Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A reasoning ... Why I Use English instead of arabic


Today it just hit me to think of the reason why I predominately use English as my language of choice... while regardless of what I claim Arabic is supposed to be my mother tongue.

Alot of venom gets spat around just for using this language, I am too familiar with the run of the mill reasons; it's a proof of the elitist class, the language of the enemy, Arabic is a wonderful language, and yare yare yare ...

As I got lost in my chain of thoughts it brought me back in the years to notice where did it change, and i came to the following conclusions...
unlike kids today were the parents are over pretentious about displaying their wonderful abilities is speaking the most abysmal English ever spoken (hmm not really but pretty up there, south asian, and asian FOB's gotta take the cake) and transfering the "fruit" of their knowledge to their young ones back in the day that attitude was more lax, and still my generation came out as it is right now. So that scratched the "parents are using english more and more with their kids" reason, i just had to get that out of the way.

Now i have been comfortable with English more so than in Arabic for as far as i could remember, with memories dating back to the preschool days (even mentioned it before in here ).

When i was young all the material that was available for me from Arabic origins was always talking down to me. Dad says do that and that (think "kaman 7azeen" or may "eureka"), religion says do that (oh so many religious kids shows in my days to count), society says do that ("2ifta7 ya sim sim"). essentially the other option to that demeaning programing was .... a dumber than dumb Arabic publications.

From then it got burned in my mind that whatever had a hint of an Arabic influence degraded the quality of the product. (hey i liked sesame street parts of 2ifta7 ya sim sim, but hated the rest) essentially there was no escape, no area for just breathing a fresh air. Kids are already absorbing so much information from their society and surroundings that they find escape when they head to TV and books.
So when they start to compare the originals and Arabic versions they start to notice subtle and mostly non subtle difference. With time that drives them to stray away in pursuit of the truth, which at a young age they revere it as the holy grail.

Then the pursuit to find suitable reading material since all efforts to find watchable TV material that didn't seem to over stress the lessons you to endure to enjoy the show have all failed (remember how depressing all the TV shows were ? with the exception of like grendaizer, and all the other mecha shows ..... there was just too many drama "am an orphaned kid pity me cartoons"). So you start reading some Arabic stories it doesn't take to long to figure out that it seems "ali" and "alia" are pretty much every where doing almost the same thing .... no creativity at all, and later in life you find the ones that interested you the most were only adaptations (the example to spring to mind is a book series I loved when i was in KG , it was called "burhan" which was French in origin if am not mistaken). So you keep going back to the same point over and over... that the quality of stimulation that you get from Arabic material is lot lower than anything else that you know.


The vague glimmer of an admirable all arabic production in my mind was a Syrian show, I think it was called "kan zaman" where a grand mother tells fantasy stories to her grand children each episode. that was a well done show for the time :)

by that time the kid hits school age, and smack he is hit with a tough as hell curriculum of grammar .... and a lethargically misadventures of a kid and girl.
Dare we forget the poetry which is either of a national flavor or way beyond relevance to the kids age. So that encourages the regurgitation rather than the digestion of the information.

Then due to lack of any stepping stones since they are not deemed literal heralds, you are thrown into the pits of "abu 2il 2isba3 2al 3odwani" and "2al ja7ith". just the name should drive to strangle your self....
The literally level is so high that every time you read a paragraph of "2al bo'5ala2", it makes you feel like the idea of bashing your head against the wall seem like an act of mercy xD
So at that point you are frustrated, and unless you were of the lucky minority who had a knack for learning Arabic (Yes reality is so few of us have the innate ability to comprehend it so easily) you were left with the "duck and run BOY! " option.

While all of this is going on, you are exposed to mind blowing experience in what you perceive as English speaking programs. You progress in your reading from Dr.Seuss style books to Ronald Dahl ... to Ian Flemming. which ease the transition to the prophets of the pen....
You learn grammar through exposure and practice, not through rules and memory cramming. In a way that it becomes second nature for you, and you don't really have to think and doubt your self "is it a dumma or kasra, willa la2 fee noon 2il niswa .... AHH"

So you learn to think in English for the sole reason that it makes more sense to do that ! eventually you decide that the highest competency you CAN achieve in Arabic is the colloquial Arabic, and regarding "kawa3ed" they lost you at the tenses and now they are discussing "3orood" (poetry meters as far as I understood it).....
Your 9th grade poetry book is discussing a renegade women riding a Harley smoking her reefer and discussing how she got deflowered, while Mr. Hatim seems to be like a broken record bitching about how he killed his horse to feed his guests .... Nice going STUPID!

Tell me now is it any wonder why ??!!

(I should have probably never included the last line since it will prompt a knee jerk reaction due to the claimed "hedonistic" tendencies of poetry, but I can't recall how many lines of virgins and wine I had to memorize during my school while being told in the following 30 minutes that we are not supposed to appreciate those things. That is just neurosis in a book ! )


Essentially language bridges in Arabic are very lacking, they are delusional in their belief that you can make the shift from every day speech to something spoken 1400 years ago and still be able to relate and comprehend. There is a reason why you don't get exposed to Oscar Wilde or Shakespeare till later in life, and it feels like the books are reborn than what you recall when you first read them and they didn't make any skills.

It simply means you were not ready then, so stop discarding poorly written stories that help bridge the gap or start producing works for different levels.
The really sad thing about this all is that I don't feel remorse for not learning Arabic in a proper way, since the reality of the matter is I don't use it for anything more than every day speech ........ I can't even maintain interest in reading an Arabic book because I don't have an impetus to bridge my gap, since there is nothing of interest that isn't translated, and when i read the translated version then i'll refer to the original to verify a few doubts I would have for the context and carry on .........


Ok fun Fact of the day, almost 70% of this post was thought off during a shower today. I guess the heat and having the AC busted at work finally got to me.

Listening to: PANIC! AT THE DISCO - Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Witheout Taking Her Clothes Off

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13 Comments:

  • you mean Basim o Rabab were not my friends?

    The report is highly critical of some educational methods in Arab countries and calls for an urgent shift from rote learning and memorisation, which it says has "stifled the creativity of Arab students," to a greater emphasis on critical thinking, in line with international trends in mathematics and science.

    http://www.menafn.com/qn_news_story_s.asp?StoryId=1093151369

    By Blogger Globalorama, At 8/5/07 06:10  

  • Another reason maybe for you hating Arabic is not having any books from the great writers available to you at a young age.

    I started my Arabic reading with majalet Majid and basim and other translated comics and mistry books from English and other languages to Arabic. Then graduated ,when i was 10, to reading Nizar Qabbani, najeeb mahfouz , Nawal sa3dawi, Yusuf Idris , Gibran Khalil Gibran and many more amazing writers because my mom was reading all those and got me interested in them. So I believe parents play a role.

    I cannot disagree that Arabic taught in schools suck, maybe the teachers we had were just teaching it and did not love it or appreciate it?

    My favorite and the only poem I memorized and still remember from school was "a3teeny alnai wa 3'anni" for Gibran.

    I used to love kan ya makan or kan zaman too :).

    I sucked in grammar 3arood and all that crap; you don’t need it to appreciate amazing writers that are in the 20th and 21st centuries.

    By Blogger 7aki Fadi, At 8/5/07 06:38  

  • Pretty interesting read! I like the fun fact at the end :) and I actually listened to the song...the beat is new to my ears, you can blame old age for that, but I like the voice, the music, and I like the lyrics too!
    Now back to the language discussion...I like to read Arabic sometimes, depends on the writer. I can never memorize poems, but I enjoy reading/hearing some every once in a while! Most of the poems I hear are songs...so this makes it easy to accept! I do appreciate the Arabic language and think it is very powerful and expressive in many ways, a lot more than the English language. I think liking the Arabic language depends on how you were introduces to it and the method of teachings you received...it might have been not that interesting to you!
    When it comes to writing Arabic, I do struggle; it takes so much effort to think in Arabic fos7a, I get lost searching for the correct words to use. I am in a way forcing myself to write in Arabic on the musalsal blog, and the episode takes more than a week of preparation, writing and typing to get the final version!! All the time I write my thoughts in English, even the dialogue in English and then translate it to Arabic! This way I do not lose my train of thoughts and I know what I am talking about!!! Although I got my education in all Arabic schools back in the days, and started learning English in fifth grade, I liked my English teachers a lot and was fascinated with the language in a way, besides I was good at it! but I think living in the states for so long and being exposed to English and reading a lot in English made me think more in English!!
    Most of the time even while talking I express myself in English, and think in English then translate it in my head to Arabic...I guess I feel a little shame about it, it should not be this way....but it is much easier to think in English I think!!

    By Blogger Summer, At 8/5/07 10:04  

  • i still have night mares about i3rab and fi3el kan...*shudder* i love reading in arabic and I am soo glad I kept it up, our local library had few arabic books and i bought some here and there through out the year....but I am more than thankfull that I did not finish school in the middle east...who cares about fi3el kana!
    but now I am finding what a hard language arabic is learn and teach. the fos7a part really screws things up. I get Arabic videos for my son, bas really it is just like learing a third language when the are spoken in fos7a. my son has no idea what they say on efta7 ya simsim, but he can understand palestinian/lebenese and egyptian dialacts very clearly. so that was $70plus shipping down the drain!
    english is so much simpler, few gramatical rules, and u r all set! :o) no wonder everyone prefers it..

    By Blogger Sam, At 8/5/07 12:52  

  • globaloram hmm they were called basim o rabab ?! ?! another mind blank due to sleeping :)
    hmm i read the report but am not sure if this is the way. After all learning a language is different than math or science so am not sure how much critical thinking can be incorporated.
    the rife material is my main problem .... and the schism between real life arabic, and fos7a

    7aki I don't hate Arabic not at all ..... i force my self to use it, its different. My father had a huge library of books, and not a single one was in English ! ! hell there were a few German ones even.
    It was just that they were never appealing, the one book i recall that i wanted to read so bad was "2al masee7 adajal" the one were they had a "jew" wearing a military uniform on the cover (came out in 91-92) was around 9 - 10 years old. that gave me nightmares (real ones) and by the end of it i felt deceived since i couldn't find the connection between the content and the cover :)
    The other thing i recall vividly is the collection of love poems of Nizar Qabbani, that was one of the few things i could comprehend without spending the effort.

    ****this is gonna turn into another post shorltly ****

    As for the teachers, why blame others. When you ask any mother tongue speaker if he learned his language he will more likely say no, it was unconscious in a way, he just refined it.

    In Arabic we learn it, even though we are immersed in the culture. Its because there is a schism between what they aspire to teach and what they need to teach. There is no creativity and activity in writing, the topics that writers cover in a non cliche way are scarce. ( i don't know what the difference is, and i can't put my hand on it. for example this piece of writting i thoroughly enjoyed Here )

    summer Thanks, i feel bad for not commenting on your blog, but i seriously think Chi town aint gotta shot at it this year. they are good but not piston good (though Benny is a great fan magnet) :)
    now since that is out of the way
    I do appreciate the Arabic language and think it is very powerful and expressive in many ways, a lot more than the English language that is exactly what i feel, there is a stigma that I appreciate it but i don't wanna get too exposed to it , as for expressions thats relative. I use certain words since i lived them, and each day less and less Arabic words describe my life so they are less expressive in that sense.

    LOL I totally feel you on the translate arabic thing. try this on live mode with an algerian, I usually go with intuition on that one (they don't speak english and you don't speak french).

    Sam i really feel you on that part with the kids, put trust me its not the grammatical part its the delusion that our every day use of Arabic is second rate to the one spoken epoch ago. practically if you can read and talk Arabic, whatever else you learn is extra effort. Forcing the kids to go to sunday school to be indoctrinated in arabic is counter productive and will make them hate the language .... on a different note how did you bribe your son to watch it ?! ?! I think that is an achievement by its self !

    on the bright side the lax and speak arabic at home seems to work best i think. at the end of the day they will only use it for speech

    This is not a comment i know, i know. Its more of a post, but Am thankful for your lengthy comments ;)




    (gladly i never got to learn 2i3rab and what not after 10th grade, i just called it quits)

    By Blogger No_Angel, At 8/5/07 14:08  

  • I'm always amused when I hear that English is an elitist language, especially coming from someone who claims that the Arabic language is the language of Heaven...and the only true language of the Qur'an. I don't say that offensively; I just find it ironic.

    By Blogger Dave, At 8/5/07 16:35  

  • hey dave :D I fail to see the irony !

    elitist is a disregard for all things inferior due to social or intellectual pretension.


    So it is purely the usage of the language in the delusion of belonging to a higher social class, "pretentious use".

    So you can describe it as the difference between Afrikaans and Dutch, Cantonese and mandarin, hell even to drive the point home
    Hamilton's and Queens, North side of Chicago compared to south part or Gary, IN.

    French in turn of the century Egypt, French in Lebanon.

    so its not inherent to a language it is situational .....

    Now if I used divine or heavenly then you could have come back with your comment but I didn't. Your reference is inherit.

    Do i need to explain Tthe irony here too ??!!
    Sorry if I offended, am just trying to explain


    Ohh and lest i forget Welcome, glad to have u reading this :D
    ENJOY

    By Blogger No_Angel, At 8/5/07 18:24  

  • No_Angle...no worries about commenting on my blog!! No big deal!
    Well, i am hoping that the Bulls might pull it off!! Who knows, it is a game and anything can happen! I just wanted to post the logo on my blog so when and if the Pistons win i have to post their logo on my blog, for a bet i got myself into with one of my readers!! So I will keep on saying Go Bulls until they are in or out!! Thanks for "feeling bad" for not commenting on my blog, because after all, its the thought that counts!!

    By Blogger Summer, At 8/5/07 22:57  

  • Yes, the quality of the Arabic print and screen media was extremely low. But that's a mistake on behalf of TV channels and schools. As there is old English, there is old Arabic as well, and Al ja7ith and Ibn Al Moqaffa3 and others are examples of old Arabic, which would never be very comprehensible for a 12 year old kid (that's why in our books, you'd read a line of poetry and a dozen other lines just explaining what that one line meant). But that doesn't mean that's the only Arabic type of literature out there, take Najeeb Mahfouz for instance, he wrote in very understandable classic Arabic, so it's just a matter of finding the right tools to learn Arabic. It's not the parents' fault, but it could be one of their duties to steer their kids into the right literal stuff.

    But you gotta admit though, Al Manahil was an excellent attempt, but unfortunately, it didn't survive for too long. I also loved the Arabic Duck tales comic books, not so educating, but it was funny. I loved the post :-)

    @ 7aki fadi, the only reason you memoriaed that poem because it's a song :P

    By Anonymous Who-sane, At 10/5/07 15:55  

  • whosane: lol, sa7 :p .

    kashaftni, I can't memorize a phone number man let alone a poem.

    By Blogger 7aki Fadi, At 12/5/07 04:35  

  • lol u are a couple of nahfat !

    as for al manahil ...... "akwa min 2al shada" definitely is burnt in my skull

    By Blogger No_Angel, At 13/5/07 15:16  

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