Friday, July 6, 2012

Arabic is Easy


So every Arab country has turned Modern Standard Arabic (fusha) into its own indistinguishable-even-to-one-another spoken language.   Every Arab still reads, writes and attends plays wrapped in fusha.  Nouns, verbs, adjectives - it's all just lines on a page.  Put 'em together you got an alphabet.  Mix those alef-bah-tahs up, you got words.  Send 'em out to the world and boom: conversation.

Arabic doesn't use capital letters or is.  How hard could it be?

Every word in Arabic (there are well over a billion) has a unique singular and plural combination of letters, each with its own male, female and dual (ie, two) forms.  Present and past tense verbs are conjugated by adding and removing prefixes and suffixes like a speed-dating runway model.  There are (at least) 12 pronouns - first, second and third person; male, female, male and female, dual.  And numbers? (Copied from my workbook): 
    ·         numbers 1 and 2 after noun!
    ·         from number 3 onwards all numbers before noun!
    ·         If the noun is masculine the number is feminine!
    ·         If the noun is feminine the number is masculine!
    ·         This is valid for the numbers 3-10 as well as for all higher numbers
    ·         In consequence the units of the numbers above 10 take the opposite gender to the noun

Each of the 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet has three shapes, depending upon whether it appears at the beginning, middle or end of a word.  There are special letters to indicate no sound.  Only beginning Arabic readers use vowels (harakat).  "You figure out what the word is and how to pronounce it from how it's used in the sentence," explains a teacher.  She shrugs.  "Or ask someone."

no harakat

An American says, "Hi." Arabic speakers say "Salaam alaykum wo rahmahoo Allahi wo barakaatoo."

Every greeting has a special, often lengthier response.   Because, whether entertaining or speaking, "It's important to give more," says a teacher. 

Instead of aunt or uncle, Arabs say my mother's sister, your father's sister, her mother's brother, their father's brother, his mother's father, our mother's mother, my father's father, our father's mother (and so on).

Okay, so Arabic isn't easy and I titled this blog just to get your attention.  Truth is learning Arabic is kind of like driving in Doha:  blazing fast with words speeding along outside your field of vision, on the sidewalk, cutting across fields, squeezing in where there are no lanes and tickets issued for breaking invisible rules.

light traffic at 6am
Of course, I'm just a beginner - hoarding harakat like a baby with her blanky.

"This class is very easy," says my wonderful, patient, unflappable teacher, Doctor Menal.  "Next level - it is very hard.  Long sentences, small print, many words."

Okay. I'm game. As long as they don't take away my vowels.


Katie said...

That sounds crazy hard! Good job mom!!

Anonymous said...

well, well! It appears to be a thing geared to keep your nose to the grindstone. How do you judge your progress at this point?

Anonymous said...

Yow! And I thought German was hard... I agree with Kate, GOOD JOB! BTW, your "no harakat" picture isn't loading. :) Love AK

Anonymous said...

Oops, I guess I needed to refresh. The picture loaded this time... :)

Anonymous said...

HUH? Karen

Lucinda H. Kennaley said...

Huh? Cindi :)

Lucinda H. Kennaley said...

Really GREAT!!! Except for all the vocabulary. Oh, and the grammar. And the conjugating is a little iffy too. Since every Arab country speaks its own Arabic, I suggested we make up our own dialect. Instead we got homework. :)

Lucinda H. Kennaley said...

It's all hard! :) Good job, Kay!

Lucinda H. Kennaley said...

As I understand it, it will take FIVE CLASSES (2-5 split into two, so 2A and 2B, 3A, 3B, etc, hmmm, which is really NINE classes, isn't it?) just to get all the GRAMMAR in. Someone will ask, "why do you..." and Doctor Menal will say, "oh, you're not ready for that." or "That's too hard for you." Intimidation or incentive? What do you think? :)

Lucinda H. Kennaley said...


Anonymous said...

Say What? - That sounds very Arabic(Greek)to me!! but interesting...

Anonymous said...

oh yah! Anonymous Diane