Arabic??? Why?!Listen to “Arabic?! BUT WHY?!” on Spreaker.
This is the reaction I get these days any time I tell someone that I’m learning my 4.5th language. It’s actually a great question when you think of the limited opportunities for women in the world of Arabic-speaking countries. So why? Where was the inspiration sparked? Spain.
Spain as we know it jogs the memory of toros, paella, flamenco, playa y sol. Those are all a few of my favorite things too, but the history of Spain is the most fascinating memory to me. Back when I was a student at San Diego State University studying International Business with a focus on Western Europe, I took a class that examined the full history of Spain: its origins, the expansion of Castillo y Leon, the exploration and also back to …the Moors. The Moors? Yes, the North African Arabs who conquered southern Spain for 700 years left a beautiful trail of architecture, language and culture that remains a rich symbol of history today.
In 2017 as I set on the wall taking in the picturesque views from the Alhambra, I imagined what this castle must have been like during its heyday. The opulence of this castle was like none I had ever seen. The meticulous detail in the ceiling of the
Salón de Embajadores was hypnotic and I began to think about the beauty I could see if I visited the source. If this was only a taste of more to come, how much more beauty would I see if I visited an Arab country directly.
At a nearby restaurant, I raved on about what I’d just seen to others who had seen it themselves or had seen it every day. My best friend was gracious to take it as usual. Then I turned to language as I’d look at the numerous “Al-blah blah blah” signs and thought how much I loved the squiggly writings. “I would love to learn how to read something like that,” I said.
“A lot of people down here speak Arabic,” the waitress cut in.
“REALLY?!” I was stunned in disbelief.
“Yes. It’s actually quite similar to Spanish. It’s actually very easy,” the server continued to blow my mind.
And that’s where my curiosity was born. I’d heard Arabic and it never sounded anything like Spanish to me. Far from it in fact. And “easy”??? Girl you crazy… That’s exactly what I thought, but as soon as she said, “It’s easy,” I felt challenged.
So at the beginning of the Corona Virus pandemic, as I searched for ways to make the lockdown feel positive, learning Arabic was at the top of my list. This scribble written, throat spoken, language of the Middle East was my next challenge to tackle and Duolingo was set to be my Sensei.
I bought into the ad-free Duolingo Plus package and within the first few weeks it had already paid for itself. (Click and try it out for the language you want to learn. It gives me access to Duolingo Plus too. Thanks!) For one hour each day, up to even three hours per day intermittently, I’d learn that this squiggly is a “t”, that loop is a “q”, this line is an “h” and so forth. The sentence structure really was easy, but the accent system made French look like child’s play. No matter though, I was in it to win it.
Several months down the line in late Fall when it came time to chase the sun, I opened Google Flights and began looking for deals. My eyes quickly drifted over to the Middle East and pulled down slowly back to Egypt. “Hey! I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt,” the lightbulb illuminated my imagination and I instantly knew where I’d be headed next. “Hey! Ash can tell me where to go too!” I remembered an Egyptian friend that I had met in California, who’d be my perfect virtual tour guide – article about Egypt coming soon. “And OOOH! They speak Arabic there!!!” *DING DING DING* I had visited Dubai several times, Morocco earlier that year, but this would be my first time visiting an Arabic speaking country post Duolingo obsession. I was hyped!…excited…I was excited.
There is so much to tell about Egypt – which again, I will do in an article and videos –
but one of the most thrilling experiences was recognizing some of the Arabic script words I had learned on menus or understanding the occasional word as people around me spoke. No I didn’t understand everything. Duolingo is just the start, albeit a good one.
So now, as I dive back into my crazy language learning routine, I have to ask myself, “But why?” Where is the universe trying to take me in 2022? We all know that I don’t believe in coincidence and that I believe that every little detail of our existence is valuable, but what will I ever use Arabic for once I become fluent?
I don’t even know, but I am curious enough to ask if you’ve ever learned a language – outside of high school – just for kicks? And did you ever use it? I’m so curious to hear your story…especially if it came to some “bigger than you” use…Oooh I can’t wait to here that story.
Until then I’ll be posting on Instagram and letting you know how I’m progressing, when I find a personal teacher, when I read my first good night story in Arabic and so on. OH I’M SO EXCITED!!!
Until then make sure that you’re following on Instagram and Facebook…I’ll launch a private Whatsapp group for all my travel / food / language nerds soon too. Drop a line and let me know if you want to join.
Hugs & Kiss!
Dançoise a.k.a. your Carmen San Diego