Arabic: what gives?

Many posts ago a Palestinian pal (“pal” is twitterese for Palestinian) asked me to write about my adventures in Arabic. So here ’tis 🙂



This pal o’ mine is a refugee of Nakba 1948. By various twists of synchronicity he found his way to one of my German classes, intent on reading a bit of the curious language.

What resulted?

A capital stroke of good fortune — a safari if you will. And so did it begin. I said “look my friend, if you are willing to learn some German I could at least learn some Arabic.”

Arabic script is daunting at first. I compare its foundation in the arts and sciences to the Roman alphabet: Arabic script is to the Latin alphabet what Arabic numerals are to Roman numerals.

A qualitative difference?

Take a Roman number. Calculate its root. Let’s take the most important number of all time 42 (XLII). Let me know when you have an answer. Show all work.


Nevertheless, Roman civil engineers achieved the splendor of the arch and its keystone cap.

I bet you didn’t know Farsi from Arabic at first.

That is actually correct. I looked at Persian and thought the pairing would be simple — like switching to Dutch from German. Well, a well of Arabic words exist  in Farsi, but Farsi is not based on the root system, a method residing at the very foundation of Arabic. It’s closer to English that way. Rootless.


Well well well. WTF is a root system?

Consonants that appear in a certain order to suggest meaning. The word ‘safari‘ has roots od SFR. Place some prefixes, suffixes and a few vowel sounds here and there. You’ll discover vocabulary treasures relating to ‘travel’ one way or another.

Why did your pal bleed from the ears?

Not just my friend — most of my students. Encounters with German involve a crazy  grammar that most German students to long for escape (The Great Escape). Though toddlers who drop every dread adjective ending perfectly every day — imagine tossing a deck of cards into the air and thinking them into well sequenced suits.


What’s the deal with Arabic grammatical gender?

Look for a taa marbuta at the end of a noun — it’s that smiley face you see to the right, it’s easy to recognize too.


Arabic nouns are never neuter. There is no “it.” Just masculine and feminine. Wowser, that’s a 50% increase, from 2 to 3. There is no verb “to be” in the present, though there is a “was” in Arabic. The verb “to have” does not exist in the way of “haben” or “have” or “habeo.” Habemus Papam.

Did you know that it’s almost impossible to say anything in German without knowinf a noun’s gender?

Only a small exaggeration.

Herr Ziegler, can you craft a short sentence containing all four cases for us?

Let me grapple that in another post.  Gellerese anyone?


Thanks for reading.

Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

4 thoughts on “Arabic: what gives?”

  1. love this!

    thanks much for visiting my blog – especially as its led me to your fun site 🙂

    would love if you’d guest post on mine – type ‘call for writers’ into search box on my site if you’re interested

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello da AL,
      most kind thanks for the kind favor of reading my blog. Such words encourage me to continue — particularly when those words include an invitation to write a post for your blog.
      It has been my great fortune to meet those privileged to join in appreciation of the ancient, and new, civilization that is Persia.
      I believe in the power of individual gentle voices of understanding, voices that dissolve borders and barriers. It is a privilege to pay forward by relating experiences that go way the heck back there. One such experience was studying with fellow Iranian students who gave first-hand accounts of life under the Shah in the year 1972. We lived and studied side by side at a German university. I visited East Berlin that year too — fully 17 years before it would fall. I remember traveling 40 km to reach the American Consulate in Frankfurt and to cast my ballot for McGovern 🙂
      So I reach across the electrons to wish you, and everyone you hold dear, many wonderful moments :-

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Why of course you must continue, Bill! Much enjoy your sweet recounting of lovely memories.

    My husband is from Iran. I took a class in Farsi for a couple of semesters, but I hadn’t the patience to stick with it. Am forever thinking I’ll get back to it – but good intentions are all that result…

    all of your site is wonderful – If you have time to put together something for my blog, doesn’t have to be on this same subject, email me at

    wishing you & yours the best 🙂


  3. You should learn Urdu too! There are also different dialects of arabic so what may appear the same may not be completely. I’m Indian taking an Arabic class and it’s fascinating! Great post tho sir!

    Liked by 1 person

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