“Min huna, tafaddali” was her warm welcome and the equivalent to “this way, please” – “.من هنا، تفضلي”. To my astonishment, I looked into the radiant face of the blond lady on the breezy weekend morning, and I saw nothing but poise and peace.
“Peace be upon you”, I replied. As soon as I entered the house, the 60-something year old eloquent Arabic speaker started to share some of her life stories, and how she lived in different Arab countries. She told me she has been married to an Arab for 36 years now, and that her grandchildren are Not allowed to speak anything other than Arabic in her house.
She knew I was an Arabic-language advocate. She knew exactly that what she was sharing resonates with my core values. What she did Not know was why I couldn’t reply to her – at all. I was merely a listener in that conversation. A good listener I should say. I was keen to understand her drive to encourage all her sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters in turn, to speak Arabic. I was watching everything around me. Everything around her too.
The German lady taught me that Saturday morning in mid-November, that many Europeans seem to be more fascinated and curious about the Arabic language than the native speakers. She raised her eyebrows insistently, and her voice was raised in synchronicity, “Arabic is miraculous for those who learn it with fresh eyes and wrap it with deep, warm voices. It is taken lightly at times too, and I don’t understand why some Arabs don’t want to speak their language.“
She said it All, and boldly so. I asked her if she speaks German and English to her family. She asserted, “We live in the UAE and of course, they will speak perfect English. We spend every summer in Germany. So, of course my kids acquired German through play. But Arabic, if I don’t speak it properly with them, then who else will?”
As a wife of an Arab and a mother of four, it is my duty to engrain the language of my children’s homeland into their upbringing. It is my duty to pass it on to them naturally. So, when they grow up, it becomes their language for business and everyday conversations easily. Not only is Arabic the language of the Holy Quran, it is also one of the most difficult languages to speak, read, and write. If not Me, then who? Who shall pass it on, delicately?”
“AND… If not Now, then When? When is it a good time to preserve our language other than NOW?” I broke the silence and it broke or opened my heart, I don’t know. I know that the cardamom tea tasted differently. I felt a wide range of mixed emotions from embarrassment to hope, with every other sip of tea.
The long-lasting flavor I carried with me after I left her house was the taste of pride. I felt proud that cultured foreigners value our language and its beauty. I felt hopeful that one day, everyone else will too, especially أهلها (the natives).
By, Dr. Jana Boureslan, Director @ Elite Training, Speaker & Poet