Arabic Accordance

Where Africa Meets Asia

Arabic words illustrated to match their literal meaning, by Mahmoud Tammam

Should Americans, as part of their school curriculum, learn Arabic numerals?

“Civic Science” a Pittsburgh-based research firm, put that question to some 3,200 Americans recently in a poll seemingly about mathematics, but the outcome was a measure of students’ attitudes toward the Arab world. Some 56 percent of the respondents said, “No.” Fifteen percent had no opinion.

Mustafa Akyol

In the ancient days(the years between 1971 and 1973), I was an exchange student at Justus Liebig University, a small (80,000) town north of Frankfurt. German was the lingua Alamannia spoken by fellow students from Iran to Japan. Learning an unfamiliar language breaks barriers in unexpected and humbling ways.

German and English are close lingual relatives. They share familial bonds with Proto-Indo-European (PIE). Persian, although it hardly looks the part, is a branch of the PIE tree. Persian borrowed Arabic script, but its grammar and vocabulary roots place it among most European languages.

A wall between two once and future German-speaking occupied lands had been erected, enforced, and thought eternal ten-years earlier. Politik: Real. Of course, English has long become the international language. But languages offer a way out, an outlet, an escape. I often go to YouTube in order to learn Arabic from people who also learned German as their second language — people like me, people like you.

Visit a local mosque (masjid). I’ve visited ours dozens of times and have always left with hope in my soul. Don’t allow a propagandist, an ideologue, a demagogue, a polemicist… to monger your mind.

  • Arabic is a beautiful artful language.
  • It’s not from the Protoindo-European family.
  • It is a friendly language.
  • has an intensely intuitive grammar.
  • is the language of the Qur’an.
  • Arabic is a fun language.

Thanks for reading.

Below, a draft I wrote in German to organize my thoughts. FWIW.

In den alten Zeiten (zwischen 1971 und 1973) war ich Austauschstudent an der Justus Liebig Universität. Deutsch als eine zweite Sprache musste ich ohne Computer und ohne Internet lernen.

Natürlich ist Englisch schon lange die internationale Sprache geworden. Aber Sprachen bieten einen Ausweg, einen Auslass, einen Escape. Oft gehe ich zum YouTube, um Arabisch zu lernen. Jede Menge von Videos stehen zur Verfügung. Da finde ich Lehrer und Lehrerinnen in Deutschland, die, wie ich Deutsch als ‘ne zweite Sprache zu lernen. Leute wie ich, Leute wie du. Eine kleine Clue: sie sind keine Monsters.

Resultat: Arabisch finde ich eine ganz logische dritte Sprache. Na klar! Fabelhaft.

Arabisch:

  • ist eine wunderschön kunsthafte Sprache.
  • stammt nich aus der protoindoeuropäischen Familie.
  • ist eine freundliche Sprache.
  • bietet eine Einleitung zu Islam an.
  • hat eine intensiv intuitive Grammatik.
  • ist die Sprache der Qur’an.
  • العربية ممتعة. — Arabisch macht Spass.

Arabisch lerne ich um Verständnis und Mitgefühl erreichen zu können. Auf der anderen Seite, Propaganda ist Verfälschung. Übersetzungen sollten nie verschmiert werden. Arabisch lerne ich um die Wahrheit zu erkennen. Übersetzungen können grosse Lügen werden, giftige Lügen. Sprachen sollten Verständnis bauen — Propaganda zerstört die Wahrheit mit Absicht.

Who’s Afraid of Arabic Numerals?

Reel bad Arabs

Arabic.Mike

cibarA Arabic

I think of Proto-Indo-European as a linguistic continent comprised of many languages — geographies mapped by language. Though PIE has left nothing in writing for her descendants to examine, a process of reverse engineering points to a hub at the greater Ukraine vicinity.

All homo sapiens came from East Africa, the shortest and most easily traversed paths have gone through what is now Palestine. Those who took up residence in the fertile bread-basket of Western Asia stopped to create PIE before proceeding to various points of the compass.

My first steps taken outside the world of English were in German, where I wrestled her complex set of inflections — function signals developed over the millennia on the Northern European Plain — an easily traversed topography as well. The shortest distance between two points takes longer if you must scale mountains along the way.

Arabic doesn’t look three-quarters of a smidgeon like PIE.

Saxons brought German across the channel, The English. Along that path, the “b” became a “v”, the “t” became a “d” and a few other things I shall leave unexamined right now. Vikings made short work of inflections when they occupied Isles, The British. The “t” latched onto the “h” to do something not done in proper German society — sticking the tongue out. A native German-speaking friend once told me that her mother would scold her at any spoken breach, such as allowing your tongue to extend beyond the teeth.
“It’s what the Englanders do. Tut tut. The very idea…”

One of my German students, a Palestinian, introduced me to the Arabic alphabet. I accepted his interest in German as a challenge to learn Arabic, at the time I hadn’t known that Arabic was not one of the PIE tongues. The excerpt of the Qu’ran included below might alert you that Arabic doesn’t look three-quarters of a smidgeon like PIE. Peruse this image for a long take at nine English words. It’s a color-coded snapshot of those nine that elucidate many aspects of Arabic grammar. The Quranic Arabic Corpus provides detail from the hair strands to the toenails.


Quranic Arabic Corpus (67:1)

Search any translation, interpretation, analysis, mistranslation, misinterpretation, or spurious analysis in any Qu’ran 67:1. Take it where you will or where you won’t. Languages should always offer a means for removing barriers, not exacerbating them. Weaponizing translations for propaganda value is a kind of false witness that literally obfuscates communication for a hidden or unstated agenda.

A few closing thoughts:

Arabic language has

  • a script that makes many alphabets (alpha, beta…) based on Latin look hammered and chiseled by comparison.
  • a root system that works as precise architecture — form follows function. It combines beauty with linguistic precision.
  • some amazing flexibility. German, my second language, can concatenate nouns, can use entire prepositional and adverbial phrases to function as adjectives. However, Arabic can incorporate entire sentences into a single word.
  • a different look and feel that distinguishes it from Proto-Indo-European language. Farsi is a PIE language, it’s not based on a root system — even though its words look like Arabic.
  • something for the left-handed student. Arabic allows me to see what I am writing as I write, to sweep a pen across a piece of paper. To pull along a sheet of paper rather than to plow into it.

All my posts on a theme of Arabic Language

All my posts on a theme of German Language

Thanks for reading.

Languages, Escape Velocity and Bigly Lies

Learning a second or 3rd or 4th language is like escaping the gravity of your native land. You probe about in another way of being, of thinking, of observing. Better still — if you’ve the inclination — learn another tongue via a second or third language. Meet the stranger in a place foreign to each.

I am so grateful for my Palestinian student who decided to learn German via English, without recourse to his native Arabic. He inspired me to do the same — learn Arabic by way of German. “arabisch lernen”

arabisch.lernen

German from the baby steps to fluency. The magic of YouTube brings me teachers who speak their mother’s Arabic in a German-speaking land. I studied in Germany for a year and a half. The other international students joined me to prepare for lessons conducted in German. Japanese medical students already knew anatomical terms, because their forefathers carried it back to Japan — including decades as fellow Axis members. Gray’s Anatomy with German body parts

Some lessons I’ve learned

Iranian students taught me about Savak and their Shah many years before the Revolution of 1979. Krupp established large industrial site in that Persian land. An industrial giant since the 16th Century. A family tradition, Blut und Eisen.

Propaganda relies upon endlessly repeated mistranslations, designed to obfuscate. Weaponized language to serve hidden agendas, to move geopolitical stakes through sabotage, bigotry, racism, straw men, false flags, pacification, liquidation; in other words, chicanery of any convenient kind. Whatever works. No questions asked.

Walls visible and invisible. Sow the seeds of discontent to ignite anger. Divide and conquer. British imperialists deliberately provoked Sunni and Shia rivalries by locating them within an arbitrary borderline. Think of it as double solitary confinement. A technique that works wonders: encourage each to fight the other over differences deep as the empire gathers spoils of conquest, to the victor go the value subtracted.

History remembered is myth created by the most talented liars. Every American recites the same short soundbites: flag-shaded collective memories. Memorized lies to mask disquieting truth. 1,000 memorized lies. Cherrypick and pass on. Manufacture your destiny as something somehow manifest by a deity for your outrageous fortune. Cloying spoilings.

shadid_lewis
Kresta and Spencer find a convenient fool

Conduct experiments on war fodder soldiers and increase your “intelligence.” Handbooks written by Chinese military master torturers were translated verbatim and reapplied in Guantanamo — word by evil word.

Accuse Cuba of human rights violations while torturing prisoners on Cuban soil. Announce bounties — turn in someone you hate, an enemy or a randomly selected person, a stranger. Get paid for lying about an innocent neighbor. Extraordinary rendition is spuriously twisted language designed by twisted authority to mask torture by proxy. Look the other way. Justify everything. Celebrate the patriotic art of bigly deals. Endless war for endless profit. Drop MOABS and cut a purchase order for replacement MOABS.

This morning I read a piece from Mark Chmiel’s blog — Mistake. Dark serendipity in the same tone and key. Thank you, Mark.

And

Thanks for reading.

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 🙂

lemon

you-already-speak-arabic-arabic-loanwords-in-european-languages-9-728

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.

match-stick-pi

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.

arabic-or-farsi

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.

german-article-adjective-and-pronoun-chart-updated

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.

ta-marbuta

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?

gellerese5

Thanks for reading.

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