Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

I demand… A course in Arabic rhetoric

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I demand a course in Arabic rhetoric!

I am sick of not being able to translate my own English articles. I know translation is a different skill, but I also am ashamed I cannot write eloquently in Arabic in the first place!

I am sick of feeling uncomfortable with speaking publicly in Arabic. People say I did well yesterday, and it’s great that some people appreciate my speaking from the heart colloquially, but I don’t think that is enough professionally. I need something more, I need the confidence, the eloquence, the ability to do it seamlessly, not to struggle through it.

I was having a discussion with colleagues the other day about this: about whether one identifies oneself as “Arab” vs other aspects of one’s identity. Because I grew up in an Arab country other than my own, the “Arab” aspect of my identity is pretty strong, as is the Muslim, though the Egyptian is often (but not always) stronger and more central. African? Not so much.

We took an undergrad course called Arab Society in which we questioned what makes someone “Arab”… And we asked whether it was geography, language, culture, etc? We also asked whether people pf Arab origin who do not speak Arabic “belong” (my view? It is up to each person how they want to identify themselves), and whether the culture in Arab countries is really monolithic (it’s not, of course, but it has more in common than e.g. Other African countries or Western or Asian ones). There is a lot more Arabs have in common (including some really annoying social and political issues that I wish we did not have) but we also share a lot with other postcolonial societies.

But there is something extremely powerful about this common language we have. Sure, the colloquial is a confusing jumble but if you live long enough in an Arab country or deal long enough with someone speaking the dialect, you’ll pick it up (or maybe that is just me, living in Kuwait and learning a mix of dialects there). The North African ones are a bit harder to grasp but I am sure if we tried we would get there.

But still: there is the written Arabic we all share in common. When a Saudi or Jordanian speaks their colloquial, it is naturally closer to classical or modern standard Arabic. Egyptian is not. And i think that is why Egyptians struggle more with this. But still, our edu system can do better. Our univs can do better

Should i go the uni route for the Arabic RHETORIC course, or the MOOC route? Or both?

c

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