Do you speak Lebanese-ish?

Learning Arabic in Dubai

My six-year-old munchkin is learning Arabic in school.  She sounds like a unique mix of Emirati and Armenian, which is not in itself bad had it existed, but I don’t think it does. Let’s just say she sounds like an Alien Arab.

She asked me about a few words in Arabic.  Being a Lebanese, I automatically switched into that language when she asked me: “How do you say thank you in Arabic?”  “Merci” I said, without thinking about it much.

“How do you say good morning in Arabic?” “Bonjour”, again without giving it a second thought.

We were sitting around the dining table during the interrogation exercise and then she asked me, holding a piece of fruit: “Mom, how do you say strawberry in Arabic?” “Fraise”, I said.  She was now looking at me quizzically with slanted eyes. She picked up another fruit “What do you call this color in Arabic?” “Orange”.

“I knew it, you are tricking me and speaking in French”.  She was getting indignant at my laughter when I realized what I had given as answers, which to my surprise, were all French words that are so commonly spoken in Lebanon that we stopped noticing that they’re not in Arabic.  Our famous signature phrase being “Hi, kifak, ca va?”

And now I had to explain to my little eager learner that I didn’t mean to trick her, that in my country, Arabic is becoming a strange amalgam of different languages that we call Lebanese.

It only recently hit me to what extent our language has mutated when out of curiosity, I tuned in to a Lebanese TV station called MTV to watch one of their talk shows. I was stunned.  The talk show was supposed to be in Arabic, for an Arab-speaking Lebanese audience. Yet it was mostly in English and French.  All the key words were spoken in a foreign language and I wondered how people who spoke only Arabic could even follow.  It seems the phenomenon is becoming endemic, and it hit home when I used it myself to teach my daughter how to speak Lebanese by using French words.

I wonder where this trend will lead. To our own Arabic equivalent of esperanto?  Lebaranto?

I like the name.  I’m coining it as of right now.

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This entry was posted in Comedy, Family, Human Relationships, Kids, Lebanon, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Do you speak Lebanese-ish?

  1. Ara says:

    That is a good insight, there is no doubt that versatlity, maneouvrability, and malleability of Arabic, its dialects and the colloquail variations and of it should be admired.

    A few years ago (14 to be exact) I had a debate, well more like a boxing match, …in Dubai with a Beiruti friend who was arguing that Arabic is a language that is destined to become extinct. Forteen years later and I am convinced that my Beiruti friend is just ahead of his time just when I was in my comfort zone since unlike most Armenians of my generation, I went to a non-Armenian school and learned Arabic in the streets of Ras Beirut and Armenian was more like my second language.

    With this internet crap 90% of the communcation is in Interglish and no one uses serious harcore languages like French, Arabic, Urdu, Tagalog, Lebnanese, or Armenian. Imagine, 144 tweet characters lead to an uprising and toppled the regime in country with relatively low rates of litteracy….Egypt!

  2. mich1mich says:

    Looool, I totally understand Munya… I talk in her mixture too, but it saved me many a time during the war in Lebanon… She is a star! 🙂

  3. caline chaya says:

    LA FRANCE AU LIBAN “TAXI” – YouTube
    ► 0:27► 0:27

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzoDp6JciM411 Mar 2010 – 27 sec – Uploaded by tagasitagasi
    LA FRANCE AU LIBAN “TAXI” Produced by Laser Films (www.laserfilms.com) Agency : B,
    La France au Liban – YouTube
    ► 0:35► 0:35

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjdM0ZMyXgQ13 Mar 2010 – 35 sec – Uploaded by rudyzeinoun
    Featured on L’Orient-Le Jour http://www.lorientlejour.com.

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