After just short weeks in Chad its evident that my French isn't sufficient to communicate with the people here in Chad. In meetings at hospitals, with government officials, military, NGOs, restaurants, taxi drivers I have found that maybe half of the people spoke French and maybe 5% of the people spoke English. If they did speak English, few could get beyond the nice pleasantries and discuss things in detail. Books and articles in Chad state that French is spoken by the elite, and I found that to be true in Senegal as well but in Dakar most people spoke Wolof and French. In N'Djamena it seems that the more common lingua franca here is Arabic, followed by a local language, then French. My Portuguese is absolutely worthless here.
Given that Arabic is the language that counts here, I would like to learn it. However, I haven't found anything like an Arabic Institute where one could take classes. The local dialect of Arabic is Chadian Arabic, which is closely related to Sudanese Arabic and similar to Nigerian Arabic but different the Egyptian Arabic which is used to dub most foreign films into Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is also different than Saudi or Eastern Arabic. In my searches online for Arabic listening and learning tapes I have found claims that Moroccan Arabic is close to Chadian Arabic so I will try to order some Moroccan Arabic phrase books and listening tapes (like Pimsleur and Instant Immersion).
I'll try to get my associates to speak Arabic with me and teach me some phrases but it won't be the same as hiring a teacher. Please let me know if you can put me in contact with a good Arabic teacher in N'Djamena!