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Arabic

   Arabic is quite a simple language to learn. I know that many of you will knit your eyebrows after such a bold statement of mine. The point is that you can benefit from its grammatical structure if you would dare studying it; to put it in simple terms, it is based, as other Semitic languages – like Hebrew – on consonantal roots, most of them tri-consonantal.

   On a traditional paper Arabic dictionary you will not therefore find the words in alphabetical order, but according to their roots, that is, the first form of the third singular person of the Perfect Tense. In the same list you will also have the other verb forms – mainly up to the tenth form- which are linked together in a sort of mathematical variation.

   For example, Kasara, Perfect Tense first form, means to break – here by general agreement translated as Infinitive – while the second form, Kassara, which always represents an increasing of the meaning of the first form, means to smash. You will also have in that same list, the relevant substantives, adjectives, participles with prefix, and so on, such as: kisra (fragment, chunk, slice); Kaasir (ferocious); maksuurun (fragmented). A text sample has been posted hereunder, also in its cursive variation, coupled with its transliteration from Arabic, and its translation into English.

   The text comes from the book ‘Writing Arabic’, by Terence Frederick Mitchell, Oxford University Press, which I bought and found very useful, and which can be found on Amazon, or directly at Oxford UP website. I have also added the audio bar for the relevant Mp3, recorded in Cairo – while I was enjoying a scholarship for learning Arabic – ‘starring’ Nabil, an Egyptian friend of mine.

Sample of ‘Writing Arabic: A practical introduction to Ruq’ah script’:

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   Ahmad asked a sailor: Where did your father die? The sailor answered: “On a ship he was sailing on the sea”. “And when did your grandfather die?” “He, too, died on a ship he was sailing on the sea”. “And are you not afraid to sail a ship after that?” Then the sailor said: “Where did your father die?” “In his bed”. “And your grandfather?” “In his bed.” “And are you not afraid to sleep in a bed after that?”

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   Written, on the movie posters, whose originals can be bought here – starring Omar Sharif, of whom you can also read my interview in Cairo – there are samples of the attractive calligraphy in Ruq’ah (or Riq’a) style, which is one variety of the Arabic script.

   From left top poster: A’ishah (a personal name), 1953; Siraa fil-wadi, Mortal Revenge, 1954; Ayyamna al-helwa, Our Best Days, 1955; La anam, Sleepless, 1958; Ghaltet habibi, My Love’s Fault, 1958; Hobi al-wahid, My Only Love, 1960.

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Hubb-el-wahiidGhaltet-habibii

 

 

   Now, just to clarify, when I say that Arabic is an easy language to learn, I mean also that this era supports you in acquiring knowledge, and very quickly, on any branch of culture or technique. Therefore, today, instead of laboriously flipping pages on a traditional paper dictionary anyone can be helped a lot by an Arabic conjugator called Cave, developed by CJKI company. It has a steep price, but after having used it for many months, I can say that buying it was worth it all. Once you download this app – which weighs some 300 Mb – you can use it without connecting afterwards to the Internet. Hereunder my smartphone screenshots of the above mentioned two forms of the verb: kasara and kassara – to break and to smash.