Note: All followers and readers are thanked from the bottom of my heart. To those readers wondering if this was turning into a photography blog, writing was, is and will always be my first love.
This article was originally penned down for http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/why-don-t-you-try-english-1.986539
There’s one thing I like about Frenchmen (and no, it’s not just the fact that they are generally quite easy on the eye). When you try to speak in French with the French, broken as it might be, they encourage you, and prefer that you speak in French rather than English, even though they generally do know a bit of English.
Iranians however, revere their language with a fierce passion and do not like to see it get maimed at the hands (read: tongue) of a non-Persian speaker. Persian is a beautiful language, deep and with a rich history spanning centuries. It can also be complicated and difficult and once, a few years back, I decided to learn it. I began to get acquainted with the language, and I was thrilled when I found myself next to an Iranian woman on a flight.
Eager to practise my newly acquired Persian skills with a native, I tried to make small talk with the lady. At first she spoke a few sentences, and then began responding to me in monosyllables. Undaunted, I continued with my Persian, and her answers kept getting shorter and shorter. After a few minutes, the woman, wearing a thoroughly exasperated expression on her face, turned to me and said, “Why don’t you try English?”
I laughed off her response, but thank goodness I had the sense to belt up after her lovely, encouraging comment. ‘Why don’t you try English’ is different from saying — ‘Let’s talk in English’, because it implies the fact that the person hardly trusts your language abilities. Perhaps this woman is completely pathetic with English too, she thinks to herself, and hence the thoughtful suggestion of ‘trying’ English. Needless to say, all I tried after that was the insipid flight food and, to her relief, decided to keep mum.
My experimentation with languages comes from a natural passion for learning new languages. Arabic, of course, is another exquisite language that I love, rhythmic in its harmony and perfection and far more profound than English could ever be. My love for this language comes not only from the fact that it is the language God chose to reveal His last book in, the Quran, but also because Arabic, superior in refinement to almost all other languages, sounds quite pleasing to the ear.
As for my progress with the language, I have to say it could have been better. I learnt the language by taking a classical Arabic course, which, it appears, is very different from the Khaleeji (Gulf) Arabic spoken in Dubai. When I enthusiastically spoke in the newly learnt language with an Arab friend, she snickered and although she did boost my confidence, she said, “Arabi al fussaha? (Classical Arabic?) That sounds really different —has to be the first time I have ever heard someone talking like that!”
I felt a strong urge to settle things with my Arabic instructor, but I’m thankful for the fact that I can at least pick tenses and grammar and I suppose the dialect and vocabulary should follow naturally.
Except that they don’t. Which brings to me to a rather sensible piece of advice — perhaps I really should ‘try’ (to stick to) English. On second thoughts, learning to parlez vouz a bit more would probably not be bad idea either — what with Frenchmen and all!