Arabic only gets you so far

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Satellite telephones outside Press Centre.
 

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The more Arabic you know, the more you can escape from the gentle clutch of the Press Centre because you don't need a minder to find your way around and to talk to people.

A lot of educated Iraqis speak English but a lot don't, and the mass of people who didn't go to university speak very little. If you know Arabic, you can strike up chance conversations wherever you go and grab the chance when someone starts opening up.

It's not essential, though, particularly if you know Iraq well and have friends here. This is a country where you can be arrested, tortured and jailed for even unintentionally revealing information considered classified. So people are not going to talk to you, in Arabic, English or any other language, unless they know you and trust you.

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 UN HQ
 Arabic
 Iraqi drivers
 Press Centre
 Rasheed Hotel