Syrian English

Language hear is not to be taken for granted. First theres the difference between Ameya (or colloquial Arabic) and Fussha (which at home is divided into modern standard and classical, though hear people just know how much Fusha to use in a situation). The is a simplified grammar and pronunciation and an entire second vocabulary for the street, as well the complexities of case endings and harkat in the classroom. peoples Ameya is almost inevitably better than their Fusha; its hard to motivate yourself to learn something you know you’ll never use when talking to someone.

Peoples arabic is almost taken as an indicator of there moral worth. I was told I ‘must meet Patrick, he works for the UNHRC, and speaks the most incredible Ameaya’. I’m quite happy with my Ameaya, buts its not helping my Fusha. I cannot ever rember that ‘oredu,’ means ‘ I want’ because I always use the Ameaya, ‘bidy.’

English, to, is not quite the language it is at home. spoken slower, some sentence constructions are favored over others. Orwell wrote that the English speak in phrases and dead metaphors, and he’s probably right. no one else uses our language like this though. either start constructing sentences from words, with all colloquialisms left in your luggage, or get very used to explaining yourself.

When Arabs use English various Arabic features come along to. In Arabic who did what in the past tense is expressed by the final harakat, or short vowel. In Chammie Ameaya, spoken here, the last harakat is always dropped.  Arabic’s vagueness about whether some thing  has, is or will happen is part of Syrian English. everything is in the present tense. It all combines to enhance the impression created by the shortage of information and lack of consistency of some kind of Kafkaesque world where no one understands anyone or anything. everyone floats around on words that are unanchored to their neighbors, one understands each word but has only the very vaguest idea of what is meant.

The are some important vocabulary differences between English English and the Syrian version. For Syrians POPULAR, for example, means poor, common. A (European) friend and I were walking through Dwala, dodging a football and kids as loud as they were dirty. ‘its a popular neighborhood,’ he commented. And if someone INVITES you for a drink accept- they’re offering to pay.

The Europeans, meanwhile, have other new words. various bits of Arabic have been adopted and added to the lingua franca, notably, ‘INSHALLA,’ ‘if god wills it’, ‘BUCKRA,’ ‘tomorrow,’ (do you see a theme developing here?) and KHALLAS, an incredibly useful word, the love child of ‘enough’ and ‘finished’. Then the is the secret police, so we may go on holiday to ‘DISNEY LAND,’ if we’re in a public place. However is the word SYRIAN that has accrued the most new meanings out here. while often an adjective (weather complementary or not tells you as much about the person using it as about whatever it is thats ‘syrian’), its also kind of the adverb equivalent of ‘akunamatata.’

O: ‘Hay Anne. I’ve got those fliers for Paul’s party. He said he’d try and make it hear this   morning, but he dropped some off last night just in case.’

ANNE, laughing. ‘Yeah. He can be very syrian about these things.’


O: I’ve just tried to collect my iqama, but they cant find my passport.’

ASSEMBLED COMPANY. ‘It’ll be ok. you’ve just got to be syrian about it. it’ll turn up.


GIRL ON BUS. ‘I hate public transport hear.’

FRIEND. ‘its so syrian. the serveeices are ok though.’

Author: adventuresinarabic

I'm studying Arabic in Damascus, living through the Arab Spring and blogging about my experiences hear.

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