When An American Nails An Arab Talent Show

Jennifer Grout is an American who doesn’t know a word of Arabic. Yet she still managed to nail the song “Ba’id Annak” by Um-Kulthum, all while playing the oud.

Many of us have American relatives and we all know exactly how difficult it is for them to learn Arabic. More often than not, their attempts at pronouncing some letters turn into pure entertainment, which makes Jennifer’s achievement even more impressive.

At a time when our TV stations are littered with contestants vying to become stars, Jennifer Grout manages to make a dent. I’m very intrigued as to what she will do next. Even over here, Americans got talent.

Arabic is Dying in Lebanon

We’ve all tossed around the idea of the Arabic language meeting a slow but sure demise in Lebanon. It was only very recently that a friend and I figured we should strive to lessen mixing languages during our day to day discussions. This has proven to be especially difficult seeing as our day to day discussions stem from elements in our lives where Arabic is as dead as dead goes.

As an example at the top of my head, there are next to no Arabic words that I’m aware of with which I can describe what goes on at the hospital. So I simply revert to the language that makes such descriptions easier. It’s a simple matter of convenience.

However, there are now tangible numbers as to the state of the Arabic language today. Out of more than 61,000 brevet students, only 33.7% managed to get the required 30/60 to pass their Arabic exam, one that has been easy by all standards:

I’m guessing such news comes as no surprise to anyone. I also don’t see this pattern reversing anytime soon, no matter how much the Arabic curriculum is changed or the exams made easier as the LBC reporter suggests.

For starters, the bulk of your education, be it at school or at the university level, doesn’t happen through the mother tongue, not that I’m complaining. The last thing I want to do, honestly, is to study Maths and science in Arabic. However, when you are priming a student for years and years not to use his mother tongue in almost all the dealings of his everyday life, isn’t it expected for him to slowly move away from that language?
This lack of Arabic use in education reflects clearly on the extent with which Lebanese use Arabic outside of their education as compared to neighboring countries. For instance, many of my Syrian friends find chatting, texting or doing anything of the sort in Arabic completely normal because of the extent that language is used in their education. Is that the case for us? Obviously not.

Upon leaving high school and going to college, the Arabic you get exposed to is directly correlated it with how much Arabic you are willing to take. For most, that is the one required course in order to graduate – an easy course at best, with many struggling to make it through as I’ve witnessed personally. If you’re not majoring in Arabic literature and have no interest in languages in general, there’s next to no use for you to pursue this language further. Couple this with the fact that your exposure to its components becomes non-existent and the populace suffering a decline in their Arabic proficiency becomes certain.

Back in our days, we were not overwhelmed by a lack of Arabic as the newer generation is today. We didn’t go home to countless Internet pages and smartphones that beeped to no end. How much of our laptops and devices are Arabic-equipped?
How many Internet pages that we actually use are written in Arabic? How many of the Arabic pages that are present do we normally use? Outside of the news ones, I can think of none. Horoscopes, maybe?

Moreover, the entire online presence of the Lebanese population, the youth particularly, is one which doesn’t rely on the Arabic language. We use arabizi out of convenience. We revert to English and French because even arabizi has some aspect on which we fail to agree and its use becomes tedious for those who are not that used to it. Who of us regularly tweets using Arabic? It comes as a surprise for many if some of us actually do that. Who of us has set their Facebook account to Arabic? How many of us even feel it’s easier to blog in Arabic even though it should give us a wider base? My MacBook Pro, for one, doesn’t have an Arabic keyboard.

There are a multitude of jokes about Achrafieh women who are proud of their children not knowing a word of Arabic. The reality though is that in a world as changing as this and with a people as malleable to circumstances as the Lebanese people, the Arabic language simply doesn’t seem to find a place of use except as being the language we were born hearing and speaking. Is that enough? Perhaps not.

R.I.P Warda Al Jazairia

Whenever I think of Warda, I think of my mother singing her songs as I hovered around her. The legendary Algerian singer passed away a few hours ago, at the age of 71, in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

My favorite Warda song is not the go-to Batwannes Bik. It’s one from the only Egyptian movie I’ve watched, back when I was much younger, upon my mother’s request. It’s probably my favorite because of the number of times I’ve heard my mother sing it.

The song is “Hikayti Ma3 l Zaman.” You can’t but be delighted by her voice, her performance, the lyrics and the tune.

I find it horrifying that as the news of Warda’s passing spread around, one of the newer “singers” was busy stripping and “singing” on MTV. The contrast is eye-opening. The giants of Arabic music are fast going away. It’s sad that we only cherish them when they pass away.

Warda’s body will be sent to Algeria tomorrow. She was born in France in 1940 to an Algerian father and a Lebanese mother. She has said on numerous occasions that her talent comes from her mother so with her passing, Lebanon has lost one of its giants as well.

Warda’s repertoire is non-ending. Her highlight songs are many. These are some of them:

And last but not least:

May she rest in peace.

 

The “Democracy” of a Libyan Mercenary

Even as they buried their dead, there was absolutely no mercy for the people of Libya.

Colonel Gaddafi defines democracy as a combination of two Arabic words: Demo and Cracy. The meaning ultimately becoming: to stay on chairs. This man has been the Libyan president for forty years and it doesn’t look like he’s satisfied. He’s killing his people left and right, solidifying the notion of an iron-fist rule.

The brutality of the Libyan Revolution is the worst one yet. More people have died in the events that started unfolding one week ago than all of the Egyptian casualties in their two weeks revolution. Gaddafi is hiring mercenaries to gun down his own people, which makes it harder for them to get the voices across. The mercenaries simply don’t care about the point of the protests. They want to get paid, a rumored £18,000 sum.

And to make things worse, it looks like the media has simply lost interest after the Egyptian revolution succeeded. It seems as if Libya is simply the lesser country out of all the ones currently trying to get change going and therefore, we’re getting the least coverage of events from there. We hear that about 200 people gunned down in one day, more than 1000 wounded, descriptions of massacres… but for all we know, it could be even worse.

I will not go into the politics of it. I do not understand Libyan politics and I do not intend to say I do. In the matters of what is going on today, the way you view things is very, very simple. What is happening in Libya today is unacceptable on a basic human level. But what really hurts is that some higher-order governments simply don’t care. They side with the Libyan government, ultimately not caring about the lives being lost, to conserve their economic advantages, represented by the oil reserves Libya has.

Gaddafi wants to fight to the last bullet to stay in office. His son warned of “rivers of blood” if the protests continue. I cannot really come up with the words to describe how big of an abomination this statement is, except that the people of Libya are courageous. How many of us would go to the streets knowing that there’s a high chance we might die? They know they could die but they still protest against a brutal creature who is not a man, for man has a conscience and a man with a conscience cannot do these things.

Courage is the ultimate virtue. It is the ability to go into a battlefield to stand up for your beliefs knowing that you might not come out alive. It’s standing up for what you believe in in spite of fear. And the people of Libya do that. In what I believe is becoming a revolution overdose in the Middle East, I am, today, the most compassionate with the events going on in Libya. So today, I invite everyone to let the word out that they need whatever help they can get.

There is not much we can do individually, but I believe our collective effort can bring forth great things. I am not inviting you to become activist, but taking stands is what life is all about. And Libya needs you to take a stand – with it – today.

Gaddafi, therefore, becomes not only lesser than a man, lesser than a creature. He is a mercenary like the ones he his hiring. A mercenary who is not worthy of his country, not worthy of the concept of democracy and I believe 68 years of life are more than enough for a man like him.

Google Translate’s Hidden Political Message?

I found this out today and thought it’s interesting enough to blog about it.

1) Go to Google Translate.

2) Choose your input language as English, output as Arabic. Type in: Israel Will Finish.

3) Take out the resultant translation and translate it back to English. Check out the result.

4) Try out any other country. I’ve tried Lebanon and the U.S.A.



You can’t blame the interlingual variations for the difference you see here. Thoughts?