Why Arabic fries your brain (in a good way)

A simplified list

  1. Remember how Arabic goes from right to left? Yeah, that’s actually one of the easiest things about it – especially if you’re a leftie like me (#LeftiesWillConquerTheWorld). It’s really quite ok. Then it’s just a tiny bit harder to remember that books will also be that way, and once you’re used to that it’ll be ever so slightly confusing to realize that numbers go, however, from left to right and may nonetheless be read a bit from the left and a bit from the right and some of them look exactly like ours, but some of them don’t, and some look the same but mean something else. YAY! Something that brings your brainy fries from frozen to de-frozen 😉
  2. Like every other language that uses a different alphabet from yours, Arabic forces you to translate EACH. SINGLE. LETTER. And that is something you need to try before you understand it. Something that brings your brainy fries from de-frozen to room temperature…
  3. As you delve deeper into the language, you will discover some astoundingly wonderful things you had never ever even dreamt of and certainly did not expect. In other words, you really don’t need drugs if you have Arabic as a non-native language*; especially if you’re a poet and normally use drugs to get inspired. That’s because each word in Arabic comes from a three-letter root, and each three-letter root corresponds to maaaany different words, so one day you’ll suddenly realize that “friend” and “truth” are connected, and that adding a mim at the beginning of a word often turns it into the place you do that thing (like, add a mim to book, change a couple little details, and it will mean LIBRARY! Magiiiiic) and so on and so forth!! It’s like playing Scrabble and a ton of other board games at the same time. It’s something that brings your brainy fries from room temperature to fairly warm 🙂
  4. Pronunciation: Arabic pretty much has three kinds of D, two kinds of T, other very confusing sounds but yet no E (Italian E, I mean), no O, P and so on, and as a result not only it isn’t easy to pronounce words well – but it is excruciatingly hard and hilarious to read translitterated English words (usually names of places, but not only) in Arabic because they are… well… different!! I particularly like Uashinktun dee see. Something that brings your brainy fries from fairly warm to fairly hot.
  5. Last point, at least for now. No, I won’t be mentioning grammar because personally I don’t find Arabic grammar to be significantly more challenging than other grammars I’ve previously studied. This point relates to number 2 and it addresses the issue of reading. Now, I’m quite sure I was a faster reader in Italian at the age of 4 than I now am in Arabic at the age of 25. I find it hard to read the simplest words. If I read a bit faster because I recognise a word and remember its pronunciation, I won’t have time to remember its meaning. I could write a ten-line story of my invention, and the following minute I’d be struggling to read what I myself have written – and I even have nice hand-writing! It’s something that truly fries your brainy fries 😀

but you know what? I am convinced it’s all for the best. Don’t they say we only use a maximum of 10% of our real brain capacity? Maybe it’s high time we added some oil and increased the flame… 😉 Just make sure you accompany your Arabic fries with some fresh veggies!!

*not that I ever needed drugs, anyway

7 thoughts on “Why Arabic fries your brain (in a good way)

  1. Very nice 🙂
    I would like to point here at 2 things:

    – Reading: After a while you don’t read letters anymore. Your brain will perceive the words as words not as letters. This happens with practice. And unlike European languages written in letter after letter, consonant and vowel, Arabic words tend to take a shape after being written, as if drawn, but still not pictographic. The thing is: after some time of experience, the words will look like drawings to the brain, and reading can be faster than reading words written in any European language.

    – Letters: I always say to my students and any Arabic language student, especially Europeans: “Stop thinking like a European… this is not a combination of vowels and consonants… this is 28 consonants and each has its individual personality… after this you move the consonant into a movement, as in A, I and U”. So that’s the point: A European can learn and excel Arabic in a way, but to really absorb it a European should reprogram part of their brain to think about consonants that are later moved, instead of thinking about consonants and vowels. It seems unusual and might seem easy, but it’s not that easy really, but I believe it’s an important key. You will have become an Arab when you start making same mistakes Arabs do :))

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi irenegri,
    Thank you for the wonderful post. I am learning Arabic after first becoming fluent in German, so it is also marvelous to approach the language that way. German grammar is far more complex than Arabic, essentially using the same alphabet as English. I am also left-handed, it’s a relief to read what you write as you write 🙂
    Arabic is also something I write about often on my blog. Please feel welcome there any time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Bill, vielen Dank for your comment!! So nice to connect with you – and yes, I can see both the two of us and our blogs have enough in common that I’d definitely like to stay connected and exchange more thoughts. I will gladly explore more of your writings as soon as I have the occasion to 🙂 I do agree that German grammar is more complex than the Arabic one, by the way – I studied just enough in high school to be fairly sure of that! Bis Bald then… again, thanks for starting the conversation! It might be just the push I needed to re-start writing on my blog again 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi irenegri, Thank you for the gracious comments, it is an honor to meet you here on WordPress and to be able to exchange thoughts with you. Yes, German grammar is something I also discuss on my blog, so it is good that you know how complex and counter intuitive that grammar is compared to Arabic 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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