Monday, July 31, 2006

The Complexities of the Arabic Language

So here we are, doing a computer program to learn the Arabic alphabet, a set of cd's for the basic greetings, and a class for everything else. Our class is two hours every evening, at the end of which our teacher gives us homework, usually a dialogue to translate, and mostly half of it we don't know. Sometimes all of it, because our teacher gives it to us in past tense, even though we've told her again and again we only know present. What follows is a translation of a dialogue, written as it sounds because we're not that good at the Arabic alphabet yet.

Al yom al awaal fi mudariss Sam yagaanil taalib jedid. Issmu Nusa. Huwa yassalu beitak wein?Sam yajowibu Beiti fi El Amarat janb Shara Muhamed najeeb. Nusa ayagoulayhu Ana saakin hinaak. Mumkin tajee beiti nadruss Arabi? Sam yagoullay Nusa haawil yajee bukra ash-an alaya haamshi maa abi lay agareebra.

Literally translated to English:

The day the first in school Sam meet student new. His name Nusa. He ask him your house where? Sam answer him My house in El Amarat near street Muhamed Najeeb. Nusa say to him I live there. Can you come my house we study Arabic? Sam answer Nusa I try to come tomorrow because today I go with my father to our relatives.

That is perfect Arabic grammar. The main problem I have with Arabic is that there's no 'to be'. I am Lucy becomes I Lucy, and we are given extra verbs such as to be happy and to be sad, because there's no to be that will take initiative and make happy and sad just plain old words. It gets tiring, doing the drills wrong on our computer program, making mistakes on the cd's, and trying to figure out how to say 'hat' for our Arabic lesson. (The word is tagia.)

Tomorrow we're going to al mugran, or the confluence of the Nile.

Ruth tafadil leben min fanta. Ruth prefers milk from fanta. Or so she said last night.

Ana khalas, or I am finished, or literally, I finished. (Not in the French sense!)


Nathan said...

It seems to me that you are doing great. I wish I knew 1/2 as much arabic as you translated. Salaam aleikum. - your favorite aunt and uncle.

heatherlady said...

First I just want to say that I think it is wonderful you guys are taking Arabic! It is a beautiful language-- and really hard. Jon and I are working on learning the alphabet and have almost gottent where we can sound out the names on our food. But I don't think we will be mastering the sounds anytime soon- they are Hard. I swear that Arabs must have a few extra vocal chords in the back of thier throats somewhere~

I also jsut wanted to share an insight I have about Arabic. Lucy mentioned that in Arabic there is not "to be" verb. The same is true in Hebrew ( I took a Hebrew class a few semesters ago) and at first it really bothered me that you could never claim to be someone or even to be somewhere. But then I got thinking about how in the old Testament (which was written in Hebrew) God claims to be The Great "I AM"-- which in Hebrew is a word that the Jews never say because it is the sacred name of God. God is the only one that can claim to be someone or even something. The rest of us are just dust of the earth.