Arabic is scary

Posted:
in AppleOutsider edited January 2014
I'm looking over the study materials for a course in elementary Arabic speaking and writing which I'm taking, starting tomorrow night. I've taken two semesters each of Spanish and French before, I've dabbled a little in German, Russian and Chinese... I don't think I've ever felt such a, "My God! What have I gotten myself into!" feeling before.



I haven't had too much trouble with non-English sounds in other European languages. But the sounds of Arabic? Yikes! If there were one sound in Arabic like the "ch" in the German "ich", I could happily cope with that. But you start with two variants of that sound, each represented by a separate letter, one raspier than the other, and then each of those variants has a variant where you're supposed to be doing something constrictive with your throat or rounding your lips or whatever, which doesn't sound a whole hell of a lot different to me, but which results in two more letters in the alphabet.



I'm not sure I'll be able to cope with having to clearly pronounce, and clearly hear as distinct, four different throat clearing noises. With my luck, I'll try out some phrase, trying to be friendly, and the lost-on-me distinction between one consonant and another will convert my amiable intentions into an insult to someone's entire family unto the tenth generation.



There are similar variants on other sounds too. In total, I'd say about a third of the 28-letter alphabet is going to cause me a lot of grief.



As for reading this stuff... When I look at Arabic script, I can't understand anything apart from perhaps how dylexics must feel. It's just a f*cking jumble of squiggles, damn it! I can look at the alphabet chart, look at whole words, look back at the chart, look back at the words -- and feel firmly convinced that the two things have nothing to do with each other and that the entire Arab world is just playing a joke on the infidels trying to learn this stuff.



Has anyone else here studied Arabic? Does it get any easier? Should I buy lots of cough drops?

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    Hebrew (albeit non-fluently and retardedly taught) was a mainstain of my religious education, of course I grew up in an environment where Hanukah is really Chanukah, and yiddish words pronounced with an american accent get you laughed out of the room as a very young kid...



    Yes, it gets easier... your vocal cords are designed to make all sorts of sounds...



    (btw, has anyone noticed on pcs in firefox that ctrl backspace deletes entire words?)
  • Reply 2 of 15
    outsideroutsider Posts: 6,008member
    Can I ask you one question? Ok, 2.



    Why do you hate America?
  • Reply 3 of 15
    Outsiders got The Questions.



    hahahahahhhahhhahhhh...



    I am watching the Country Boys Frontline documentary and at one point a teenager referred to meningitis as The Meningitis.



    hahahahhhahhhh...



    Note: This Jew boy is from the south...
  • Reply 4 of 15
    Quote:

    Originally posted by shetline

    I haven't had too much trouble with non-English sounds in other European languages. But the sounds of Arabic? Yikes! If there were one sound in Arabic like the "ch" in the German "ich", I could happily cope with that. But you start with two variants of that sound, each represented by a separate letter, one raspier than the other, and then each of those variants has a variant where you're supposed to be doing something constrictive with your throat or rounding your lips or whatever, which doesn't sound a whole hell of a lot different to me, but which results in two more letters in the alphabet.



    Are you talking about the difference between ?Hah ( ح ) and Khah ( خ )?

    Because there are two variants of those: the Khah ( خ ) is closer to the Spanish jota (as in ?jugar? ?juntos?) than to the German ?ch?; while the ?Hah ( ح ) is pronounced from the throat.



    Then there's the alotgether different category of the ?Ayin ( ع ) which is any vowel pronounced from the throat and has no similar sound in any European language, and of the Ghayin ( غ ) which sounds somewhat like the way the French pronounce their ?r? and the Spaniards pronounce the second ?g? in ?griego?.

    Back in the early days of the internets, when Arabic support was spotty on the Windows side of things, Roman script was used for e-mail and chat in transliterated Arabic, and digits were used to indicate those variations like 7 for ?Hah ( ح ) and 3 for ?Ayin ( ع ).





    Quote:

    I'm not sure I'll be able to cope with having to clearly pronounce, and clearly hear as distinct, four different throat clearing noises. With my luck, I'll try out some phrase, trying to be friendly, and the lost-on-me distinction between one consonant and another will convert my amiable intentions into an insult to someone's entire family unto the tenth generation.



    When I was around ten years old I didn't know how I'd cope with a language with so many ?w?s and ?wh?s, and all those intangibe ?r?s and when one had to adress both an individual person and a group of people as ?you?. My parents who spoke five languages fluently and another dozen proficiently told me to be patient, listen, exercise, and improvise.

    And since we had just moved to a country populated by hopelessly monolingual Anglophones I didn't have much of a choice.

    And that was easy compared to French.



    Quote:

    As for reading this stuff... When I look at Arabic script, I can't understand anything apart from perhaps how dylexics must feel. It's just a f*cking jumble of squiggles, damn it! I can look at the alphabet chart, look at whole words, look back at the chart, look back at the words -- and feel firmly convinced that the two things have nothing to do with each other and that the entire Arab world is just playing a joke on the infidels trying to learn this stuff.



    Only consonnants are spelled out, vowels are only implied, and sometimes emphasised by adding an Alif ( ا ) for an ?aa? sound or a ?Waw? ( و ) for an ?oo? sound. Moreover, each letter has three to four forms according to its position in a word: initial, medial, final, and isolate (for one-letter-words), and then of course there's the fact that several letters use basically the same glyph with different dots: ظ ط ت ب خ ح ج



    Yes, it does get confusing, but no less that than b, d, q, p, n, u, etc.



    It requires a certain effort but after a while one familiarises oneself with the basics and it gets easier.

    Of course, since you are likely to learn ?Modern Standard Arabic? you should be aeare that it is not an acutal spoken language, as Arabic-speakers are afflicted with diglossia: one uses a local vernacular for conversation and Modern Standard Arabic (back then it was called literary Arabic) for books, newspapers, school, and television.



    Mabrouk for your studies.



    Quote:

    Originally posted by hardeeharhar

    Hebrew (albeit non-fluently and retardedly taught) was a mainstain of my religious education, of course I grew up in an environment where Hanukah is really Chanukah,?



    Actually it should be prounounced ?Hanouca, with a ?Heth ( ח ) pronouced from the throat just like the Arabic ?Hah ( ح ). But many native Hebrew speakers misprounouce that as well.



    Calligraphy is gone too.



    [And my keyboard skills are so-so]
  • Reply 5 of 15
    In the US the CH is a raspy pronunciation of Chanukah...
  • Reply 6 of 15
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    That's pretty cool that you're learning Arabic shetline. Wasn't there some kind of national initiative announced the other day for Americans to learn more Chinese and Arabic?



    But I have to ask: With whom are you going to practice it? I believe you're in Vermont - are there many Arabic-speaking people there? I didn't think they even let people from Massachusetts into Vermont.
  • Reply 7 of 15
    gene cleangene clean Posts: 3,481member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by BRussell

    But I have to ask: With whom are you going to practice it? I believe you're in Vermont - are there many Arabic-speaking people there? I didn't think they even let people from Massachusetts into Vermont.



    Get with the times BRussell: with the terrroorrrrisstss.



    Jokes aside: I started learning Arabic from a GF of mine, she was an Assyrian born in Iraq, Christian, but spoke better Arabic than Assyrian. Anyway, she started talking and I started pretending like I was talking, but my throat kept hurting at night... and I kind of, uh, well, gave up.



    Good luck to you though!
  • Reply 8 of 15
    zozo Posts: 3,115member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Outsider

    Can I ask you one question? Ok, 2.



    Why do you hate America?




    Huh??? Is this supposed to be funny?



    Arabic is a hard language... and btw, as you probably know, there are many different types of Arabic dialects.



    Its written the same throughout, but can vary A LOT from country to country, to the point of incomprehension.



    For example, my ex GF studied "pure" Arabic (Syrian/Saudi) and when she went to Egypt, they had a hard time understanding her... in Tunisia it was even worse... and so on, and yet, they write it all the same.



    Kinda like English/USA/Scotish/Ireland, etc.. We may all write the words (almost) all the same, I challenge a Jersey boy to go to Scotland and understand ANYTHING (vice versa)... or heck, a New Yorker go have a long conversation with some red neck in the boonies. And we're still talking about the same language within the same countries' borders..



    Its kinda weird. I only picked up a few words here and there over the years too, and would be interested to get to know more.



    Supposedly the Koran can only be truly appreciated/understood in Arabi. All translations from Arabic don't render the same meaning/depth. I was also told that its a language that was created for artistic/poetic/litterature, so the words have many many meanings, etc. A very rich language.



    In other-words, complicated as hell
  • Reply 9 of 15
    shetlineshetline Posts: 4,695member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by ZO

    Huh??? Is this supposed to be funny?



    I've seen your screen name around here a bit. Haven't you caught on that "Why do you hate America?" is a bit of a running joke? I got it, at least.
  • Reply 10 of 15
    zozo Posts: 3,115member
    yeah.. well.. been around since late '98.. I get around



    Well, I see the "you hate America" things every now and then... but this was kinda ambiguous... sometimes fellow AIers can be uh.. well.. whatever



    What dialect of Arabic are you learning? Where's the teacher from? I'm sure he/she will say that the Arabic he is teaching is THE correct one



    PS: If you learn Arabic, you can then learn Dutch without a problem... its also one of those flem competition languages
  • Reply 11 of 15
    Quote:

    Originally posted by ZO

    Kinda like English/USA/Scotish/Ireland, etc..



    Scotland and Ireland aren't too bad as far as I know, thanks to television and radio influences. But Yorkshire. . . now, there's a challenge. (IIRC)
  • Reply 12 of 15
    The beginning is always tough for a new language. I have learned two in school, and two by actually arriving in the country and needing to survive. Eventually, I stayed in one of those countries and became a language teacher.



    Listening is essential to language acquisition. As kids, we spend a very long time listeninng to the adults around us (and likely being amazed at how wierd they look) before we manage our first word, which is usually a very simple thing that sounds (or often is so interpreted by the wierd-looking adults) like "Ma-Ma", "Pa-Pa" or, for kids with truly bright futures ahead of them, "Pizza". It is no different for a second or foreign language, but hopefully won't take as long before you utter your first word! Simply put, you need to listen to a lot of the target language, both controlled language and native, fluent casual stuff.



    If at all possible, use videos you can watch repeatedly at your own leisure (when you want to learn, it makes things easier). Or get some language CDs. Don't use translations, as it is very normal not to understand everything. When you speak to your friends in English, you don't actually catch 100% of what they are saying; you should not expect to do so in a another language. There should be Arabic TV available on satelite (just guessing).



    Similarly, it is important to practice speaking. Language is primarily oral/aural, and the brain processes it naturally this way (as opposed to reading - how many of you could read in your native language at birth?). Of course, nothing can beat having the chance to practice with someone who speaks the language well, but make sure they work with you from the persepective of learning the language (how to use it for commuication) as opposed to learning about the language (which they do here in Japan; most Japanese are incapable of more than a couple of words despite six years or more of study, the reason being how they are made to study the langauge), and keep the experience positive.



    Practice daily, even for a short time (review is the key to all learning).



    You will make lots of mistakes, but don't let these get you down. How common is it for people to make mistakes in his- I mean- their own langauges? The people around you should understand that you are learning and will help you through the mistakes (and they can be rather embarrassing!)



    Good luck!



    By the way, what is the status of language learning in the States now? I've been overseas for over a decade and wonder what the language requirements are in schools, how the classes are taught and what level of proficiency you are expected (intended) to reach, and whether you actually do.
  • Reply 13 of 15
    zozo Posts: 3,115member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Splinemodel

    Scotland and Ireland aren't too bad as far as I know, thanks to television and radio influences. But Yorkshire. . . now, there's a challenge. (IIRC)



    hehe seriously thouh... go to Scotland and try to talk to someone...



    I had sudden doubts I was in Scotland many times... or that maybe the were drunk .. or german...

    i mean, wher's Sir Mac O The Isles when you need him?
  • Reply 14 of 15
    placeboplacebo Posts: 5,767member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by hardeeharhar



    (btw, has anyone noticed on pcs in firefox that ctrl backspace deletes entire words?)




    Whoa, that's
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