Category Archives: arabic

Language as culture

Check out this article in The Economist on language as part of culture. I found the example of kitaab vs. sefer (book in Arabic and Hebrew) fascinating, especially with respect to the author’s speculation on the divergence of the nouns, given the closeness of the verb “to write” in the two languages (katab/katav).

(originally posted over at LJ)

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The Syrian Bride

I watched a very good movie last night, The Syrian Bride. Set in the Golan Heights, it follows the fictional wedding day of a Druze woman who is marrying by arrangement a Syrian cousin. Once she crosses into Syria, though, she will never be permitted to return.

The small scale dramas are all about her family: her sister Amal, who is trapped in an unhappy arranged marriage; her brother Marwan, a very slick guy engaged in “business” (I assume smuggling or something black/grey market); her brother Hattem, who married a Russian woman and was disowned; and her father Hammed, a political dissent recently released from prison, who is caught between the political/religious elders, Israeli security, and his family.

The larger issues are political, of course. Israeli bureaucrats create a special stamp just for Mona’s passport, which the Syrian border guards cannot by law accept because of the dispute about the ownership/nationality of the Golan. The UN person is utterly frustrated by the attempt to be an intermediary between the two, ultimately abandoning the situation in order to catch her flight home to France. So Mona is left sitting in no man’s land, not permitted to go back home (her passport had been stamped with the exit stamp already, you see) but not allowed to enter Syria.

The dialogue varied between Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, English and French. Sadly, I grasped much more of the scant Russian dialogue with my defunct Russian than I did of the Arabic. Most of the Arabic I caught was numbers, greetings, nouns and verbs; just words, random shards of dialogue.

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Who knew?

Blogger is now available in Arabic. Who knew? I’m not ready for that, though, since I’m still pretty much stalled at simple sentences.

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So far behind

It’s been too long between classes and my laziness has caught up with me. I’m so far behind and floundering in this next class that I probably would’ve been better to repeat the last one before moving on. Ouch.

Random information: watched The Kingdom last week. Not really impressed with the movie as a whole. Could catch numbers and a few words in Arabic — greetings, thanks, etc. Was very impressed by Ashraf Barhoum.

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Menu items

Had dinner at Zaytinya last night. Review at my regular LJ. Cool thing? On the regular menu, the items are listed in English and in Arabic script. Enjoyed sounding the words out.

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Is there a theme?

The Spanish Word of the Day emails seem to get caught in my spam filter, so I’ll go without then get a week’s worth all at once. Must’ve been a theme, because I got the following in quick succession this morning:

  • quechua — the most widely spoken indigenous language of South America; in school I was forever confusing quechua with Mayan quiché (k’iche’). Hmm, I did not know that one of the words it bestowed upon Spanish and English was la cocaína.
  • euskera — Basque language
  • catalán — didn’t realize this was spoken in Sardinia, must learn more.

I didn’t see emails for galego, aranés, or asturianu, though.

Arabic IV starts next week. I’m feeling quite unprepared since I was a total slacker all fall. Must dust off the books.

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Absentee blogger

I haven’t had much to say on the language front lately. My section of Arabic IV was cancelled due to lack of enrollment…but when I tried to register for the other section, it was full. Apparently, even though one section was full, they wouldn’t keep a second section because there weren’t enough students to fill that one as well. Okay. So I’m studying on my own, which I find to be not very good. I can read the book and learn the vocabulary and listen to the discs, but it isn’t the same as interacting with an instructor and classmates and native speakers. Must figure out some alternative.

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Oh no!

I was excited to pack my dictionary and text book this morning (despite the fact that they weigh many pounds and must be lugged around all day). Arabic class was to start tonight! :does dorky happy dance: But I arrived in the office to find a notice that the section has been cancelled due to low enrollment. I can try to enroll in the Thursday night class if I so desire, though. No, thank you, I’d rather the Monday class with Dr. M., whose teaching style I’ve adjusted to after 2 quarters.

Must see if she’ll be teaching next quarter — if so, I may wait for her and just study on my own.


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What’s a rebeca?

If anyone had asked me this morning what the Spanish word for cardigan was, I would’ve professed ignorance and suggested the closest word I could think of: suéter. However… according to the automated email Spanish word of the day, the translation is rebeca, coming from Daphne Du Maurier’s famous book, Rebecca, whose young heroine was particularly fond of wearing a cardigan. The email also noted that the phrase used by Latin American Spanish speakers is different: la chaqueta de punto (literally, knitted jacket). ETA: as Rosario points out, there really is no such thing as a universal Spanish or even a Latin American version of Spanish; that may be what some Spanish speakers use for cardigan, but it’s not what everyone uses.

On the Arabic front, class started last week only to break for the holiday. Okay. I managed to get myself organized and read the written passage, translating and transliterating before class. Three pages of text in the text book reduce to considerably less when I handwrite or type…but still created ~3 hours of work. Still, it’s getting a little better. The latest lesson is all about schedules and school, introducing some (a lot of) new vocabulary.


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Hudson News

I seldom go into the Hudson News stand at the train station, but my train was delayed the other day so I went in to see what periodicals they carry. And learned that they carry Al-Hayyat and An-Nahar. I’m not up to reading newspapers yet, so I didn’t buy a copy of either, but it was cool to be able to read the titles. And now I know where I can get an Arabic language newspaper if my reading comprehension ever improves.

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