Gulf News spoke to a number of such expats to find out what drives their passion for Arabic.
Nabil Haskanbancha’s diction, choice of words and dialect is perfect in every way, and it seems unbelievable that the 21-year-old university senior from Thailand has been studying Arabic for just three years.
Despite admitting to not being a morning person, Haskanbancha made sure to be present at the morning Arabic classes, and he is soon set to graduate from New York University Abu Dhabi (NYU Abu Dhabi) with a minor in Arabic. Not only can he speak the language fluently but he can also write and read at an advanced level.
Introduction to dialects
And he knew he had succeeded when he could play the news in the background and still understand what was being said. “A while ago, I realised I didn’t have to concentrate on Arabic speech to understand the message, and I really felt like I had unlocked a major achievement,” he said.
Top 10 widely used Arabic phrases and words
■ Assalaam alaykom: This translates literally into ‘peace be upon you’, and is used as a greeting
■ Ma sha Allah: Meaning ‘it’s the will of Allah’, it is used to show admiration for something and wish the person well.
■ Al humdulillah: The phrase, meaning ‘praise be to Allah’, is used across a range of situations, from sadness to ill health. When used in a difficult situation, it conveys the fact that things could be even worse.
■ Shukran: This word is a simple ‘thank you’.
■ Bas khalas: That’s all!
■ Habibi: The word means ‘my beloved’, and is equally loved as its meaning.
■ Majlis: You may have heard it many times, and it means ‘reception’.
■ Tamr: That’s what you call the delectable ‘date’ in Arabic.
■ Qahwa: This is the Arabic word for one of the world’s most loved beverages – coffee.
Language of the host
In fact, it was his knowledge of Arabic that helped Roberts enjoy a volunteering gig in Jordan, and a crowdsourcing experience in Oman. “Neither would my bond have been as deep with my Emirati friends,” Roberts said.
Haskanbancha, who is fluent in the Emirati, Levantine and Egyptian dialects, echoed a similar sentiment. “I connect so well with my friends in the UAE. We enjoy the hummus and the shawarma at the many Middle Eastern restaurants here, and love our desert safaris. But none of these experiences would have been as immersive without my knowledge of Arabic. In fact, Arabian hospitality and my knowledge of the language help me feel at home in the UAE, and I hope to stay on and work in this city that I love,” he said.
English words borrowed from Arabic
Arabic has lent to a range of different languages, from Hindi to Portuguese, and most definitely English. Here’s a look at some of them.
■ Suk kar: sugar
■ Koton: cotton
■ Ghazal: gazelle
■ Jamal: camel
■ Astrlab: astrolab
■ Jabal Tareq: Gibraltar
■ Alkohoul: alcohol
■ Safar: safari
■ Yasmin: jasmine
■ Kahf: cave
■ Zarafe: giraffe
■ Mir’aa: mirror
■ Ta’refah: tariff
Love for languages
“I had high school friends from Palestine, and I wanted to learn Arabic even before getting here. It fit in perfectly with my love for languages,” said the 22-year-old senior from Trinidad and Tobago. “Arabic was the first non-Greek, non-Latin language that I was attempting, and its formal version seemed daunting. But as I went about learning to read road signs and draw parallels with the other languages I knew, I realised it wasn’t all that different or intimidating; in fact, I began to truly enjoy it,” Branche said.
Helps to engage
The NYU Abu Dhabi senior is also hoping to inspire others around her to learn more languages.
“I remember knowing just English as a young child because it was my mother tongue, and as a widely spoken language, it was all I needed to know to get by. But then I found myself envious of people who communicated fluently in English even while fluent in another language that was their native tongue. So I decided to arm myself with languages too,” she said.
Centres to learn Arabic in the UAE
Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, Abu Dhabi
Arabic Language Centre, Dubai
Eton Institute, Abu Dhabi and Dubai
The Mother Tongue Centre, Abu Dhabi
Berlitz, Abu Dhabi and Dubai
Iqra’a Arabic Language Centre, Dubai
Note: Many of the centres also provide online courses.
Haskanbancha, on the other hand, loves ‘yalla’, a word that is easily understood across most Arabian dialects. He also loves how it can mean different things based on context, including ‘hurry up’ or ‘let’s go’.
Roberts said he couldn’t easily pick a favourite word or phrase. “I do, however, think ‘benafsaji’, the Arabic word for ‘purple’, is beautiful because of its many varied consonant sounds,” he offered.
Arabic forms and dialects
Fusha: This is classical Arabic, and is the language of Islam’s holy book – the Quran.
Modern Standard Arabic: This is the version that is read and written today, and spoken in formal environments, such as in courts.
Khaleeji: This version is the one spoken by Emiratis, as well as by the populations of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, eastern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and northern Oman.
Levantine or Shami: The name refers to the region of Sham, and this version is spoken by Palestinians, the Lebanese, Syrians and some Jordanians.
Najdi: This is spoken in the rural desert areas of central Saudi Arabia.
Hijazi: Saudi Arabians in the western part of the country -the Hijaz region – speak this version.
Egyptian: The dialect is distinctive and guttural, and though widely spoken by Egyptians, it can be difficult for those unaccustomed to it.
Maghrebi: This dialect is spoken in Algeria, Tunis, Morocco, and in the western portion of Libya. The influence of Romance languages like French, and the Berber languages of Africa, on it is quite clear.
Yemeni: This is obviously spoken by the people of Yemen, although it has its own different sub-branches.
Iraqi: This is spoken by natives of the Mesopotamian basin of Iraq, as well as by Syrians, Iranians and people of southeastern Turkey.
Today’s commonly accepted numbering system, and the basis for the various branches of Math, were derived from the Hindu-Arabic numbering set of 10 symbols – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0. According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the system is known to have originated in India in the 6th or 7th centuries, and was introduced to Europe at about the 12th century through the writings of Middle Eastern mathematicians, especially the father of algebra, Al Khwarizmi, and the father of Arab philosophy Al Kindi. They represented a profound break with previous methods of counting, such as the abacus, and paved the way for the development of algebra. This contribution also explains why many English numerals look similar to their Arabic counterparts.
Original news source Credit: gulfnews.com