Monolinguals on the move – multilinguals stuck in detention

Must-read post by Dennis Baron over at the Web of Language! A US university student who majors in Middle Eastern Studies was detained at Philadelphia Airport for carrying Arabic language learning flashcards. Apparently, the poor soul tried to catch up on some homework on his way back to his college. The list of hapless travelers who were arbitrarily detained at US airports last year also includes a guy wearing a T-shirt with a bilingual slogan and an Orthodox Jew praying in Hebrew.

Apparently, the freedom to try and learn languages other than English is not one of the freedoms they enjoy so much in The Land of the Free …

Author Ingrid Piller

Dr Ingrid Piller is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Ingrid’s research expertise is in the fields of intercultural communication, bilingual education and the sociolinguistics of language learning and multilingualism in the contexts of migration and globalization.

More posts by Ingrid Piller
  • Vahid

    A friend of mine was also detained at an airport in the US about two years ago for a couple of hours apparently because he had an arabic Allah engarved on his necklace!!!

    Perhaps “the Free” in “the Land of the Free” refers to the airport police officers who are free to do whatever they like to the poor passengers!!!