Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Lebanese language

The guy who wrote these words below on a garage door in Hamra was so confused about where to put the "hamzeh", so he decides to write it in two different ways. Both are wrong.
I know people who make fun of other Lebanese when they speak English with a Lebanese accent. They "Zazouzi", they say, referring to their pronunciation of the "The" as "Za, or Ze" with a strong Z. I must say that while I find "zazouzying" totally fine, and while I believe that I respect people who speak a foreign language with their own accent, even when they can very well hide it (on the other hand we find it funny or even sexy when foreigners speak Arabic with a French or English or Russian or Japanese, etc. accent), it annoys me a lot that those same people most often ignore the basic grammar rules of the Arabic language. They would correct your pronunciation of the word "dictionary" but they wouldn't be offended if you tell them that their Arabic sucks. Lebanon is the only country I know of where the native language is taught at schools as a second language. This funny website is advising to master what they call the "Lebanese language" and "then study Arabic if they choose to add another language to their vocabulary." And yes, although he wrote in fluent Arabic, Said Akl despised the Arabic script and he called for using Latin Alphabets instead. The Guardians of the Cedar seriously called for making the Said Akl's "Lebanese dialect" as the official language of Lebanon. Unfortunately, although their political plan failed, most Lebanese people are Guardians of the Cedar is this sense. Facebook is making things worse.


  1. "Lebanon is the only country I know of where the native language is taught at schools as a second language."

    I really think you are ignorant on this subject. If you knew better, you would not make such a claim.

  2. I'm English educated and I can say I wouldn't mind if the Arabic language was dead and buried. (it would make things easier for me ^__^)

    Oh and I am not the above poster!

  3. Marc: it's not your fault. It's not your fault!!!!

  4. And the lebanese often mock the Syrians (to pick one example of many) for their faulty use of foreign languages; a sign of their lack of cultural sophistication. I loath this "culture" that is premised upon the uncritical approbation and imitation of a higher other (the white man) and the disdain and hate for a lower one. The Other is the reference by which one measures oneself, placing oneself on a scale of values. In return for their masochistic submission to the leader, the Nazi masses were given the sadistic pleasure of Arian supremasism over lower breeds of people. The same threads run the "lebanese culture." (if it can be named culture that is). Since the lebanese would read an Arab thinker only for the purpose of his negation or the assertion of their righteousness, maybe they should read some of the major Western thinkers of the past century and half whose criticism of the Western culture shook its very ground. The lebanese do not read but nonetheless are the height of culture in the region. I guess our nightlife and elections are enough testimony.

  5. I wanted to comment here before but never got round to it!

    First, your blog is one of the most enjoyable reads that i have just recently discovered on the net. Please do keep it up!

    Second, I have to somewhat disagree with you on some parts of this post.
    There is a rather big gap between spoken Arabic and literary Arabic (MSA). Check out this study that suggests that the brain treats them as two different languages.
    The problem here is that the whole issue of
    spoken vs. literary Arabic has always been looked at from a nationalistic perspective. Said Akl's "Lebanese dialect" is ridiculous because you've got more linguistic similarities between the Arabic spoken in Beirut and in some areas of Palestine, Jordan, and Syria, than you have between Beirut and some areas of the Metn (for example). There's nothing purely "Lebanese" about it, unless you want to limit Lebanon to Zahle.
    On the other hand, literary Arabic is not spoken as a first language anywhere in the world, and yet is sturdily kept alive in its original form, often for great dreams of a united Arab nation. I don't find anything wrong with languages changing, evolving, dying out. If someone wants to transliterate the spoken Arabic with Latin alphabet, and if it catches on like wild fire, then so be it.

  6. Blow the Western wind what it may,
    With roaring force, with gentle sway,
    With cold reason, with luring play,
    Our burning flame won’t blow away.

  7. why wasn't this post written in Arabic :)

  8. because: