to Cairo or start taking classes at some university, thinking that in a few short months, they will be translating documents for the government.
It doesn't work that way. Arabic is not a quick language to learn. First, you have to decide what type of Arabic you want to study. Qur'anic? Probably not, unless you're a devout Muslim. Modern Standard? That could be a good choice, since it's the language used in the newspapers and is widely understood, if rather formal. But it's not a particularly friendly version of the language, and the grammar rules might kill you. Most Arabs don't even know how to speak formal Arabic correctly.
Or do you want to learn one of the dialects? The grammar isn't nearly as strict, and everyone would be able to understand you- at least in the area where that dialect is spoken. Egyptian is handy, since there are many Egyptians and most movies are produced in Egypt. Many Arabs understand Egyptian Arabic. A dialect could be worth learning if you know the specific country you want to focus on.
One of my friends who studied Arabic with me works for the State Department. She also took Arabic for 3 years in college and spent 9 months in Egypt and Palestine studying Arabic. Still, the SD had to send her to an intensive program in Egypt for a full year to study Arabic. Her vocabulary doubled in that time. Even after the first 3 years of study, she was not ready to help the government much. I wouldn't even attempt to get a job with Arabic; I've had the three years and time in the Middle East my friend had.
Even people who've studied Arabic for 20 years have trouble. An Arabic professor was giving a talk in Morocco in Arabic. He had spent most of his time in Jordan. He used an Arabic expression that in Jordan was very positive- wishing blessings on the hearers or some such thing. However, he didn't know that particular expression had a completely opposite meaning in Morocco. The audience was not impressed.
No wonder the government wished for more native Arabic speakers.