We're Jason, Beth, Lee Anna, Sawyer, and Sarah Claire, a family of five living, learning, and laughing lots in Northern Africa.
We hope you can learn a little (and maybe laugh a little too) as you read about our latest adventures.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The thing about learning a language . . .

Is that it’s not quite as simple as just learning a new set of words. One might think that given an Arabic/English dictionary and enough time, one could learn to communicate. Wrong. What we’ve discovered is that they just don’t always use the same words for the same ideas. Here are a few examples we’ve gleaned from our brief seven months’ study.

To say our house is near the store, they use the words “near from.” So our place is near from the store. Our phrase “one day” becomes “a day out of all the days.” To say “I got the hiccups” or “I got an idea” we have to say “the hiccups (or an idea) came to me.” That one really makes sense, since I’m not doing anything to attain the hiccups—they just show up.

Some of them are more fun. If you sit Indian-style (with your legs “squared”) and your foot goes to sleep, they have a verb that means you have ants in your leg! The handle on a coffee cup is an “ear” but the handle for most anything else (car door, bucket, walking stick, etc.) is just called a “hand.” If you want someone to go away, tell them to “walk.” (Lee Anna uses this one on her Daddy from time to time!)

In America, if we’ve been apart for a time, I might say “I missed you.” My Arabic-speaking friends, however, would use their verb that says “you made me sad by being gone” (all one word). We’ve found several other concepts that take a phrase to communicate in English but just one word in Arabic: “do something about something,” “do something to get well,” “to be raised up,” “messed up my schedule,” and “story about how you met.”

On the other hand, we Americans use lots of phrases that don’t mean exactly what they say. In a story today, I tried to tell our teacher that a man “drove me to the store.” She corrected me to say “he drove the car to the store and I rode with him.” He didn’t really drive me, now did he?

I guess we’ve still got a lot to learn.

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