Varieties of Arabic and English

Well, my time here in Scotland is drawing near to an end and then back to the Middle East. I was fortunate last night to met two Libyan guys and we conversed for a good while. Of course the Libyan dialect is a good bit different from what I'm used to, but I spoke with them in Classical Arabic which often times evokes the response, "You speak Arabic better than I do!" Which is not correct--at least not in an kind of practical way. Being able to have a conversation in Classical Arabic impresses people, and they will usually understand me fairly well, but it's just not that helpful.

In other news I ran across this website where an American student in Scotland talks about settling in here and he has a bunch of great pictures of the city of Edinburgh, which is the most beautiful city in Scotland I have yet seen. Glasgow is nice. Sterling is also quite pretty but rather small. Saint Andrew's is as beautiful as Edinburgh, but is not really large enough to be called a city. I have been to a few other places as well. Maybe I will actually post pictures some day.

In any case here is Stephen's commentary on the differences in usage we have RE the word vest and waistcoat:

waistcoat/vest - Okay, this I learned because of some confusion. I went clubbing with some friends (undergrads at the University here, one of whom is in my Greek and Hebrew courses with me), and as we were walking back, they were talking about how bad the "guy wearing the vest" looked. I was confused: I saw the guy in the vest, and thought he looked quite classy. I voiced this opinion, and they stared at me dumbfoundedly. So as we passed a store window and saw vests on display, I said "Yeah, that right there, he was wearing something like that, and it looked good. I wear vests when I want to look more dressed up." My friends proceeded to laugh at me, because what we in the States call "vests" they call "waistcoats." "Vests, " here, are what we call tanktops, or wifebeaters. And I explained to my friends (all from England) that their terminology was inaccurate and stupid, and they just laughed more. So I spent the rest of the walk home doing crappy imitations of their British accents, to more laughter.


amy said…
Ah! I'm new to your blog and didn't realize you were currently in Scotland. I hope you'll find time to post pictures, as Scotland is on my 'must see before I die' list =-)

Thanks for your blog; I'm enjoying your insights regarding Islam.

Abu Daoud said…
Thanks for dropping by. I don't have a digital camera here but I hope to get some pictures of my travels sooner rather than later and will post them, though I'm heading back to the ME fairly soon here.
Duffy said…
Hey Abu,

How about an example of the differences in Arabic? Do you have the same problem Brits and Americans have?

Once I nearly fell off my chair when my English coworker asked rather loudly, "Do you have a rubber I can borrow?"
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Duffy,

Good question. The differences between UK and American English are very minor compared to classical and colloquial Arabic. In English the differences are almost always simple nouns: lou v. bathroom, rubbish v. trash, boot v. trunk, etc.

In Arabic the difference is profound, touching even basic verbs like to see, or to go, to want. Those are pretty basic verbs and they are totally different--not to mention questions of plurals, pronouns, prepositions, and so on--all of which change in Classical Arabic.

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