Saturday, August 6, 2016

You can lead a camel to water, but you can't make her speak Arabic....

Is this sign proof of a language barrier or evidence of someone blatantly ignoring a sign? I would like to think that the perpetrator did not speak Arab or English (or maybe just chose to ignore the sign!)
Finally--the moment all of my devoted readers have all been waiting for: Arabic 101 Lessons. Beofre you get too excited, let me preface this by saying, my Arabic is quite limited. (Just so you can full understand how limited my knowledge is, I bought "Arab for Dummies," and still don't understand the language. I wonder if there is a book called "Arab for Those Who  are Dumber than Dummies"). Despite my language limitations, Arab gives us an essential glimpse into discovering a bit about culture. You might even be a bit surprised to learn that some English words actually trace their origins to Arabic. Some of the words that are directly linked to Arabic are cotton, magazines, alcohol, candy, magazine, sherbert, sofa, zero, and algebra. Interesting, huh?

 So, why learn Arabic? Besides the fact that if you ever find yourself experiencing hunger pangs while  traveling in an Arabic speaking country (which you will--the food is phenomenal!) or need to read street signs, Arabic is the official language of more than 20 countries. (An estimated 300 million people claim Arabic as their native language). Arabic is the language of one of the world's major religions, Islam, and it is the official language of the Qu'ran. Although the Qu'ran has been translated in 100s of languages, it is considered most pure in Arabic, since that is the language which Muhammad received the word of Allah (God). (Muslims believe that the Koran is actually God's word which was given to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel).

At first glance, the alphabet may look a bit daunting to speakers of the Romance languages because it is unfamiliar. It is very different than European languages because it does not use the Latin alphabet. It also is written from right to left, which is quite challenging. However, like many foreign languages, nouns take masculine and feminine forms. For example, when referring to a male teacher, you would say 'mu.dar.ris' but that term changes to mu.dar,ri.sah when referring to a female teacher. Nouns and adjectives must be in agreement, as well, and nouns come before the adjectives.

 I was told that once I memorized the alphabet, learning Arabic would be a breeze. I was even given this handy wheel to help me in my endeavors which would be most useful when trying to spell out words in Arabic.  Arab words are written in cursive. Another fun fact is that Arabic letters, depending on where the letter falls in the word, takes a different form. Every consonant can be written in four different ways depending on its position in a word.  And, if your head isn't spinning yet, to make it even more confusing...there are some consonants that don't have English equivalents. (some of the sounds are unfamiliar like breathing heavily and then making noises like you  have a hairball in your throat. That's not an accurate description, but is the only way I know how to describe it.)
For months, I had to constantly take the wheel from my son and remind him it was not a toy. However, I eventually succumbed to his pleas to play with the wheel when it proved completely useless to me. Th Eventually, I succumbed to his pleas to play with the wheel

Remember, Arabic is written from right to left. .There are vowels and consonants in Arabic words, but the vowels aren't actual letters; rather, they are symbols that are placed on top or below the consonants. The location of their placement, determines the sound it is meant to create in the word. There are 28 consonants in Arabic, but there are some sounds that are not familiar to English speakers (these sounds sound like heavy breathing or like a cat choking on a hairball...Ok, that's not really an accurate depiction, but it's the only way I know how to compare it for you!)

Can you read this sign? Remember, Arabic is read from right to left. 

Some popular Arabic expressions:

Hello (مرحبا) (pronounced (This translates into simply "hello," but it literally means "May peace be upon you)
The most common reply is "And upon you peace." (pronounced wa.a.lay,kum
(I love the sentiment behind this reply!)

My name is (اسمي هو) Is.mi...(Is.mi Nicole) (That seems simple enough!)

Praise to God الحمد لله (pronounced: al.ham.du.lil.lah) (A lot of expressions in Arabic make reference to God because the language actually evolved from the writings of the Qu'ran.
So, how is this expression used? Well, even though the phrase has religious connotations, it can be used quite casually and can be used after completing a simple task (I have started using it after I finish folding the loads of laundry that consistently accumulate in my house). It can also be an appropriate response when  someone asks you how you are doing (كيف هي احوالك)--Praise to God: I'm well."

God willing (مشيئة الله) (pronounced in.sha.'a al.lah) This expression is used when someone asks about a future event (I hope so, if God wishes it.) So, if someone asks you, "Are you going to work on Monday?" You answer "God willing."

Excellent ممتاز (pronounced: mum.tahz) (I love this expression!! I used it all the time because this is really the only thing I knew how to say!)

I am going to leave you with some interesting translations of Arabic signs into English.....Stay tuned for next blog post when I share some images and history of Sultan Qaboos!

Sometimes we can lose meaning in translation...I am not sure what exactly this company is selling!

Beauty supplies for women

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