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Is Arabic underestimated?

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Cavesa
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Czech Republic
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 Message 33 of 75
09 July 2015 at 9:52pm | IP Logged 
THe history is very important in this case I am very grateful to kaneway and others for widening my knowledge. Sure, it is often tricky to border the topics such as politics and it might be easy to slip to things that are no longer appropriate for this forum and I share your worry, cod2, that we should be careful. However I don't think we have crossed the line yet, even though I leave it fully to the moderators to judge, should it be necessary.

The destruction of Bagdad was surely a huge cultural blow. We can see many examples of nations that just didn't get up after such a tragedy, no matter how it compares to tragedies of others or their crimes against others. A

Yes, I noticed the news about the prize for the female author as well and it was one of the moments I wondered why we don't get more Arab books in our bookshops. You know, the English bookmarket might have just 3% of translated literature (which I think is a bad thing, to be so self-centered, despite all the qualities and richness of the anglophone literature), but the Czech Republic has a very varied offer in the bookshops usually. Apart from our own literature, translations from quite anywhere are really common. So, why is such a huge area missed, especially if there obviously are some good authors. At least as many as you need to create an annual award.

Another point made me think hard. If the Arabs abroad are so eager to soak up the new culture and, on the other hand, large groups of Arabs abroad totally refuse to integrate in the society, is there really no middle ground?

About difficulties of the language. Since it appears the dialects are that significantly inferior to MSA and quoranic Arabic, why are they such a nightmare then? Is it just a myth they are such a problem or is the issue more complex? If the dialects have lower vocabulary, should learning a dialect be a minor issue compared to other difficulties? I am not trying to say the dialects are easy, I don't have any experience with them. I would just like to know what the real problem with them is. Is it different pronunciation and accent? Is the grammar different as well? Or are there simply too few resources for the dialects?
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ScottScheule
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 Message 34 of 75
09 July 2015 at 10:07pm | IP Logged 
cod2 wrote:
No, they are not, and they don't become so just because you claim so. To me they are emotive chest-beating that shows a certain political agenda which has no place in a language board.


That is your eisegesis. That the Mongols sacked Baghdad is not in dispute. That European powers interfered in the polities of the Islamic world is not in dispute. That the Crusaders cut out kingdoms for themselves in the Levant is not in dispute. Nor is the fact that the Muslims conquered Persia and cut huge chunks out of Byzantine domains. Reporting these facts is not political--it is factual, and one of any political persuasion could state any one of these facts.

Destruction of cultures that speak certain tongues are obviously related to the popularity of those languages going forward. As examples, one could list pretty much any Native American language.
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Serpent
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 Message 35 of 75
09 July 2015 at 10:15pm | IP Logged 
I'm not even sure the dialects are necessarily considered complex, I guess many simply find the whole idea of having to learn one or even several dialects off-putting? And the lack of transparency/exposure means it's hard to assess the actual differences between the dialects/variants, the way you would for Spanish.

Edited by Serpent on 09 July 2015 at 10:16pm

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Luso
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 Message 36 of 75
09 July 2015 at 10:30pm | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
About difficulties of the language. Since it appears the dialects are
that significantly inferior to MSA and quoranic Arabic, why are they such a nightmare
then? Is it just a myth they are such a problem or is the issue more complex? If the
dialects have lower vocabulary, should learning a dialect be a minor issue compared to
other difficulties? I am not trying to say the dialects are easy, I don't have any
experience with them. I would just like to know what the real problem with them is. Is
it different pronunciation and accent? Is the grammar different as well? Or are there
simply too few resources for the dialects?

Maybe I can help here: Arabic is a rich language. In some ways, that's a problem,
since there are a few synonyms for many words.

My teacher told us that a great part of what is thought to be dialect is, in fact,
pure Arabic, which has fallen out of use elsewhere. If you've always used the word
"trousers" and some bloke refers to them as "pants", is that dialect? Not necessarily.
Maybe the two are valid.

Of course, if your family has lived for a thousand years in the mountains of Morocco
(where they speak Berber), maybe you're going to have a bit of a problem with your
distant cousin from Irak, who's been dealing with the Turks (or Kurds, or Persians).

Interestingly, people in improbable places (Mauritania, Libya) speak the clearer
dialects: isolation, lack of cultural centres and trade caravans from the Arabian
Peninsula will do that to you.

One other thing is intensive use over time: common words have changed imperceptibly
(or a lot) over time (no TV, no media). For those, you may need a small glossary.

To illustrate this last point, one very small story: I'm attending a mandatory Spanish
course right now. Some of my colleagues struggle with false friends, the two languages
being so close. Today, I told a teammate a trick I learned with Italian: when in
doubt, use an uncommon word; since people didn't use those much, there's bound to be
less disparity between them. With Italian, it worked like a charm, and Spanish is
going down the same road. ;)
6 persons have voted this message useful





emk
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 Message 37 of 75
09 July 2015 at 11:57pm | IP Logged 
Just a quick moderation note:

Our administrator has asked us to please not discuss politics at HTLAL. Sometimes, it's hard for the moderators to draw a bright line between "language learning" (which is on topic), and "politics" (which is off topic). This thread has been skating very near that line for a while, but it seems to have taken a turn for the better.

Please continue to try to be careful politics and stereotypes, and please continue to be kind to other posters. Thank you.

Edited by emk on 09 July 2015 at 11:58pm

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hp230
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 Message 38 of 75
10 July 2015 at 1:17am | IP Logged 
Luso wrote:

Maybe I can help here: Arabic is a rich language. In some ways, that's a problem,
since there are a few synonyms for many words.

My teacher told us that a great part of what is thought to be dialect is, in fact,
pure Arabic, which has fallen out of use elsewhere. If you've always used the word
"trousers" and some bloke refers to them as "pants", is that dialect? Not necessarily.
Maybe the two are valid...

I'm very impressed Luso, you are very informed about the language and I can only agree with what you're saying.

Now, in my opinion, to avoid the torment of dielects,anyone who wants to learn Arabic should go for MSA. This way, you can make sure you can communicate with arabs from Quatar to Morroco without any problems.
In fact, MSA is taught in every single arabic country since it's the formal language in which they operate. So, when you are speaking MSA with arabs, they will automatically try to speak MSA in response, or in the worst case, they'll try to choose the words in their dielect that are close enough to MSA.
Few months ago, a group of Japanese students came around the university where I study in Tunis, and they spoke MSA fluently, everybody was impressed and happy to react and talk with them. Someones were like "oh my god, they speak arabic better than us" (they refer to MSA of course).
It's really fantastic when we meet foreigners speaking our language even when they make mistakes, that doesn't really matter.(and sometimes it's funny since some arabic letters are hard to pronounce for non-arabic people, so they sound when pronouncing them like little kids and we find that so cute)

Anyway, having learned MSA, then you can move on to learn any dielect you want ( as Luso said, there is a close relationship between dielects and pure arabic).
However, dielects can differ dramatically. Believe me, someone from Saudi Arabia may understand nothing sitting among a group of morrocans. As Luso said, culture and different environments are the cause of that.

Just to make an exemple for this. When saying " a lot" in different dielects, you say "barcha" in Tunisia; "bezzef" in Algeria; "wied" in the golf (Saudi Arabia, UAE, quatar..); "ktir" in Lebanon/Syria and so on..., in MSA,it's "katheer";
well, if you say the last word, everybody from the indian ocean to the atlantic would understand, otherwise, it depends on the knowledge of whom you're speaking with.

This dielect thing can be observed also within the same country, sometimes, when speaking with people from south Tunisia, I ask them to slow down so I can understand what they're saying. I think this may be commun with other languages as in the States, someone from New York may find difficulties speaking with someone from Texas for example.

So in the end, classical arabic is IMHO the best choice for someone who just want to learn the language. But, when living in an arabic country, the dielect may be more important. :)
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kanewai
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 Message 39 of 75
10 July 2015 at 1:28am | IP Logged 
hp230 - I know that most movies are in dialect, but how about books? When Naguib
Mahfouz or Alaa-Al-Aswany (The Yacoubian Building) write, is it in Egyptian or
MSA or some blend of the two?

Those are the only two Arabic authors I've read. I can't even name any others. Are
there any others we should watch our for?
2 persons have voted this message useful



Luso
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Portugal
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 Message 40 of 75
10 July 2015 at 2:02am | IP Logged 
hp230 wrote:
I'm very impressed Luso, you are very informed about the language and I
can only agree with what you're saying.

Now, in my opinion, to avoid the torment of dielects,anyone who wants to learn Arabic
should go for MSA. This way, you can make sure you can communicate with arabs from
Quatar to Morroco without any problems.
In fact, MSA is taught in every single arabic country since it's the formal language
in which they operate. So, when you are speaking MSA with arabs, they will
automatically try to speak MSA in response, or in the worst case, they'll try to
choose the words in their dielect that are close enough to MSA.

Big praise, thanks a lot! Part of it should go to my friend and teacher, though.

In fact, that's what I've been saying here on the forum for as long as I can remember.
As a native, your words carry a different weight, of course.

In any case, my modest Arabic (MSA) has allowed me to maintain basic conversations,
from a group of Libyan doctors on the underground to a Lebanese restaurant owner. It
has also proven helpful in Morocco, Egypt and Jordan.

The level of enthusiasm displayed by people when you go beyond the few basic words on
the back of your travel guide is priceless.


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