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MSA in everyday speech: how does it sound?

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by abusaf, Jul 22, 2006.

  1. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    Split from here.

    I don't agree that speaking Classical Arabic, or "written Arabic" sounds awkward. The thing that sounds awkward is when someone has not yet mastered a language and try to speak it, but this applies to all languages.

    Speaking al-Fus7a in a everyday setting, assuming you speak it well, sounds professional and respectable. As al-Fus7a means first studying it since there is no one (or very very few) that actually has it as their native language.
     
  2. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    Where do you live, Abusaf? Are there lots of people around you who speak fus7a on an everyday basis? Do they sound normal? Do they walk into a supermarket and say, "3afwan, hal laka an tusaa3idani?"
     
  3. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    Haha. Generally most of the people that I know that speak Fus7a on a everyday basis are religious Arabs or converts that have learnt the language.

    And no someone who uses Fus7a in his or her everyday dealings with people do not sound normal, since normal is what the majority does, and the majority do not speak this language. They do not however sound awkward.

    I remember when I was Egypt once and an Egyptian brother tried to adress me in Fus7a, he was talking about Egyptian women (trying to convince me to marry from Syria lol), he said:
    "النساء هنا ليس جميلون"
    This definately sounded awkward, since he did not know how to speak it correctly. Then he said that I had to learn the Egyptian dialect, I wonder why?

    Most people who say that speaking Fus7a sounds awkward or out of place, are not able to speak Fus7a fluently, and therefore try to make it seem like its not appropriate to use it in certain situations.

    I personally prefer to use Fus7a, as it is:

    1. More beautiful

    2. Sounds more intellectual

    3. More of a challenge

    And lastly , whenever I use Fus7a, no matter the situation, I have never come across any استغراب or that someone doesnt understand me. On the contrary, people compliment it and say that more people should use this language on a daily basis.
     
  4. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    I agree with abusaf, it doesn't sound awkward. Why would it sound awkward unless there were many grammatical errors and/or the person was unsure of what he/she was saying. Maybe if one did not understand the colloquial response and was scrambling to come up with the right words in return would be an awkward situation, though. You might be confusing awkward with pedantic or verbose, elroy. I might think that if someone started to speak to me casually in fu7Ha he/she would sound pedantic, even snooty, but I would not think it awkward, nor would I feel awkward.
     
  5. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    Yes. And with regards to sounding pedantic or snooty, I think this also has to do with the tone. Because sometimes to joke around, I make my voice sound like Arabic newsbroadcasters while speaking Fus7a and clearly pronounce every syllable and case ending. However if someone speaks Fus7a in a everyday and relaxed manner, I don't think it would raise many eyebrows. I would like to hear if Josh agrees with me on this one.

    Addition: I also believe the matter has to do with the person speaking it. If two Algerian friends meet, and one of them suddenly speaks in fus7a, it might be considered strange and maybe a little "mr.know-it-all" feeling. However if the person speaking fus7a is a buisnessman or a foreign person who does not have Arabic as his or her mother tongue, it would probably not even be noticed.
     
  6. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    Yes, I definitely agree. The context of the situation is everything. I should have included that in my last post. In certain circumstances it may sound pedantic or out of place, but in other situations it would sound professional or like no big deal.
     
  7. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I meant "awkward." Even if it were spoken fluently and impeccably, it would not sound normal in everday speech. It would sound strange, stilted, unnatural, out of place.

    As a child, I watched cartoons in Arabic, which anyone who is familiar with them knows are all in (fluid, flawless) MSA. Obviously, by virture of their nature, they were mostly informal. Nevertheless, no one goes around talking like that, and if someone did, he would sound decidedly awkward.

    I had a teacher who would go through these phases where he would insist on speaking MSA at all times. He would walk into our school cafeteria and order a sandwich in MSA. How did it sound? AWKWARD. Completely strange and out of the ordinary. And it had nothing to do with his linguistic competence. His sentences were fine in MSA, but they did not sound normal because no one speaks that way on an everyday basis.

    An analogy can be made with Shakespearean English. Even if you were fluent in it, you would sound very strange indeed if you went around using thee's and thou's. (This analogy is not perfect, but most analogies aren't.)

    I would like to address some of the points that were made in this thread:
    To me, "casual fus7a" is an oxymoron. The situation you describe is so rare I don't even know if it's worth considering. The only person who I can recall ever trying to "speak fus7a casually" was the abovementioned teacher - and it did not sound good.
    Yes, everyone does this from time to time. But look at the title of the thread. We're talking about MSA in everyday speech.
    When foreigners speech fus7a, it is noticed. And I'm not talking about their accent or possible grammatical mistakes. When foreigners speak a dialect, it may sound "foreign" because of mistakes but other than that it sounds normal. When a foreigner says, "uridu an athhaba ila 'l-bayti," it is definitely noticeable.

    I don't follow the "businessmen" argument at all. I would think that businessmen speak to each other in colloquial Arabic, except for technical and field-specific jargon for which MSA may be needed (cf. the above points I made regarding this).
    Yes, in contexts like formal lectures, governmental meetings, etc. Those, however, do not fall under the category "everyday speech." I'd like to draw your attention once again to the title of the thread. We're not talking about official business meetings here; we're talking about shopping at the supermarket and hanging out at the park.
     
  8. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    Strange, unnatural, out of place -- yes, but awkward, no. Awkward usually involves embarrasment or difficulty in handling (something unwieldly for example). Did you feel embarrassed when you heard those people talk in MSA? Did they feel embarrassed?

    If someone spoke to me in MSA, I would not feel awkward, or embarrassed, unless they started bringing up things about me that I didn't want others to know.:) I might think it was stange and out-of-place, though. Same thing with Shakespearean English.

    I guess I don't understand your definition of "awkward?" But, to me, it is not synonymous with unnatural, strange, not normal, or out-of-place.

    Reread my words in that post carefully. Nowhere did I say that FusHa was casual. I said that if someone spoke to me casually in FusHa, in other words if it were a regular, mundane, every-day speech type of situation like someone asking me about my day. Then the decidedly strictured and formal FusHa would seen strange and out of place. I never qualified the noun FusHa with an adjective. I was qualifying the situation/scenario, which was implicit (I thought anyway), with an adverb, setting the stage in which the odd use of FusHa would be out of place.
     
  9. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    1. You are confusing awkward with abnormal. The normal scenario is for someone to use his local dialect. However, this does not mean that it sounds awkward to speak correctly.

    2. "More of a challenge I disagree. The dialects are just as complex and challenging to learn."'

    I assume you're joking? Dialects don't have special forms for feminine plural. They don't have case endings. Etc Etc. The very idea of a dialect is making it easier to use it.

    3. When I wrote the reasons why I choose to speak in Fus7a, this was not for you to comment, these were my personal reasons and not for anyone to analyze. I feel that when somebody speaks in Fus7a, he sounds smarter.

    4. With regards to Shakespearian English, then no, this analogy does not work. Why not? Simply because if you live in America or Canada or England, you're not going to hear anyone speaking like that. However, in Arabic countries you are going to hear al-Fus7a everyday, on the news, in the mosques, in schools, etc. So its a big difference. It's part of the society.

    By the way, there are places in al-Medinah an-Nabawiyah in Saudi Arabia where all people speak al-fus7a. It's around the universities where you have tens of thousands foreign students.
     
  10. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I meant "awkward" as in "lacking grace." (I just looked through several online dictionaries and that's the closest entry in meaning to what I meant). Perhaps I didn't choose the best word - but what I meant to say is that using MSA in everyday speech is not fitting - and yes, I usually feel really strange and uncomfortable trying to communicate with a foreigner (or anyone else, for that matter) in MSA. I don't feel embarrassed - but I feel ... awkward. It doesn't feel right. It's affected, unusual, unbecoming...

    That's what I tried to summarize with the word "awkward," but I see how it was misleading. Perhaps there's no word to adequately describe the feeling.
    Ok, I misunderstood what you were trying to say. I thought you were taking it for granted that "speaking casually in fus7a" was a mundane occurrence.
     
  11. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I hope that by now I have sufficiently explained what I meant by "awkward." By the way, speaking in a dialect is no less correct than speaking in MSA.
    No, I'm not joking. There are complex features of dialects that doen't exist in MSA - for example, different ways to express different verb tenses that go beyond the simple tenses that MSA houses. But anyway, this is another discussion. :)
    I did not comment on your preference. I commented on the reasons that you gave, which you stated as facts. You said, and I quote, "I personally prefer to use Fus7a, as it is" and not "as I feel that it is." Furthermore, everyone in this forum is free to respond to any comment that any forum member makes. I can't read your mind and know what you don't want commented on, so if you don't want anyone to address a certain point don't make it.
    I said that the analogy was not perfect. The point I was trying to make was that speaking MSA on an everyday basis sounds just as unusual as speaking Shakespearean English on an everyday basis.
    I assume that many of these foreigners learned MSA first and haven't mastered a dialect yet, so they're hardly evidence against the "awkwardness" (the way I meant it) of MSA. In fact, that was the whole point that led to this discussion: I mentioned that many foreigners use MSA because that's all they know or all they're comfortable with but it sounds funny to natives. On another note, I have a feeling "all people" is an overstatement.
     
  12. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    I agree with Elroy in this point. Being a non-native of Arabic I can't tell if MSA sounds awkward or not. For me it sounds quite natural specially when I see Arabic TV channels or I listen to radio stations talking in MSA about all kind of subjects. I understand that two natives sharing the same dialect will find it strange to talk together in MSA (like for me would be to talk in English with a fellow Spaniard). But on the other hand MSA is the only way we foreigners have to approach Arabs. It is very hard to learn a dialect before having a proper understanding of MSA. I wish most Arabs were able to talk MSA. My experience tells me that it is also hard for them to talk in MSA.
     
  13. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    My wish too :)
    I think most of the apparent tension/misunderstanding of this discussion could've been avoided if someone has remembered to state who's speaking MSA in everyday speech.

    I'll take Elroy's defenition : in supermarkets, between friends... and I'll give a very little example :
    If a friend of mine says :
    sabaa7u'l khayri, kayfa 7aaluki , instead of
    sabaa7 elkheir, 3amla eih/eih akhbarek...
    I would laugh, I'll think (s)he's either jokking or has gone nuts.
    Whereas, if a froeigner addresses me in MSA, I'll take it very normal, because I'll simply guess that this is the Arabic they know.
    Fus7a in everyday speech is normal and ok if between foreigners and arabic speakers, but you'll not see a native Arabic speaker (with the exception maybe of people like mentioned by Abusaf, who live in Al-Madinah) use MSA to buy bread, ask for direction, talk to their family/freinds...

    On more note : speaking in News, University, Mosques, Speeches... is not exactly what would come to mind as equivalent for "everyday speech", those are rather special contexts.
     
  14. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    Speaking Fus7a, or MSA, on an everyday basis, is, like I've said acouple of times, not normal, since it is the not what the majority of people do. It does not however sound awkward or ungraceful. The only people I've heard say this are people who for some reason or other do not like al-Fus7a, they think its reactionary and a part of history.
    Other people, all from religious Muslims, to linguistics, to people on the street, all love this language and are very happy to hear it.
    When I adress people in Fusha, in situations that don't really call for this language to be used, I've often been told by people that they are ashamed of their use of the colloquial dialect and lacking Fus7a skills.

    I myself am not Arabic, so if I were to meet a Syrian, or a Moroccan, and I started talking to him in the Egyptian dialect, this would be weirder to me, since none of us are Egyptian!

    Thats my opinion.
     
  15. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    No one -as much as I understood what's been posted here- said it's ungraceful, nor awkward in the meaning of ungraceful, just not the normal/regular thing between natives.

    And I respect your opinion.
    I just would like to draw your attention that we're saying almost the same thing :)
    Foreigners who speak in Fus7a are not seen as awkaward, nor strange. In fact, and as you said, people admire their ability of speaking fus7a.
    But natives don't use this level of language in their daily life, it would sound pedantic and artificial. And, instead of helping in communication -as language is supposed to do- it will simply lead to mockery (like the example I gave, and the teacher Elroy spoke about).

    This is just a tiny difference : who is using MSA for daily life purposes, but it's a major difference.

    That's my opinion :)
     
  16. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    That's not the point though. Because you said if a friend of yours started speaking Fus7a. If she's a friend of yours then that would mean that you know she speaks Egyptian. So the reason why you would laugh or think she's gone insane is because she changes the language. If a Egyptian friend of yours would start speaking to you in the Iraqi dialect all of a sudden, it would seem weird too! Or if two German friends were talking and all of a sudden one of them started adressing the other in English, it would seem weird. This does not mean that the Iraqi dialect or the English language are weird or awkward, it means that if someone you know changes the language he or she uses, it's gonna seem weird, even if you understand it.
    However if you met some for the first time and they adress you and everyone using al-Fus7a, Arab or non-Arab, I don't think it would be weird.
     
  17. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    It would be weird if that person speaking MSA is Egyptian or from any other Arab country and prefers speaking MSA to Egyptian.
    Yes, it would seem strange to me.
     
  18. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    Abusaf what dialect do you speak?
     
  19. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    I don't speak any dialect. If pushed against the wall I could probably speak Egyptian and Syrian dialect. But I honestly feel so awkward speaking them so I try not to.


    It's like when someone from Britian starts speaking a New York Harlem accent, it just feels fake.
     
  20. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    Abusaf, the fact that Arabic is not your native language is very telling. Until now I assumed - for some reason - that you were a native, and accordingly, I found some of the claims that you were making somewhat strange. Knowing that you are not a native helps put things in perspective.

    I regret to tell you that MSA in everyday speech sounds strange no matter what the circumstances. I would much rather an Iraqi spoke to me in Iraqi than in MSA. Iraqi, although not my dialect, sounds normal - and suitable - in everyday speech. MSA does not.

    I seem to get the impression that you consider MSA "another possibility" for everyday speech - tantamount to Egyptian, Qatari, or Tunisian. It is not. No native speaker of Arabic consistently uses MSA on an everyday basis. Arabic is truly unique among diglossia languages in that its standard variety is, with remarkable consistently, reserved for formal registers - as opposed to, say, Hochdeutsch, which is spoken by many native speakers of German on an everyday basis. The only times two native speakers of Arabic speak to each other in MSA is when one person's dialects is incomprehensible to the other - and even then the speaker of the incomprehensible dialect first tries to speak the other dialect if he can, because that would sound smooth and fitting whereas MSA would not. Think of it this way: MSA is resorted to among native speakers only when there is absolutely no other option, bearing in mind that in such circumstances it doesn't cease to sound odd.
    This is a dangerous, inaccurate, and sweeping statement. I still maintain that MSA sounds unnatural (notice that I am refraining from using the word "awkward" so as to avoid misunderstanding) in everyday speech, yet the last think I would say is that it is "part of history." On the contrary, I continually strive to inform people that MSA is not a "dead language." It is a living language; it continues to be used day in and day out. The only difference is that it is not used in informal registers.
    Well, I did in fact say that I meant "lacking grace" when I said "awkward" but that was because that was the closest dictionary entry I found that kind of expressed what I meant to say. I admit, my choice of words was not the best - what I meant to say was not that the speaker would be expressing himself awkwardly in that his words would be clumsy or awkwardly delivered, but rather that the situation would be awkward (hence, "MSA sounds awkward in everyday speech" and not "the speaker sounds awkward") because it's unusual - and uncomfortable (in my experience).
    I'm sorry, but such an attitude is nonsensical. Competence in fus7a is a noble goal, but feeling ashamed of one's dialect is ludicrous. Dialects are natural developments and exist in every language. Should French people be ashamed of speaking French and not Latin? The development is the same, with the exception that MSA, as opposed to Latin, continues to be used in formal registers and French, as opposed to colloquial Arabic, has been standardized as a language. But linguistically the situations are identical. Each of the dialects has its own vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and idioms that set it apart from other dialects. My mother tongue is Palestinian Arabic, not MSA, as you can see in my profile - and I am unconditonally proud of that!
    Not true - it would be weird enough coming from a foreigner, and most certainly weird coming from an Arab.
    Fus7a in everyday speech may be expected of foreigners, but it may be misleading to say that it is "normal and ok" because that gives the impression that it's not "auffällig" (I'm sorry; I can only think of the German word. It means that something "sticks out" or "catches your attention" because it's unusual.) It drives me nuts when Germans or Spanish people or French people say things like, "Well, no native says that, but since you're a foreigner it's ok." As a learner of a foreign language I want my command of the language to come as close as possible to that of a native. Our advice to non-natives should be the following: We are tolerant and understanding so we are eternally happy to accommodate you and speak to you in MSA if need be; nevertheless, if you want to sound as much like a native as possible you should learn a dialect if you can. A non-native who speaks to me in Egyptian sounds much more "native-like" than one who speaks to me in MSA - despite the fact that I am not Egyptian.
     
  21. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    Elroy, you speak in too broad terms. This is all YOUR opinion. You think that it does not sound right. This does not make it a fact.

    Al-Fus7a is a complete language (unlike the dialects), it has words and patterns to satisfy every speakers requests. It is, in addition to that, understood in every Arabic country. Hence, speaking it is perfectly acceptable, even though "some" people might fight it.

    The attitude which you show towards using MSA is certainly not representative of any Arab group. And to all students of Arabic: speaking MSA in any circumstance is acceptable and very often applauded.

    And me personally never studied Arabic to sound like a native speaker on the street. I rather sound like the 'ulamaa, and politicians and generally أهل العلم
     
  22. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    First off all, to those who may be unsure, my only contention here was the awkward:) use of the word awkward. But seeing some of the sentiments here I guess I just don't understand where they come from or the logic behind it.

    It sounds to me, elroy, that you are ashamed of MSA. You would rather an Iraqi speak Iraqi and risk not understanding, than communicating via MSA? MSA is a last resort that is used only when every other option is explored? Those to me seem like absurd notions? If I were an outsider looking in, I would think that there is some sort of taboo about speaking MSA, as if it were a crime and something to be ashamed of.

    If it is so horrible, why son't they just teach dialects in schools instead of MSA, or at least teach the dialect firsts, and then MSA as a secondary, with the caveat that it is strange and you will probably make a native feel uncomfortable by speaking it.

    I agree with abusaf, that everyone has his/her opinion -- some may find it strange, while others do not. There are, after all, 200+ million speakers and I don't think we can say definitively that all find MSA strange. Further, I would think that many natives understand that foreigners generally learn MSA first, and as such the use of it by foreigners would not be strange -- since this is there experiences with foreigners. I have had people tell me that are surprised that I know a dialect because most non-natives they runinto have spoken only MSA. Who knows? Just my $.02.
     
  23. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    I am a beginner but I knowing some grammatical features of MSA that are never used in spoken dialects, we can assume that speakers of very different Arabic dialects would never use them either, it's probably that part that makes the use of MSA unnatural among native speakers (e.g. case endings, a larger set of personal pronouns), there are possibly some casual expressions that have become to known to most Arabs but are not considered part of standard Arabic.

    In my textbooks I see this comments every now and again, something like - this or that is not used in spoken dialects. Also, phrase books introduce a version of Arabic, (very close to MSA) that doesn't have the standard grammar features of MSA but common vocab.

    It's rather a question, not a statement :)

    On the usage of MSA, 2 native Arabs (a Lebanese and a Jordanian) helped me to to overcome some pronunciation issues and insisted on reading all the case endings, they expected me to speak MSA, not a dialect.
     
  24. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I never said it didn't sound "right." I said it sounded strange in certain contexts.
    Could you please tell me what makes the dialects "incomplete"?
    I would be interested in seeing survey results or statistics to back up this claim.
    Even those people speak in a dialect when they're at home telling their families how their day went.
     
  25. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    Let me start by saying that a question of "how something sounds" represents an opinion by definition. I didn't think I had to explicitly say that. On the same token, I have been approaching your views as opinions as well, without the need for an explicit reference. All the same, I'll state it clearly: I am speaking my opinion, and backing it up with my experience as a native speaker of Arabic.
    I'm sorry you got that impression. That's the last thing that I wished to communicate! I really don't know what would have led you to come to that conclusion.
    What in my words indicated that I find it a "crime or something to be ashamed of"? I would simply prefer - in an everyday, informal, relaxed context - to speak or listen to a dialect. Yes, I would rather an Iraqi spoke to me in Iraqi because it would sound more natural. There might be a few words I wouldn't understand, and in those circumstances my Iraqi interlocutor could perhaps say those particular words in MSA (or in my dialect, if he knew it). In other situations, in which the dialect would be nearly incomprehensible to me - Tunisian or Algerian, for example - I would, of course, prefer MSA because I'd have to have every other word "translated." I'm afraid I may not be able to explain just how weird it sounds, to me - but I can say with confidence that my opinion is not so extreme so as to suggest that I see speaking MSA as a crime!

    Let me give another real-life example: My cousin's husband is Egyptian. Although he now lives in Jerusalem, he still speaks, for the most part, in his dialect. Occasionally he'll use a word, phrase, or expression I'm not familiar with. When that happens, he just explains it and all is good. This is much more preferable than having him speak MSA just to make sure we always understood every single word he said (which, of course, wouldn't be the case anyway because there are words and phrases we don't know in MSA that he might use).

    I don't necessarily feel that it's always more efficient to teach MSA first - but again, that's my opinion and a slightly different topic.
    I can say with a good degree of confidence that the vast majority of native speakers of Arabic would find it strange to be addressed in MSA - except in certain extenuating circumstances (incomprehensibility, foreign speaker not familiar with a dialect, etc.). It's not a coincidence that Cherine and I, the only two natives who have taken part in this discussion, continue to insist that it sounds strange in everyday speech.
    I wonder what I said that contradicts that? But speaking in MSA is like one of those things that "marks" you as a foreigner. If you're fine with that, great! :)
     
  26. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    This is a very good point - indeed, you can say the simplest of phrases, tack on a case ending, and sound like you're a TV reporter! :)
    In everyday speech?
     
  27. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    Does modern Hebrew sound awkward? As far as I know Hebrew was lost and it had to be reinvented as a modern language and taught in schools until it became the mother language of new speakers.
     
  28. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    Hehe, unless you can provide statistics, speak for yourself. I don't believe that for a second. I have alot of experience in adressing Arabs in Fus7a, probably more than you, and people are almost always happy.

    And when I joke around and say;

    ربما يتعيّن علي أن أتعلم لهجتكم

    ِThe response is ALWAYS, without any exception:

    كلا! خليك في الفصحى

    ِAnd when I was in Egypt for example, and I asked someone what a particular word in their dialect meant, they were always disturbed by the question, and gave me a response like "Why do you wanna know? Its not real Arabic anyway". Everyone I met was very proud of Fus7a, but like I said, were very sad because of their own lacking skills in speaking it.

    And let me state this again, most of the people who don't like to be adressed in MSA, are the people who are unable to respond in MSA, so of course they don't like it. I don't want to be adressed in German, because I don't know what to say back.

    Well that's not really true though. Cherine said that if a foreigner talked to her in MSA she would not regard it as strange. You are the only one who has directed this unconditional criticism towards MSA.

    I'm very fine with that. I'm not an Arab and I have never tried to become one, I'm a foreigner who has studied Arabic, and thats exactly what I want to be.
     
  29. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    No, it doesn't - because it's used normally and frequently in all contexts. Maybe it sounded strange in the beginning, before it was "revived," but by now it sounds completely ordinary. Until such a "reinvention" happens to MSA, it will continue to sound strange in everyday speech.
     
  30. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    You see?
     
  31. jester.

    jester. Senior Member

    Aachen, Germany
    Germany -> German
    abusaf, you are aware that you already gave the answer and that you are just dwelling upon the use of the term "awkward"?

     
  32. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    How convenient of you not to quote me completely. This is what I said:
    so your experiences do not contradict this statement because you are a foreign speaker. Furthermore, your statement was sweeping and misleading: "speaking MSA in any circumstance is acceptable and very often applauded." My comment about statistics was rhetorical, because I know for a fact that it's not "acceptable" (in the sense of normal, ordinary) in all circumstances.
    I think this is a key sentence. These people are ashamed of their dialects, and that's why they want you to continue speaking in MSA. I am not ashamed of MSA; I just find it fitting in certain contexts and not in others. Until this discussion, I thought that was to be taken for granted! :)
    Just for the record, I am perfectly able to respond in MSA.
    I would not regard it as strange in the sense that it's expected. Please read my comments again, more closely. Cherine and I agreed with each other, I'm pretty sure - we just said the same thing in two different ways. Besides, I have not criticized MSA - once again, I reiterate: MSA is a great language; it's beautiful, poetic, rich, and complex. However, it is not always the most appropriate variety of the Arabic language to use. Just google "Arabic diglossia" for more information.
    That's completely fine and understandable! As long as you don't extend that preference to hasty generalizations about the preferability of Arabic in all circumstances, by anyone and everyone - I think we may finally be seeing eye to eye on something. :)
     
  33. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    Do I see what? :) Am I missing something?
     
  34. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    To Elroy,

    No, they didn't say so but were both adamant that I need to learn what they called proper/common Arabic first - fus7a.


    To CarlosPerezMartinez,

    Arabs need to agree on a common language, IMHO. If there were more unity that would have happened already. In a thread I started or rather was split from one of my posts - "Future of MSA", I asked this question. Either MSA or its simplified version could become a common standard language used in most situations, not just very formal ones or a dialect or a group of dialects could be upgraded for a higher status. Judging on other people's posts and materials I read, MSA is not absorbing dialects or foreign words (or not absorbing enogh) as it does with other languages (spoken and written go hand in hand - your speech affects your writing) because there are purists who want to keep MSA clean and as close to Qur'anic Arabic as possible because it is a tradition, history, etc.

    China didn't have a common spoken language until the beginning of the 20th century, dialects still differ much more than they do in Arabic. Then Putonghua - Common Speech (aka Mandarin) was chosen - a dialect based on a mixture of Northern dialects, primarily Beijing. This dialect has the largest number of speakers who, at least understand it or have no problem adjusting. All other Chinese had to learn Mandarin. Well, China is one centralised country, not the case with the Arab world, so language development is hard to control or predict.
     
  35. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    I have no idea what you mean. I said someone who speaks MSA in everyday dealings does not sound normal, since normal is what the majority does. If someone speaks Swahili in Norway, it's not normal, because the majority does not speak it, it does not however sound wrong.

    Wow, hehe, acceptable = normal is a definition I've never heard before.
    If we look at a real dictionary, it says:

    Acceptable - Adequate to satisfy a need, requirement, or standard; satisfactory.

    =)
     
  36. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I wholeheartedly agree - except that I wouldn't call MSA "proper Arabic" because that would imply that the dialects are "improper." However, it is my belief that any foreigner who desires to truly "know" the Arabic language needs to learn both MSA and at least one dialect (without one or the other his knowledge of the language is incomplete).
    Perhaps. Your perspective is interesting because from what I've heard (correct me if I'm wrong, but don't go too far off-topic! ;)) there's not much dialectal variation in Russia - despite how large it is. At least there aren't enough differences to impede mutual understanding. This would make sense in light of what you've said because Russia is one country.
    Absolutely. This is a crucial factor. Without it the dialects would probably be considered standard today.
     
  37. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    Nonbody said it did.
    Context is everything. Dictionaries are inadequate. In this context, considering that your statement was presumably a rebuttal of my advice to non-natives to learn a dialect if possible, I assumed that you understood acceptable to mean "ordinary" (let's put aside "normal" for now because you seem to unrelentingly want to treat the term literally). After all, my only objection to MSA had to do with how it sounded in certain contexts - NOT with its adequacy or inadequacy to meet an end.
     
  38. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    In regards to Russia, I think the reason for a lack of dialects (or large variation) may be due to population dispersion. I think majority of the population is found in the western section, in Europe. Sorry for the off-topic note.
     
  39. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    What I meant with acceptable is that it will meet your needs.

    If I am in Gaza or Alger or Baghdad or Kuwait and ask somebody:
    "Aynaa al-Masjid? Hal huwa qareebun ?"

    I will get my point across. Then if people laugh at me or regard it as strange, who cares? Not me =)
     
  40. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    Fair enough. ;) Yes, MSA is sufficient and adequate to fulfill your needs - because virtually all Arabs understand it. If your purpose is purely communication, then MSA will definitely suffice.
     
  41. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    Talking about sweeping generalizations:

    Question:
    I should note that the "as if it were a crime" was an analogy. That was actually my second choice. My first was funnier, but I refrained from using it.
    Answer:
    You say it still sounds strange, but if one comes to know and expect that foreigners speak this way, why should it still sound strange. It is just a different situation. I mean you don't talk the same way around your parents that you do around your friends, do you?
     
  42. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I stand by my earlier comment. Just because foreigners are usually taught MSA first and tend to use it in everyday speech (at least until they learn a dialect) does not mean that it is fitting in those contexts. I'm sure you're familiar with foreign speakers of English who sometimes use structures that are unidiomatic or uncommon, no matter how grammatically correct they are. Same idea - it's a certain style of speaking that marks you as a foreigner. I repeat - if that's not an issue to you (general you here) then by all means continue to use MSA to order your meals at a restaurant.

    The analogy with my parents and my friends does not work. Those are different registers that make different speaking styles more or less appropriate, whereas being a foreigner does not by definition constitute a different register. No matter how "used to it" I get, it won't sound natural to me - at least not until MSA undergoes a "reinvention" of the type referred to earlier.

    I don't see anything in the text you quoted that indicates that I am "ashamed" of MSA. All I said was that in everyday speech "It doesn't feel right. It's affected, unusual, unbecoming..." and that I therefore prefer colloquial Arabic in those contexts. It's a matter of aesthetics - euphony, if you will - and is not a value judgment at all.
     
  43. abusaf Senior Member

    Stockholm
    Sweden
    I don't know about you guys, but I definately feel more eager to use Fus7a after this thread. Rebel without a cause :D
     
  44. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    I enjoy speaking both MSA and Egyptian colloquial. Right now, though, probably more MSA since I have achieved a decent level of fluency in Egyptian, but not MSA and thus I need practice.
     
  45. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Yes, Russia is one country and it has been like this for many centuries. Education levels have been high and in fact, there are no dialects but small regional accents. Some Russians pick on other Russians for incorrectly pronouncing words or wrong grammar, no-one is proud of their regional dialect/accent, more often it's the other way around, they try to hide it. Russian language is surprising homogenous and even large non-Russian communities have/had excellent command of Russian in ex-USSR and modern Russia.

    Panjabigator, dispersion of population is a negative, not a positive factor for language homogenousness. Arabs are dispersed on a large area, and as a result, there are big communication problems.

    Arabic dialects are not formalised, not taught to foreigners properly and their status is low - not used in formal speech and education, only used for entertainment programs, not for news, etc.

    Arabs do find a common language in speech, I'd say it's a mixture of dialects and MSA, depending on distance and difference, why not make a commonly accepted language with a common vocabulary and grammar? Trouble is, there is no authority to make that decision and there will be resistance from purists.
     
  46. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    Hebrew sounded "awkward" in the beginning. Then it was spread all over Israel and is now a language currently used by everybody. MSA could be the same. Just teach it properly during the years, use it as a common language for all Arabs, keep dialects for home use and khalas, after some time will sound as natural as any other dialect :) . This will be quite beneficial for us, khawajas, who are always faced to the difficulties of the dialects.
     
  47. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    I think we are all saying the same with different words. As a foreigner I wish Arabs could have a better knowledge of MSA. Actually you study MSA only to discover that all Arabs speak something different and somehow difficult to grasp for a foreigner.
     
  48. Xerinola

    Xerinola Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Català/Español, Barcelona (SPAIN)
    Hi everybody!

    I'm learning arabic. I'm translator but I don't speak as good as I translate/read/write. I'm learning Fus-ha, so my question is: When I was in Egypt I learnt a bit of dialect but I always spoke in fus-ha because I know more fus-ha than egyptian. Then I spoke fus-ha in everywere (market, supermarket, bar, restaurant, taxi, with young people...)
    I wonder if I was awkward? It seems ridiculous?
    MAybe your answer is "yes" because I might speak so bad and with an strong spanish accent...
    But I have to say that most people was happy when I tried to speak in arabic and they made efforts to speak with me in fus-ha.

    X:
     
  49. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Actually my answer is "no" :)
    Your being a foreigner makes people understand why you can't speak their dialect. And this is the point that I -and I think Elroy too- were trying to convey all along this tyring thread (tyring because it seems as if people are speaking about different things!)

    If I'm allowed an illustrative example to show what Elroy and I mean :
    - If/when I meet Elroy, he'd speak to me in Palestinian and I'd reply in Egyptian. Whenever one of us uses an expression or word not known by the other, we'd simply need to explain it. (Actually this happened at least once between us in a PM). We won't speak to each other in MSA, not because we can't -because we can- but because we'd sound funny or strange.
    - If/when I meet Josh, or any other foreigner, he could speak to me in Egyptian -as he's studied it- or in MSA, I won't feel it strange coming from him, a foreigner, that he speaks to me in MSA. I'll simply think that he either doesn't know my dialect or that he want to practice the MSA he's learnt.

    Here, I hope this cleared things a bit.
     
  50. ummja'far New Member

    england
    English
    As a non arab I communicate almost always in fus7a with arabs. It is pretty obvious that many (most even?) arabs who are born here cannot speak fus7a properly, if at all. I have found many arabs who don't like speaking in their local dialects and like abusaf said, urge me to speak in fus7a and not in egyptian or iraqi. I think also, a small but important point here, is that many people speak fus7a to emphasise a muslim unity that is why many religious people insist on speaking fus7a even at home.
     

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