Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Story from Hungary

I came across this book (International Stories for Children) and thought it may be useful for those learning Arabic. It has the tashkeel in it and tells different stories from around the world. I recorded my voice reading it in MSA and 3ameyya. It's my first time to be recording so I'm not very good at it. Any suggestions for improving the sound quality are most appreciated. I'd also like to know if I should be speaking slower.

This is the first story in the book, Katika. Just click on the picture to move to the next page. First, the MSA version. I tried to read without an Egyptian accent, but slipped a few times with the jeem. ^_^

The 3ameyya version:

I translated into 3ameyya as I went along, trying to keep it as close to the MSA as possible without sounding weird. Here are a few things that I had trouble with:

  • وإنما ذهب الحمار بها إلى هناك   for some reason I would try to say ennama el7omaar raa7 beeha lehnaak, but seeing the MSA put the verb first, I'd mix it up. Looking at it now, I can't see anything wrong with saying ennama raa7 el7omaar beeha lehnaak

  • When Katika first meets the king, she meets him with her head lowered (ورأسها منخفض), that's what the MSA says. But saying w rasshaa metwaTeyyah sounded a bit off to me, so I changed it to w heyya mewaTTeyyah rasha (while lowering he head).

  • When she puts something into the king's cup and he drinks without noticing anything, the MSA says دون أن يلاحظ شيئًا, I translated it to min gheir maylaa7ez 7aga because it's perfectly ok to say that. The problem is, my mouth would say min gheir maa yakhod baloh first. Min gheir maa yakhod baloh has a similar meaning, it could also be translated as without paying attention.

Hope it helps. Happy learning!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Suite Francaise

Just finished Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky, another book we brought back from our visit home. The author had only just finished the first two parts of the book (out of the intended five) when she was arrested and sent to concentration camp where she passed away shortly after.

The first part dealt with the chaos before the German occupation of France. People fleeing Paris and trying to get to the country. What happened on their way, the misery and hopelessness. It shows both what the poor went through as well as the rich, who were often disgusting the way they looked down on others in such a time when all are in the same boat (sort of).

The second part talks about the German occupation of the country, of one particular village that had helped the refugees before (and hence you're familiar with some of the characters). How the villagers had to give up a lot to the Germans, but at sometimes were able to take advantage of them and make profits. How they had to share their homes with some of the officers, and the mixed feelings this all brings up.

When I was reading the first part I was wondering how the rest of the novel would go. It naturally focused on the French civilians' troubles and feelings. I had been thinking about what would one do in such a situation where you're dealing with the enemy face to face. Reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society had gotten me started on the idea. So I was wondering if the second part would continue with the same perspective.

Well, it didn't. It tackles both sides' feelings, but maybe more on the French side. The villagers are sometimes torn between treating these polite young German soldiers nicely, and feeling hatred because their sons/husbands/fathers are prisoners of war or have been killed in the war. The Germans on the other hand, definitely miss their loved ones. They also wonder how the French truly feel towards them, especially when they're ordered to go to Russia to fight.

I loved the book, but what made it better was reading the author's notes on how she was planning the rest of it. It gives you the chance to continue the story on your own with her guidelines as well as an idea of how she felt. The second appendix was correspondences first between her and her publisher asking for help to get through the tough times (because of her Jewish ancestry). Then they're between her husband and contacts trying to find out where she was taken. She only managed to send two letters after she was arrested. Later her husband was arrested as well and sent to the gas chamber. But the correspondence between their friends continue as they didn't know about their deaths. Their two little girls had to go in hiding, and even when the war was over and the prisoners returned they would go to the train station to try to find their parents. The appendixes got me crying, they're real life, not fiction.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

To whom would I leave you? أسيبك لمين؟

Came across this song around election time and it's really touching, so thought I'd share it. It's in 3ameyya, but not all is your everyday way of saying something, quite a few things are poetic. And I should thank my friends on FB for sharing. ^_^

واسيبك لمين
And leave you to whom?
ولسه صبية .. ونيلك حزين
(You’re) Still young, and your Nile is sad
ولسه لبكرة ماليكي الحنين
And you’re still yearning for tomorrow
أسيبك لمين؟
Leave you to whom?
ومين راح يرد لتاريخك صباه
And who’s to bring back to your history its youth
ويمشي ف طريقك.. لآخر مداه
And walk down your path/way till its end
ومين من حياته يجيب لك حياة ..
And who’s to give you from his own life a life
ومين راح يكبر وقت الصلاة
And who’s to make takbir when it’s prayer time
أسيبك لمين؟
Leave you to whom?
ومين يبقى مغرم بحبك صبابة
And who’s to be passionately in love with you
ومين يحمي طيبتك ؟ يا أم الطيابة
And who’s to protect your kindness, oh source of kindness?
ومين يبقى ضلة .. في شمس الغلابة
And who’s to be a shade… in the poor people’s sun
ومين يبقى شوكة في حلق الديابة
And who’s to be a thorn in the wolves’ throat
أسيبك لمين؟؟
Leave you to whom?

  • لمين         Lmeen   to whom
    In 3ameyya, it’s always at the end of the sentence, whereas in MSA it can be in the beginning or end sometimes.In 3ameyya, you say:
    اديته لمين؟               Eddeitoh lmeen?              Who did you give it (masculine) to?
    But in MSA, you could say لِمَنْ أَعْطَيْتُه؟  Leman 2a3Taytoh? or أَعْطَيْتُه لِمَنْ؟ 2a3Taytoh leman?
    روحت / روحتي لمين؟           Ro7t / ro7tee lmeen?      Who did you go to?

  • لسه          lessah   still, not yet
    لسه ماروحتش         Lessah maro7tish             I haven’t gone yet.
    دي لسه صغيرة       Dee lessah Soghayyarah              She’s still young. (She’s still a child.)

  • مين راح   meen ra7
    Literally this means who went..? but in this context it means who’s going to… I don’t think it’s an expression I’d use in everyday conversation. I'd more likely say meen ha...
    هو راح فين؟            Howwa ra7 fein?              Where did he go?
    هي راحت فين؟       Heyya ra7et fein?             Where did she go?
    مين هيكلّم الشركة؟      Meen haykallim essherkah?       Who's going to call the company?
    مين هيكبّر وقت الصلاة؟      Meen haykabbar wa2t essalah?    Who's going to make takbir when it's prayer time?

  • أم الطيابة                 om elTayabah
    Literally mother of kindness, but it’s an expression to mean the source of something, you’re so kind that you’re the source (mother) of kindness. For masculine it would be abu… This can be used in a negative or positive way depending on the adjective added and context.

  • ديابة         diyabah                               wolves
    This is one of the cases where the dhal in MSA is turned into a dal. The singular is ديب deeb in 3ameyya. In MSA, its ذِئْب dhe2b and the plural is ذِئَاب dhe2aab.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Will you marry me?

My meimei is having her katb kitab this weekend. It's also been a long time since I last translated a song so this is dedicated to her (being her favorite). Baraka Allahu lakoma wa baraka 3alaykoma wa jama3 baynakoma!

As always, feel free to add comments, corrections, or ask questions. ^_^

The song is only 4 minutes, but couldn't find a 4 min video that could be embedded.

في كلام لما بيتقال بيغير كل حياتنا معاه
Some things when said, change our whole life along with them

عاللي بيستهلوا ندور طول العمر ونستناه
Those who are worth looking for our whole lives and waiting for them

أنا من اللحظه دي بقولك إني بحبك أكتر مني
From this moment, I’m telling you I love you more than myself

إنتي اللي عشانك بأكتب شعر
You’re the one I write poetry for

إنتي اللي عشانها بأغني
You’re the one I sing for

Will you marry me?

مش عايز غيرك في الحياة
I don’t want anyone but you in life

أوعي تسيبيني
Don’t leave me

من غير ما أتكلم انتي بتسمعيني
Without talking, you hear me

عشانك أطول السما لو حبتيني
For you I’d reach out to the sky, if you (just) love me

أنا حاسس إن الكون وياكي بأشوفه بشكل جديد
I feel like I see the universe in a new way when I’m with you

الدنيا بتضحك وإنتي معايا
The world smiles/laughs when you’re with me

تكشر وإنتي بعيد
(And) frowns when you’re away

أنا شايف فيكي ولادنا ومستقبلنا ودنيا أمان
I see in you our children, future and a safe world

مهما هنكبر ونعجز هأفضل أحبك زي زمان
No matter how much we grow and get old, I’ll always love you like before

Will you marry me?

مش عايز غيرك في الحياة
I don’t want anyone but you in life

أوعي تسيبيني
Don’t leave me

من غير ما أتكلم انتي بتفهميني
Without talking, you understand me

عشانك أطول السما لو حبتيني
For you I’d reach out to the sky, if you (just) love me

أنا من اللحظه دي بقولك إني بحبك أكتر مني
From this moment, I’m telling you I love you more than myself

انتي اللي عشانك باكتب شعر
You’re the one I write poetry for

إنتي اللي عشانها بأغني
You’re the one I sing for

Will you marry me?

مش عايز غيرك في الحياة
I don’t want anyone but you in life

أوعي تسيبيني
Don’t leave me

من غير ما أتكلم انتي بتسمعيني
Without talking, you hear me

عشانك أطول السما لو حبتيني
For you I’d reach out to the sky, if you (just) love me

Will you marry me?

Ew3i (said to a female) / ew3a (said to a male) can have different meanings:
  1. Don’t
    * Ew3a tru7 henaak. Don’t go there.
    * Ew3i tkhaafi. Don’t be afraid.
  2. You’d better not…  (usually ew3a tkun / ew3i tkuni…)
    * Ew3i tkuni betfakkari tghayyari ra2yek. You’d better not be thinking of changing your mind.
    * Ew3a tkun 3ayez tetgawwez tani. You’d better not want to marry again.
  3. Watch out!
    * Ew3a el3arabeyya! Watch out for the car!

    Another way to warn someone would be by saying: 7aseb / 7asbi.
    * 7asbi elshay! Watch out for the tea! (you’re going to spill it).
    * 7aseb, elwalad hayo2a3. Watch out, the boy is going to fall.
  4. Get out of the way (not very polite when talking to adults, so it's best for people you're familiar with)
    * Ew3i! Get out of my way! Move!
    * Ew3a, 7aseb. (said to a kid) Excuse me.

    A polite way of saying that would be:
    * 3an eznak (to male) / 3an eznek (to female) which just means excuse me (lit. with your permission)
    * Law sama7t (to male) / Law sama7ti (to female) which is lit. please but it would be understood from the situation, e.g. you're in a narrow aisle. 

Hanekbar w n3aggez:
Nekbar means (we) grow and n3aggez means (we) grow old.
It’s perfectly normal to use them together when talking about aging, but if you want to use one only, nekbar would sound a bit odd for adults.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Now I know the answer to "Are you Egyptian?"

My answer has changed over time depending on how I define myself, or how much I think the asker needs to know. But after seeing this article (in Arabic), I can confidently say, "No, and neither are you!". ^_^

It turns out if someone accuses you of not being Egyptian, there's no way you can prove it, at least realistically. And in all other cases the accuser should bring evidence, but in this one case it's the accused person's job to come up with evidence of his/her innocence. Your National ID number, passport,  birth certificate even your military service certificate (for men) aren't enough to prove your citizenship.

So how do you get proof of Egyptian citizenship? Well, anyone who has settled in Egypt before November 5, 1914, and isn't a national of a foreign country, is Egyptian by law. That date is when Egypt ceased to be part of the Ottoman Empire.

To get the certificate proving your citizenship you need:

  1. Both your parent's birth certificates
  2. Your grandparents' birth certificates
  3. Your great-grandparents' birth certificates etc. all the way back to 1914
  4. Then you need to prove that your grandfather's grandfather had been residing in Egypt before that date by coming up with (1) a receipt for electricity, gas or telephone payment & (2) a property contract registered before the said date.
So have fun proving it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What you don't know...

There's an Egyptian proverb that says: Elli te3rafoh a7san min elli mate3rafush (who/what you know is better than who/what you don't know). Its concept is constantly in use here.

Sometimes families prefer to marry within the family (especially for their daughters) citing this proverb as a reason. Your relative won't abuse you, and after all, blood can never turn into water.

Another example is when you ask people about elections, some would say, "So-and-so has been in charge for so long, he has so much experience and we know him. But how can we vote for someone we don't know." Or maybe they just say it to stay out of trouble.

I wonder if the proverb came from the culture, or it has changed the culture itself. I think originally the proverb would be about the person you befriend, use or trust, naturally the one you know is better than the one you don't know. But when its usage has spread to many other issues, I wonder if it's still true.

To me Elli mate3rafush a7san min elli te3rafoh, or at least more interesting. ^_^

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Good Women of China

Recently, I finished "The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices". It tells the stories of many Chinese women the writer came across during her work as a journalist and presenter of a radio show. Some of the stories were quite shocking. I can't say I was surprised, given the circumstances, but can't deny they were a bit too hard to read without being emotional.

One thing that was repeated in the book was a Chinese proverb: Women are like water and men are like mountains. At first I wasn't sure what it meant. I thought maybe it means that men are solid like rocks whereas women are flexible. Or that men get their way and women should be flexible and accommodating, at least that's how I feel it is culturally here. Having seen quite a few Arabic & Chinese proverbs that are derogatory of women when we were doing our graduation paper, I was wondering who's better than who in this proverb, but I guess there can be different explanations and it doesn't have to be that one is better than the other. In the book, different people gave different interpretations of it. One was:

"Chinese men need women in order to form a picture of themselves - as mountains are reflected in streams. But streams flow from the mountains. Where then is the true picture?"

Another was:
"Men are like mountains they only know the ground beneath their feet, and the trees on their slopes. But women are like water."
and when the same person was asked why, she said:
"Everybody says women are like water. I think it's because water is the source of life, and it adapts itself to its environment. Like women, water also gives of itself wherever it goes to nurture life."

Now I see it to mean: life cannot be without men or women, they're different but it doesn't mean either of them is dispensable. Mountains are like pegs to fasten the Earth's crust, whereas water is vital for survival on Earth.

The book reminds me of another one I read a few years ago, "I Wish I Were a Wolf: The New Voice in Chinese Women's Literature". Though it's fiction it still showed how women struggle in China and I think some of the stories can reflect women's struggles in other parts of the world as well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I've thought about starting a blog for a long time, but never got around to doing it. Over time, the reasons have changed, but basically to have a place to share my thoughts, observations and translations. So here we go, bismillah.