Arabic is a language I have tried to tackle more than a few times. As a result, I have some very rudimentary skills in the language, mostly confined to greetings:
Good morning! Sabah al-kheyr
Thank you! shuk-ran
Good bye! ma eh-salaameh
I want to drink beer! b’heb ishrab beera!
But recent events here in the States have put this language in front of me once again. This country is about to get a whole lot less friendly toward immigrants, particularly those from the Middle East. I’m not in a position to effect policy, but I am in a position to create a more welcoming atmosphere.
So I have joined my church’s task force that welcomes refugees. One of the first families that is arriving next month is from Iraq. How great will it be if I’m there able to say something as simple as “How are you? Welcome to America” to them in their native tongue.
So that’s what I’ll be talking about here, mostly. I’ve already started with Pimsleur’s Eastern Arabic course. Arabic is the kind of language where you don’t benefit from a dictionary study, as the “official” language isn’t something that anyone really speaks. And when you’re going through a dialectical study, especially one that is voice-based like Pimsleur, the written word sometimes doesn’t help. Phrases or words that you hear on the tapes don’t appear in dictionaries. And there really aren’t any grammars that tackle the verb conjugation differences between, say, Palestinian Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).
At this point I’ve gone through 6 lessons. I have a number of questions, and I’ll post them in what I hope will be separate blog posts. If you come across this blog and you are in any way familiar with the Shami or other eastern Arabic dialects, chime in!