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Is Arabic underestimated?

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lichtrausch
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United States
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Studies: Korean, Mandarin

 
 Message 65 of 75
16 July 2015 at 9:42pm | IP Logged 
hp230 wrote:

Sorry if I say this, but in terms of rhetoric and language beauty, MSA is incomparable
with any dielect. The literature inheritance that we dispose of can only prove that. I'm
not underestimating the beauty of dielects, but they are only for day to day talks.

Substitute French/Italian for dialect, and Latin for MSA, and I'm sure you could have
heard the exact same thing a thousand years ago in Europe. The only thing that dialects
like Egyptian or Levantine need is some nurturing by a few skilled authors and then BAM,
they are the new French/Italian, elegant and refined, fully developed literary languages.
7 persons have voted this message useful



kanewai
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 Message 66 of 75
16 July 2015 at 10:24pm | IP Logged 
lichtrausch wrote:
hp230 wrote:

Sorry if I say this, but in terms of rhetoric and language beauty, MSA is incomparable
with any dielect. The literature inheritance that we dispose of can only prove that.
I'm not underestimating the beauty of dielects, but they are only for day to day
talks.

Substitute French/Italian for dialect, and Latin for MSA, and I'm sure you could have
heard the exact same thing a thousand years ago in Europe. The only thing that
dialects like Egyptian or Levantine need is some nurturing by a few skilled authors
and then BAM, they are the new French/Italian, elegant and refined, fully developed
literary languages.


I've thought the same thing - that modern Arabic sounds a lot like it's in the same
place that Latin and the Romance languages once were.

In Italy all you had were rough spoken dialects for half a millennium, and then this
incredible Renaissance flowering of the toscano dialect happened, with St.
Francis, Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Machiavelli, et al. In the 1500's the language
was codified, using the writings of Boccaccio and Petrarch as the base.

Italy unified in 1861, and this version of Italian became the national language ...
even though the vast majority of people couldn't speak it properly.

------------------------------

I could see Arabic dialects, especially Derja, becoming recognized as languages in
their own right by following a similar path:

- An regional Arab renaissance (maybe it's already started?) where dialects are
nurtured, like lichtrausch mentioned, by a few great artists.

- Someone to codify the language. Otherwise it can't be taught, really - as
hp230 pointed out, dialects will only be for day to day talks.

- A government that adopts Derja (or another dialect) as the national language
rather than Arabic.

I think the first step would actually be the hardest. I've seen people try to write in
Hawaiian Creole, and it's a bit painful to read. It doesn't come across well on the
page.




Edited by kanewai on 16 July 2015 at 10:26pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



hp230
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 Message 67 of 75
17 July 2015 at 1:43am | IP Logged 
lichtrausch wrote:

Substitute French/Italian for dialect, and Latin for MSA, and I'm sure you could have
heard the exact same thing a thousand years ago in Europe. The only thing that dialects   like Egyptian or Levantine need is some nurturing by a few skilled authors and then BAM, they are the new French/Italian, elegant and refined, fully developed literary languages.

Well, nobody knows if the same scenario will happen to MSA and dielects. That would be dreadful in my opinion, seeing Latin's position in the linguistic map nowadays.
I don't reject the idea though. That may be possible (one thousand years later as you said :p).
In fact, there were some attempts to add a literary character to dielects, and even successful ones. I remember reading a book written by a tunisian novelist "Ali Douagi" in which he reports entire dialogs in the tunisian Derja (within the story written in MSA), in a very funny way. The book named "Sahirtou Minhou Al Layali" (I woke up nights because of it) was a very successful one, discribing some pictures of life in the tunisian street 100 years ago. Taha Hussein also, (a very well-known egyptian author) in his biography "Al Ayyem" (The book of the days) describes some situations in the egyptian dielect. So, the idea of a literary arabic dielect is not new, but surely not very successful. IMHO, this is due to the domination of MSA on the general literary taste.
There is another thing to discuss: arabic songs are 80% written in dielects. Songs written in MSA are much less produced due to the MSA poetry crisis. This may not be an advantage for dielects as it seems to be though. Unfortunatlely, the arabic song (or what is left of it) is living a degradation in quality.

Edited by hp230 on 17 July 2015 at 12:04pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



Rob_Austria
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Austria
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Studies: Croatian, Mandarin, Russian, Arabic (Written), Turkish

 
 Message 68 of 75
21 July 2015 at 11:06am | IP Logged 
This is a very interesting thread. I especially enjoyed the input of the native speakers of Arabic.
I've been studying MSA for some time now and I absolutely love it. It is a beautiful language and I have met a number of wonderful and outstanding people thanks to the little Arabic I know.
My personal experiences are completely different from the picture Cavesa depicted in her posts. As a matter of fact, I think she grossly generalized (even though she said she was not trying to do so). Yes, there are differences in culture and yes, you will meet and see people that misbehave. But it sounded as if that was an Arabic peculiarity, almost some specific character trait, while this certainly is not the case.
Austria receives millions of tourists every year and I have seen disrespectful people who litter and verbally/physically abuse local people from many non-Arabic countries. Go to any ski resort in Austria and you'll see locals, German, British, Dutch, Czech, Polish etc. tourists behave in a very rude and sometimes even violent way, while others don't.
And it is not as if European tourists always behaved that well when abroad either. I've been to almost 50 countries and I have seen many Europeans showing no respect whatsoever for the local culture. So, any bad experience you might have had should not really be a reason not to try and learn a language. At least, this has never been a reason for myself. You are bound to meet nice, educated, friendly and hospitable people in any country.
As for the usefulness of MSA, I've heard many stories about it being outdated, useless etc. when talking to natives.
I can't confirm that either. I've had lively discussions with children, teens and adults. I'm not religious at all, I live with a male partner and none of this has ever been a problem for any of the Arabs I have talked to (which, by the way, was not always the case when I dealt with members of the Orthodox church of Eastern European countries, so being a muslim does not automatically make you a disrespectful person, while being European and/or Christian isn't a guarantee for open-mindedness and politeness either. Just saying this because I was a bit taken aback by the way Arabs and/or muslims were portrayed in some posts here).
I've been working with Arab speaking refugees from Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. I speak MSA with all of them and I also learn the odd dialectal expression from them.
In future I intend to study some Levantine and/or Egyptian Arabic. I've already had a look at some textbooks and other study material and I don't think it will be a huge problem to get into these two dialects.
The biggest problem for Arabic is the bad publicity the Arab world is getting. Nowadays almost anything related to the Arabic world is stained by the crimes committed by the IS and similar groups.
I don't think this should stop people from studying Arabic. Anybody trying to familiarize themselves with this outstanding language will be highly rewarded in my opinion.
As for the possibility to travel to countries where Arabic is spoken, I think there still are reasonably safe options, especially if you compare these countries to some destinations in Latin America (Cavesa mentioned Latin America in one of her posts, I think).
I myself worked some time in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. I've travelled extensively in Mexico as well (I have relatives there). Latin America can be just as risky a destination as any Arab country (excluding those being devastated by civil wars).
Personally, I have found Jordan and (most parts of) Lebanon just as safe as most areas in LA. Actually, I've had fewer scary moments there than in downtown Quito, Guayaquil or Lima etc.
This November I'll be attending a language course in Oman. So, yes, there are still options a language learner can make use of if he wants to visit an Arab speaking country. While the number of these options unfortunately has drastically decreased for reasons we all know too well, I think they are still there.
To put it in a nutshell: If you are at all interested in the Arabic language, go for it. It is a beautiful language, you will have many opportunities to practise it and you can still travel to many places to experience the outstanding hospitality of Arab people. I don't regret having embarked upon that adventure for one second. If you are thinking in terms of career options, Arabic might also be interesting. In more than 20 years of working as a simultaneous interpreter, I have never met as many Arabic interpreters at international conferences as now. I'm sure that in future there will be even more demand for highly-qualified interpreters and translators for the Arabic language.
8 persons have voted this message useful



William Camden
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United Kingdom
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 Message 69 of 75
21 October 2015 at 5:58pm | IP Logged 
lichtrausch wrote:
hp230 wrote:

Sorry if I say this, but in terms of rhetoric and language beauty, MSA is incomparable
with any dielect. The literature inheritance that we dispose of can only prove that.
I'm
not underestimating the beauty of dielects, but they are only for day to day talks.

Substitute French/Italian for dialect, and Latin for MSA, and I'm sure you could have
heard the exact same thing a thousand years ago in Europe. The only thing that dialects
like Egyptian or Levantine need is some nurturing by a few skilled authors and then
BAM,
they are the new French/Italian, elegant and refined, fully developed literary
languages.


It may or may not happen in the future that dialects flower into languages in their own
right (like the Romance languages did in separating from Vulgar Latin) but MSA has
prestige among Arabic speakers, largely because it is derived from the Arabic of the
Koran, while the dialects do not.
2 persons have voted this message useful



Przemek
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Senior Member
Poland
multigato.blogspot.c
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107 posts - 174 votes 
Speaks: Polish*, English, SpanishC2, Italian, Portuguese, French
Studies: Turkish, Hindi, Arabic (Written)

 
 Message 70 of 75
09 February 2016 at 11:39am | IP Logged 
Many things have been said before and I don't want to be repetitive. But I thought that I
would put my two cents in this discussion too.
I'm one of those people who wasted much time hesitating what to choose: MSA or a dialect.
One day I had started to learn Egyptian because I got convinced that it's the most
comprehensible dialect in the Arab world. And that's true. But after I traveled two times
to Egypt I started asking myself: will I ever return there? Probably not. Then I switched
to MSA (it was more or less two years ago) and I don't regret it.
As some people said before, there are many very good materials for learning MSA so it
shouldn't be a problem finding something suitable for everyone.
I personally used DLI materials (which are available in free domain) - there are over
dozen books
in this course, dealing with every aspect of the language, with tons of exercises -
everything is available on tapes too which is a plus.
The disadvantage is that it's a course for diplomats, with focus on politics and formal
issues, not dealing enough with everyday situations.
I would also recommend "Al 9arabiyatu bayna yadayk" course. It has a strong Islamic touch
though which not everybody might like. But it deals with virtually every aspect of life,
i.e. family, health, traveling, safety, work, education etc.
There are three levels, all the books are accompanied by audio material, and what's more:
the Green Lane Mosque (Islamic organization in England) put on You Tube all the course
recorded in the form of the regular lessons! Watching them you feel like in a class with a
tutor.
The teacher gives many additional explanations in regards to Coranic rules and traditions
- if
you don't like it, you know how forward button on YT works, don't you?.
There are dozens of TV channels in MSA, as stated before, so there's no problem with
practicing aural comprehension.
The only problem with MSA is to find someone to practice speaking. For some time I had an
opportunity to hold regular conversations with a friend from Saudia Arabia, but due to
time constraints, it's not possible anymore. It's a pity, because Arabic is one of my
favorite languages. I hope we will return to our language practice sessions soon.
As to the difficulty. I can't explain why but for me MSA (although far from calling myself
a
proficient speaker) proved to be easier than Turkish. Difficult or not - in my opinion
it's a very relative question. (I'm Polish by the way, I speak English, Spanish, Italian,
Portuguese,
French, I'm learning German and Hindi too.) IMO, it's a question of motivation and keeping
focused.

Edited by Przemek on 09 February 2016 at 11:45am

7 persons have voted this message useful



daisydaisy
Newbie
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 Message 71 of 75
01 March 2017 at 12:21am | IP Logged 
I would like to address you, Woodsei, about your very interesting long post, two years
old now, so I hope you will see this. I was wondering if you could recall the title of
the book by the female lawyer which you mentioned, which later became televised? I came
across this book in a review of its English translation some time ago and wanted to buy
it, but couldn't remember the title nor the author's name. Many thanks for any help,
Daisy.
1 person has voted this message useful



Cavesa
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 Message 72 of 75
22 March 2017 at 3:01pm | IP Logged 
Rob_Austria, thanks for a very interesting post.

The funny thing is, that I have actually started considering Arabic as my next language (when I have time for it, so perhaps never). Exactly to see the culture that is hidden behind the completely wrong and failed PR. And because the language is simply beautiful to listen to. But those are reasons vast majority of people doesn't care about. Either a language is perceived as an economic asset, which Arabic is not, or it is a symbol of prestige and social status, and Arabic doesn't fulfill that either.

I would like to point out, that this thread is a discussion about why Arabic is not being learnt much more by learners in general (so mostly at schools, language schools, by normal people who are not language enthusiasts), it is not a discussion "why I would (or not) learn it".

I was describing the way Arabs are seen very often, not the way I see them. I am much closer to the famous grumpy cat meme "I can't be racist, I hate everyone the same", so pointing out that Arabs are not the only nation with problems and mistakes and rude tourists is quite useless with me. I judge my own nation the harshest by the way.

And large part of the problem are failed PR by arabic countries (nope, money and oil are not ties strong enough), criminality not tied to any organisations, just to unwillingness to accept the laws and culture of hosting country, the money europe needs to put into a foreign problem and everything else. Many of those things could be improved by the arabic countries and nations themselves, if only they wanted. The PR is a classical example.

Edited by Cavesa on 22 March 2017 at 3:12pm



2 persons have voted this message useful



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