If Arabic language had a Facebook account, and if we were friends there, our relationship status would be “it’s complicated”.
It’s a really bad kind of Monday for me today, as I got sick from all the possible sides, and it sucks! But I assume that it is not the reason to skip a day of blogging, so here I am broadcasting from my comfortable bed. But definitely I am quite upset, down and hungry too, therefore I can’t produce anything cheerful and bright. My post will be tough, but super realistic, in other words, it will be about my complicated relations with Arabic language, the official language of Lebanon. You have no idea how unstable and uncertain this guy is! If you think that we are still fresh with each other, then you are wrong. Our acquaintance had happened way before I moved to Lebanon.
First, our family had relatives in Syria, so we used to spend a lot of summers there. My mum, the main witness of the start of my relations with Arabic language, always told me that I could perfectly speak it playing with Syrian kids. I honestly didn’t remember that, but mum seemed to be a convenient person to trust on that. Later on, when I was a teen, I could definitely understand most of things in Arabic, but never spoke it as our main language in Syria was always English.
Second, my major in university was called Oriental studies which included Arabic language as well. That’s why I knew the letters and could read/write, but it wasn’t easy, because the grammar skills had to be perfect to be able to read. As a torture for all non-Arabs, the written language consists of only consonants, while vowels depend on the grammatical form of the word and its context in the sentence. So if you didn’t work on your Arabic grammar well enough, then don’t expect to be able to read a single phrase.
Now let me introduce my excuses for this awful level of connection with the language which I am supposed to know well (sobbing).
Arabic is a tricky and shady guy. The language of TV, newspapers and literature is called fus7a or classical, and nobody uses it while speaking. Each Arabic country has its own dialect called 3amma or spoken language (by the way, there are 22 Arab countries in the world!). As the result, Lebanese and Syrians do have pretty same dialect, but lexically it differs considerably. Lebanese pronunciation is fancier, people use a lot of French words and sometimes half of the sentence appears in French. Or a simple example of numbers, I don’t know why, but all the numbers are always in French! In other words, what I learnt in Syria or in university and what I hear daily in Lebanon are almost three different languages. Confusing!!!
Another problem is that I live in Armenian family. The family is wonderful and amazing, but they speak in Armenian 90% of time. I don’t blame them at all because this is the habit they got used to. Also since the first time we met, we started to talk in English, so now it is hard to switch to Arabic for all of us emotionally and psychologically.
English language, together with French is actively used in Lebanon. Higher education is usually in one of these languages, not in Arabic. The language of business is English as well. But still, no one hires a person who doesn’t speak Arabic. And people talk in Lebanese accent way more than in English or French, no matter what. That is why I do want to master it! But so far I am just like a smart dog, who understands what people say, but cannot speak.
I know that all the excuses are lame. I perfectly realize that if my English wasn’t good enough, I would have forced myself to speak Arabic. It’s the question of self-motivation and laziness. I just have to make a step forward and forget my shyness. And I promise I will make that step soon! Because I want to end this battle! I want to make tabbouleh, not war (Arabic saying).
P.S.: Eid Mubarak to Muslims all over the world! Let your life be blessed!