Fosha Arabic is the language of the educated, well some of the educated… none? This is slightly confusing–as I try to write each sentence I go back and think of how my educated Arab friends speak. They most definitely know Fosha Arabic, but they speak in their colloquial tongue. They read, write and announce news on the radio/TV in Fosha Arabic. So trying to be true to everyone (and please correct me if I’m wrong)– Fosha Arabic is the language of literature and politics (books, newspapers, poetry and political debates)
If you are an American who studies Arabic in it’s supposed true form, you will find it difficult to navigate the Arab world, but especially Egypt with this useful (for books and articles) knowledge. To be able to navigate the Arabic speaking world you need to learn Egyptian Arabic.
Egypt, is known to be the Hollywood of the Arab world.
Arabic speakers from all corners of the Arab world were weaned on Adel Imam movies/plays and Abdel Haleem songs. Oh they understand Egyptian Arabic alright! They can even alter their dialect to fit ours, so spoiled Egyptians (who are not familiar with other dialects than their own) understand them. I used to be one of those spoiled Egyptians until I started traveling across the Arab world and lived in America. I came across many cultures and different (almost incomprehensible) Arabic dialects. I am now without bragging well seasoned in many forms of spoken Arabic– except for the dreaded fusha Arabic.
As a young girl, I had to learn Fusha and study Arabic grammar until my first year of high school. (I wasn’t the worst or the best amongst my classmates– but going to language schools made matters worse, we were expected to do poorly in Arabic, and so we did) Until the idea of skipping this whole subject altogether by switching to the British high school diploma known as the I.G.C.S.E. –I only needed to pass Arabic then (the grades wouldn’t affect my acceptance in a good school). Cheating the exam was common and particularly easy for Egyptian girls with fair skin who pretended to be of foreign decent and knew limited Arabic. Bingo, I was saved! (or so I unwisely thought).
Among my social class, not knowing proper Arabic, and being fluent in English guaranteed me a special place in my society. At the wake of these troubled times, more and more Upper-middle-class-oriented-Egyptians are finding solace in reclaiming their roots and language. It is refreshing and pride inducing.
“Ya ‘Abbi ‘atishta” (O father you are thirsty!) the little girl looked at her father in despair, as her father continued crossing the massive sea of the Sahara desert.
“Ya ‘Abbi ‘atishta” (O father you are thirsty!) a second plea was made by the girl to her father, the father said he was fine and continued on his journey.
“Ya ‘Abbi ‘atishta” (O father you are thirsty!) the girl managed to faintly say right before she fell to the soft golden sand beneath her feet.
Then she opened her eyes and mouth to water sprinkling on her face and poured into her mouth from a goat-skin-flask filled with water. It should’ve been ‘Atishtu (the “u’ sound refers to one’s self”I”) not Atishta (the “a” sound refers to the other “You”) the father finally said to his daugher.
“So it’s a matter of life and death…” I laughed in a dismissive way to my well educated earth colored, tall, and skinny Arabic Language tutor (he kind of was the embodiment of the Nile river I later came to think of him)
” It is!” He affirmed in a serious manner “Case endings can change the meaning of the whole sentence”
I have this story engraved in my brain, along side my uber patient Arabic tutor to whom I probably owe a million apologies for my cliched teenage behavior. I still don’t know my case endings, and I have a placement exam for an intensive interpreting course tomorrow. On the bright side, I do speak a treasured dialect in the Arab world, and fortunately understand most of the other spoken Arabic dialects (and cultures) that would be necessary for such an interpreting Job. A translator on the other hand, I stand no chance.
I am hopeful and thirsty– with a tu not a ta.