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Sunday, January 24, 2010

A beautiful language I should be able to speak, read and write fluently by now

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I got married to my Emirati husband, moved to UAE, and a little over 4 years of living here, it is pathetic how much I can speak really. I can understand more than I speak but I sure should know a looooooooot more. If it was the old me, I would be pretty much fluent by now. What happened to me?? Just pure laziness, thats just it.

At the beginning of life here it was very uncomfortable sitting with the Arab women and just having to smile all the time while they chatted away in Arabic. Now, in Islam, Muslims are taught that it is rude to leave one person out of a conversation if they do not speak the same language-- but in this case, not every Arab woman speaks English, and for those that do, I completely understand when its a group of Arab women who have known each other for a long time, it just comes naturally to speak Arabic like they always do.

I am really really trying to push myself to learn Arabic. And you know what? It is EASY EASY EASY for me to learn new languages, if I would just apply myself. I currently speak English and Japanese. Well, with Japanese I am fluent in conversational Japanese, but watching the news can be difficult at times and the language of politics, medicine, and reading the newspapers etc... I don't understand/read very well.

In school I have learned Spanish, French, and one semester of Russian, which I would have continued had it not been canceled due to lack of interest. All of those languages? Easy peasy! I was learning more and more Spanish from speaking with the Mexicans I worked with in Colorado, and French I practiced like crazy.

Later on I started working at a Persian/Lebanese restaurant and the owner's wife is Lebanese and I had some Moroccan (waitresses who worked with me) and Arabic friends (from school) as well. I was so hungry to learn Arabic from them and enthusiastically practiced the lessons they taught me. Even though they all were teaching me different dialects LOL. But they also taught me reading/writing Mashallah. Then for some reason I totally became laaaaaaaaazy. At the very least Alhamdulillah I learned and have retained how to pronounce the Arabic letters that are foreign to the English letters. When I read Arabic, it is very slowwwwwly... I should be able to read by now with no problems whatsoever--though the Qur'an is easier because it has all the accent marks that are not used in regular Arabic.

And what is sad is most of my Western friends who married locals and moved to UAE don't speak much Arabic either. We really should all be studying and speaking it as much as we can with each other -- like my best friend from high school and I used to speak as much French as we could, mixing it with English when we had to.

I took a 12-week Spoken Arabic course at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in in Bastakia here in Dubai about a year after I moved here I think...

It was a wonderful course Mashallah and we had a local teacher so we learned the local dialect from her. I would read over the material once and not even have to study for the quizzes she gave the next time. It came easy to me--but to retain everything I still need to practice, which as y'all know I didn't. Uggghhh. Shame!!! Shame on me!! One good thing is I still have the course books and all notes I took so I can study them again inshallah. I hope I don't run into my teacher anytime soon because I would feel so embarrassed.

So my goal for now is to study Arabic for at least 45 minutes to one hour a day inshallah. I have index cards that I have filled out with different verbs and their conjugations and there are a bunch more blank ones to fill out with more. Just correct verb conjugations and practicing writing--just those alone will make my Arabic so much better.

Now, with the Arabic that I do speak I love to annoy my husband by speaking it with a super duper STRONG American accent. He gets annoyed but he laughs a lot and so does my mother-in-law when I do it to her. He did tell me he will not be annoyed about it if only I would speak it more fluently. Oh... I know he will still be annoyed, but at the same time proud that I can speak it well.

Inshallah in just a few short weeks there will be a huge improvement.

Ohhhh another shameful thing!! I can barely speak French and Spanish now... years and years of no practice... as little as I understand, I can understand more than I speak either one :(

I should practice Spanish with my Mexican best friend over here---but ohhhh no that would not be good as we should both be learning and practicing Arabic. And you know who you are sister!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

**image by Arabic Calligraphy artist Badawi Al Dirani-used with permission (under this: Creative Commons License) from:


  1. I'm in a similar situation. I need to learn Arabic. I guess it's pure laziness why I haven't learned. I don't even try most of the time. :( I have books and flash cards, but I still don't practice Arabic. I'm beginning to think maybe I'll learn from my kids.....

    ok, I need to add learning Arabic to my list of goals!!!

  2. Your 100% right. And yes it is pure lazy on my part. My husband is always after me lol. He thinks its sad, and it is! But i just feel lost with it ! I reaaaally wish i could take a beginners course and get myself started, but its almost impossible now because of the kids.
    What i really need is for someone to come to my home and teach me, and pay them of course ;)

  3. Wa alaikum salaam!

    Awwww I'm in the same boat with you sis! I could have learned to read Arabic by now, so I can read Quran in Arabic, but I've been so darn lazy about it! Shame on me! InshAllah I can find a teacher so I can learn to read Arabic. I used to be fluent in Russian (conversation, reading, writing) but it has faded so much in last 10 years! It takes me time to switch from English to Russian and to remember all the words, and now Uzbek is fading too :( I've also made a resolution to get Russian news channel so i can hear it, and read more Russian news papers so I can increase my vocabulary again.

    BUT I have picked up Urdu/Hindi mix that my hubby speaks, yay!

  4. I know what you mean.
    I was out there 13 years and my arabic is virtually non existant.
    Considering 99% of my friends were local/arab and I lived with an Emirati family you would think I would have a good understanding of it.

    However 95% of my friends who could not speak a word of English when I first met them are now fluent, thanks in part to me haha.

  5. Ahhhhhhhhhh girl! iknow , I know! tooo well! darn it! I just told my hubby, we need to get me a tutor!!! asap! when we whip back home. Insha'a'Allah! and Twizzle! you do so well! in languages! masha'a'Allah! I have to study! so much. I had to teach myself spanish. LOL and talk very tex-mex! ugh! LOL I need to get on it! asap! omg! we do use spanish with each other
    ! hahhahaha anyways, insha'a'Allah! we'll talk when I get back and see what plans we have!!! we know what we have to do!!! but, do we do it!??!?!?!?!? nNOoooooooooooooooooooo! off for the night! love ya! gf!

  6. OMG!!!

    Ustedes hablan Espanol? Tengo dos anos viviendo en KSA y muy pocas veces me he encontrado alguien que habla mi idioma. Soy nacida en California pero mis padres son de Mexico.
    I too haven't been able to pick up Arabic. I understand it somewhat but I don't speak enough of it to carry a conversation. I know exactly what you ladies are going thru. I don't really have any local friends and most of the time they want to speak to me in English to improve their skills . . . . .

  7. as-salaam aleikum,

    well..I thought I had replied to this earlier but it seems I didn't...

    ha ha ha sister Tahani that is hilarious!!!

    Well.. sisters, its nice to know I'm not the only one but thats a BAD thing LOL inshallah we all come to learn Arabic.

    yep, Texan... we are aweful about "ok, we are going to start ___ " --it never gets started!!

    Liz, yo hablo Espanol MUY pokito ahora. Yo comprendo que you wrote pero Yo comprendo mas que yo hablo.

    ... it is so sad how much I used to speak and how little I now know!!