In the last few weeks I’ve been looking at written transcripts of spoken Arabic – from Algeria ( see here and here) and Morocco and trying to highlight practical takeaways for Arabic students, to make this whole process less intimidating than people often make it out to be. Here are 14 more takeaways.
(20) ( ديال ) is a new term for someone like me with no exposure to Moroccan. How does the newcomer approach new terms like this? You can try and figure it out on your own, which I was starting to do. You can get a tutor once you go to Morocco and learn the rule in about 3 minutes. Or, even better, you can get assists from readers like Chris T. on Twitter. Very clear- this has entered my mental database on Moroccan Arabic.
Do you dedicate your limited Arabic learning resources to: perfecting a dialect? Or do you aim for a more general, heavily MSA-based, multi-purpose Arabic that enables you to operate in Arabic at a very high level wherever you go?
I’ve lost track of the number of times over the years that I’ve heard people talk about how North African dialects as if they are drastically different from those of the Central Middle East. This is a mindset that unjustifiably intimidate students, especially because it isn’t true.
3 more Algerian Arabic dialogue as part of my effort to break the perceived “scariness.”
(1) This is the first time I’ve heard ( نهار ) instead of ( يوم ) when describing days of the week. On one hand, I’d never thought of people saying it this way, but as soon as I saw it said this way, the meaning was crystal clear.
(2) Had never heard this verb before as far as I can recall. As I’ve already mentioned in this series of posts on Algeria, if the goal is to just become competent in Algerian, where it comes from doesn’t really matter. Just memorize the verb and use it.
But out of curiosity, I wanted to know if it’s some random Algerian verb, or in fact coming from a clear “Fusha” root. I couldn’t come up with a decisive verdict where it’s coming from in my allotted 10 minutes per word – but I am 95% sure it’s coming from one of these two verbs listed in Hans Wehr:
(3) Nothing uniquely Algerian here. Pretty close to how you’d say this in Egypt.
One of my favorite things about having a website is that readers send you tips to things to you may not have been aware of otherwise. Many thanks to Magnus for sending me a link to the below book. After looking through it – I agree – the book is must-read for anyone who is or aspires to be a translator.
One, there really aren’t very many books out there on the specific field of translation. This one aims to fill a gap in that market and offers a useful mix of theoretical and practical knowledge. The chapter on Legal translation is especially interesting.
But two, even for those who aren’t working as professional linguists, it’s filled with practical language takeaways for anyone interested interested in Arabic, and therefore worth a read.
For the 90% of high school and university students who are learning Arabic for some practical yet still general and undefined career purpose, here is a key point: you cannot predict where in the Middle East you will end up applying your language skills.
This is why I discourage most early stage Arabic students (less than 4 years) from trying to make perfecting any single Dialect their core Goal. Why?
Marc Lynch and Deen Frelon of George Washington University have published an interesting report called Blogs and Bullets. They study how social media data was analyzed during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and conclude that “social media undermines transitions to Democracy.”
In this post, I offer my take on the kinds of conclusions that can be drawn from analyzing social media data in this context.
I want to highlight two relatively unknown but extraordinary 2008 episodes from the Al-Jazeera program “Top Secret” ( سري للغاية). These are excellent resources for Arabic students, especially those who are studying Arabic as part of the career objectives in government or the military.
Investigative journalist Yousri Fouda snuck into Syria at the heart of the uprising against US soldiers in Iraq and interviewed rebels, the subject of Part One. The second part covers more of Al-Qaeda’s broader plans in the Levant and interviews a variety of policy makers in Lebanon and Syria, as well as Jihadis and their sympathizers.
What Should Arabic Students Focus On?
#1 – Note the narration in Fusha whereas most of the speakers use a variety of Levantine dialects. You are on the edge of your seat for 90 minutes weaving in and out of different dialects. Seeing those variations in action is invaluable for students.
#2 – The unusual nature of the conversation. How often do you hear detailed discussions of this kind of thing? If you are already broadly familiar with these themes and the issues, you can make obvious vocabulary associations. You may not know the Arabic per se, but if you can guess the themes because of background knowledge of the topic, you can advance your language skills by association.
#3 – The transcripts. See Part One andTwo. If this is the kind of topic that interests you, watch the documentary standalone. Then read the transcript. Watch the documentary again. Repeat. If round one you “get” 50%, round two you get 60%, keep going until you reach 100%.
#4 – A suggested goal: If you reach a point where you become an “expert” on the Arabic in this program, in the sense that you understand every single line, and can explain any point to someone who doesn’t, you would have an extremely strong grasp of this topic in Arabic. That’s a clear benchmark reachable by anyone.
Do you know Arabic students who might benefit from this post? If so – don’t hesitate to share on relevant social media feeds.