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.