Sunday, June 19, 2011

Loving the Middle East!

Okay, so, I just discovered something that I had refused to believe for the longest time: colloquial (spoken/informal; "aamia" in Arabic) Arabic is almost nothing like formal Arabic (or standard; "fusha" in Arabic), and it's like an entiiiirely different language! Very few phrases and words, as far as I have learned now, are actually the same or similar :S Most bear no resemblance whatsoever! And who follows grammar rules, lol. It's lovely, though, I have to admit. A teacher of mine who has studied in Egypt and is fluent in both fusha and Egyptian dialect once told us that when he went to Egypt with the CASA program, he was totally lost in Egypt when he found out that the language he'd learned, the Arabic he'd spent three years studying and learning, was actually not spoken anywhere. I'm lucky in that at least I was warned in advance, but my poor teacher said he hadn't even been told that!

So, note to those interested in learning/studying other languages: understand that there's a huge difference between the language that people speak and the one that they write.

I'm also fortunate in that the people here, unlike most of those in Egypt (from what some of the students here have told me), are actually very friendly and understanding, and if they realize that you're speaking fusha with them, they'll teach you how to say what you wanna say in colloquial. In Egypt, I hear, they'll just laugh and say, "Quit it already. That's not Egyptian. Stick to English!" (LOL?! I know!) and they'll just speak English with you. Here, I haven't come across anyone who's like that; in fact, they'll stand there with you the whole time as you struggle with figuring out how to say something, whether in colloquial or formal! And they'll smile so brightly when you finally make it (lol!) and they'll even tell you how beautifully you spoke :D They love it when you talk to them in Arabic! :D Of course. Who wouldn't love hearing their language being learned by foreigners? I love, love, loooove it when a non-Pashtun speaks to me in Pashto, too.

Yeah, so, yesterday, we were touring the  city and went to the university. There, we encountered a few people who had musical instruments with them, and we were like, "We wanna hear you guys play!" We had with us what our program calls a "speaking partner," who is basically our tour guide and all. And so she taught us how to say that in (colloquial Arabic). The guy who agreed to play for us was like, "No English! Ask me in Arabic." And so we asked him in Arabic. Since we're learners, our accent was too English, and so he was like, "No, try again." Since I was taught to read and write Arabic from a veeery young age (something I'm soo grateful for right now!), and since I was taught tajweed rules (i.e., rules of reciting the Qur'an properly) by a teacher who wouldn't let us sleep until our tajweed was perfect, my Arabic speaking skills are pretty strong. It's just grammar at this point that I'm tryina learn desperately 'cause, BY GOD, Arabic is a difficult language! :S Anyway, so my point was that when I spoke up and begged him in the accent he wanted us to talk to him in, he was like, "You're Arab?" And I said, "Na, I'm Pakistani." And he played for us! I didn't record it, but I totally will the next time I see him. (I think chances are high, yeah?)

Moving on to the exciting stuff!! Did you know that this city that I'm in is built on seven hills?! No wonder it's soooo hilly, and in many parts, they even have these loooooooooooong stair cases -- long = over 60 steps, I must say! :S Great way to lose weight for those interested in doing so ... but I'm not one of them. :'(  AND it doesn't help that my hotel room is on the third floor, and even for that, I've to use a loooooot of stairs! Yes, there do exist elevators around here, and in this hotel, too, but unfortunately for sweet innnocent me,  the elevator doesn't stop at exactly my floor. Explaining that will take time, which I don't have at the moment, so that'll have to wait for another time.

Food is sooo good and cheap here!! I mean, roughly speaking, you can get a great meal for a price as low as 2 dinars!!! (I think 1 dinar = 1.8 U.S. dollar) Electrical stuff, though, including mobile-related goods (e.g., phone cards) are not cheap. And texting and long-distance calls are very expensive as well.

So, yeah :D That's all for now, folks! I'll talk about my classes in the next entry -- inshaAllah! Today was our first day. They were mumtastic (haha!! Get it? "Mumtaz" in Arabic = "excellent," "beautiful," "awesome," "great," etc.) I'm growing to love the language more than I did before, and I thought I loved it to the limits before!

k, more later.


  1. Fun fun fun! MashaAllah, you're really lucky picking up colloquial Arabic. I'll take lessons from you some day, inshaAllah.


  2. Ahhh!! Ya habibteee, ya habibteee! Hadha mush mumkinn :o (That's not possible. LOL.) I don't know how much I'll be able to pick up from it, considering how so extremely different they are :| I swear, two different languages! And then we're told that the Moroccan dialect is virtually nothing like the the one I'm learning now :S What am I to do when I go there :'(

    Mush mushkil! (No problem.) I'll teach you what I know, inshaAllah :D I'll teach you fus'ha along with it!

  3. Awww sounds like you're having a wonderful time alhamdulillah! Hehe hilly cities do indeed make for lots of exercise! It's the same in Lyon, France where my bf is from... sooooo many stairs!

  4. So much fun!! I am living through you at the moment, keep bringing the stories! :)

  5. Shukran, shukran, ya ladies! It is great fun!

    Becky, Lyon, France, is gonna have to be on my list of places to visit now ;) Thanks for letting me know about it! :D

    Sarah, so glad you're finding this enjoyable! Have so much more to write but ohhhh the lack of time!! :(


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