I was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and soon after my family moved to Genoa, Italy where I spent my early school years. Being raised in Europe gave me the opportunity to be exposed to many different languages. Ever since, I have been fascinated by them. I hear languages as music, each flowing with its own rhythm, speaking them is like experiencing different, delicious flavors! One of the areas of Oriental dance that I have enjoyed pursuing in the last couple of years is the Arabic language. My strongest motivation to unlock the secrets of the Arabic tongue is to understand the words to the beautiful songs I so enjoy dancing to. I derive great pleasure from being able to pick out words, and piece together the meaning of a song, and even sing along (a little). Also, if you ever plan to take a dance tour to Egypt, even a rudimentary knowledge of Arabic can be very useful. People in the Middle East are greatly appreciative of Westerners who make an effort to speak their language.
Although I have not been a “serious” student of Arabic, by usinglanguage tapes in my car, and getting books from the library, I have managed to get a reasonable grasp of Arabic, and a lot of enjoyment for my efforts. Any of you who have not had the privilege of being exposed to other languages might feel intimidated by the thought of delving into Arabic, but the payback is worth it. Spending as little as 15 minutes a day, working with language tapes and written material is enough to build a foundation of common words and expressions. Bookstores and the public library are great resources for learning material.
Egyptian Arabic is arguably the most practical dialect to learn for a number of reasons: geographically and historically Egypt lies at the heart of the Arab world. Its population (49 million) by far exceeds that of any other Arab country. Practically everyone in the Arab world is exposed, directly or indirectly, to Egyptian Arabic. Films, cassettes of popular songs and television soap operas are exported on a massive scale to other Arab countries. It is generally held to be the most prestigious spoken variety and whichever country you visit you will find people can understand and adapt to Egyptian Arabic.
In Arab countries, courtesy and sociability are highly valued, and this is reflected in the language. It abounds in polite expressions, appropriate to particular situations and any foreigner making the effort to speak Arabic will be welcomed with added warmth and hospitality. Greetings in Arabic are important culturally, and several elaborate variations may be used. Mastering a variety of greeting exchanges is important to establish yourself as “well-mannered”. The use of these and other types of speech exchanges which have been developed for different situations is much more important in the Arab world than in America.
Here is a little about the language and dialects followed by a song that was translated for me by an Arabic friend: Arabic is the language of over 180 million people who inhabit a vast area extending throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The language originated in the Arabian Peninsula and spread North and west with the rise of Islam.
There are basically two kinds of Arabic: literary and spoken. Literary Arabic is used as the written medium throughout the Arab world, and is spoken on the more formal occasions -in speeches, sermons, news broadcasts and so on. But for all everyday purposes -at home, in shops and offices -colloquial Arabic is used. The area of the Arab world is so vast (three times larger than the whole of Europe, from Finland to Spain and from Ireland to Greece) that, not surprisingly, the language varies from country to country.