Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 34 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Shame: Arabic writing and presentation skills!


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 34 seconds

I am so ashamed. I am.

I can speak Arabic, read it and write it, but I am not good at using it academically. And it’s becoming a problem.

In most conferences that are bilingual (Arabic/English) I opt to speak mostly in English because the terminologies come more easily to me. I listen to the Arabic and usually understand 95% of it, but lots of it sounds awkward and stilted to me.

I write for Al-Fanar in English and can rarely (uh, never?) translate my own writing elegantly (though I can spot a bad translation when I see one). I tried it once, for one of my simpler pieces for them. They rejected it, they felt it was not written well enough 🙁

I want to work on this, it is ridiculous to submit to the colonization of my education, the Anglicization of it. Growing up in my English school, we were not allowed to speak Arabic, so we only spoke it out of resistance, and so our teachers would not understand us. We did this in front of our American teachers when we were at college at the American University in Cairo as well – but later realized many of them speak Arabic, so it was not a great idea, in hindsight, because they actually heard stuff and understood it that we (rudely, of course) had not meant for them to u understand.

Anyway! I know part of the problem for me is that most of my Arabic reading is religious text, and though I am very fluent in it, it is not the same discourse as everyday Arabic we speak (colloquial) or the more difficult academic Arabic (dunno what that is called, even), all of which is different from the Arabic in the newspapers (Modern standard Arabic) which I can read but not write well…

The more urgent question for me is: I need to give a short talk (as part of a panel) in Arabic soon and I need to use the following concepts (can someone help me translate them into Arabic? I have posted my suggestions but they sound awkward to me, as do most translations, i think, when you are “thinking” in one language and translating to another!)

Lifelong learning. التعلم المستمر مدى الحياة
Communities of practice (no idea! مجتمعات ممارسة)
Access to technology المقدرة على الوصول للتكنولوجيا
Privilege امتياز (this translation was used recently in the translation of my social media for the semi-privileged article on Al-Fanar but it sounded off so we changed it but had to keep it in other places, but kept it in the body of the article)
Social reproduction, this could be translated as re-cycling privilege, but i already don’t like the translation of privilege to being with). Am sure it already has an Arabic term for it!
Indoctrination (هيمنة الفكر) but that sounds like hegemony rather than indoctrination… Hmm…

On another note, it’s really becoming high time for me to go take some courses on improving my Arabic writing skills – have been calling for AUC to include such courses for undergrads… I’d take one in a heartbeat if it existed!

Any help is highly appreciated!



  1. Pingback: Forgiveness, and the subtleties of languageReflecting Allowed | Reflecting Allowed

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: