16 September, 2007

Speak pidgin?

The language, not the bird. :)

Hey UAE bloggers, I've got a question. Or two. Or three. This is for everyone.

My friend has just moved to the Emirates, enthused about the possibility of using the skills acquired from her Arabic Language Degree. Her use of classical Arabic has made me appreciate how little Arabic I know; about half of the worlds I think of as Arabic are not Arabic at all. Not even close!

After reflecting on the pidgin Arabic that I use, I am curious - what language(s) do you speak here and to whom? Do you switch languages as a sign of respect? How do you communicate? Who else uses pidgin Indo-Anglo-Arabic and how do you use it?


Anonymous said...

I think every one uses his own kind of Arabic, regardless of the country he is living in. The beauty of this is that we understand each others easily (except for some really strange slangs).
The majority of Arabs here use these dialects: Khaleeji (for people of the Gulf and they slightly differ from one country to another); Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Sudanese, what else??
Your friend didn’t do any mistake by speaking classical Arabic (Fus’ha) as you mentioned in your blog. I believe it’s the best way to learn Arabic, because this is the language used in books and newspapers; and also the News on TV (in all Arab countries). Some people learn Arabic in the UAE from private teachers, but they learn the dialect of the teacher, not classical Arabic, in most cases, but it's still Arabic anyway, with some added slangs, and differnt way of pronouncing some letters.
I don’t see switching languages is a sign of respect at all. Sometimes, we do it in a joking or friendly way. I use here the same language I use in my home country and I am sure that my listener understands what I am saying.
I find – on the opposite – switching languages, is not a very good sign...

david santos said...

Thanks for your work and have a good week.

Ahmed Shubbar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ahmed Shubbar said...

Classical Arabic is like Shakespearian-English (i.e. old fashioned). You won’t hear anyone speak it. It’s used because the Quran is in classical Arabic and it’s used in formal settings (i.e. politicians etc…). Still every Arab kid has to learn it and go through the rigorous grammar and literature. Anyhow, Arabic isn’t the hardest language in the world. Anyone can master it if they put in the effort.

Anonymous said...

There is also a form of distorted Arabic used and it ires me when people dont understand proper Arabic but understand the distorted version

distorted version followed by Proper version in brackets

Mafi Malum (La a'aref)

sayyara mal ana (sayyarati)

sawwi telephone (ittasel)

secretdubai said...

The thing about language - all languages - is that they evolve and change. People tend to think of modern variants as inferior or "decayed", but really they are just evolved versions.

Qu'ranic Arabic may be very elegant and beautiful, but that doesn't mean that modern Arabic that people currently consider slangy won't be regarded as just as beautiful in the years to come. But I understand the prejudice, I hate some modern forms of English, but one day they will probably be like Shakespeare.

Also "Classical" Arabic itself would be descended from other, older forms of Arabic and parents languages. So there is no fixed, "perfect" language anywhere in the world; such a thing just does not exist.

B.D. said...

After 7 years here, I hate to say that my Arabic is so poor that if I'm among people speaking in Arabic in any situation, I'll have no clue as to what they're talking about. In other countries I've lived, that was never the case. In Japan I learned Japanese fluently. In Sri Lanka I learned enough of the Sinhala language in a short time to often understand what people around me were talking about. In Vietnam, where I never lived but travelled alot, I could get around anywhere using the bit of the language I learned. But in the UAE, its nil with Arabic.

Nature Strikes Back said...

I agree that it is very difficult to learn arabic here. I learned a lot when I lived in the West Bank but have forgotten a lot although I can still understand more arabic than I can speak and access to regional TV helps. Like B.D. I became fluent in Japanese when i lived there, partly because you're surrounded by it and have no chocie if you really want to make the most of the experience but it just seems right that you should learn the language of your host country!

That said living in Bur Dubai right now I am considering taking Hinidi lessons...... !!

Al Sinjab said...

Hey guys,

Thanks for your thoughts! I appreciate it!

Ok, yella bye!

Halib Jamal said...

Before coming to the UAE I had a mixture of fusha tuition (beginners) and, at various points, short courses in what is described as "modern standard arabic", and colloquial (Palestine). Nothing prepared me for the heavilly accented, semi-hindi/urdu, part english, "Arabic" I hear when trying to speak Arabic to most taxi drivers, however. Quite dispiriting. I have just started an intermediate "standard Arabic" class in Dubai to try to reconnect with Arabs and Arabic... world.

Jens said...

I'm really interested in this concept of "pidgin Indo-Anglo-Arabic." Is there anywhere that I can get more information about how people speak? Actually, I'm constructing a language meant to be a world lingua franca, so I would like to make it a pidgin of languages around the world. The language is called Neo Patwa. So I'd love to hear what words people use in the UAE.

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