A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

adventures in Arabic: stuck on the wrong word

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 6, 2007

The worst part of my 3SL (Arabic as a Second Language) skills is that they desert me when I least expect it – and often, when I most need them.

Sometimes they abandon me entirely, and I am left to smile mutely at whomever I had previously been conversing.

At other times, I simply get “stuck”: I am searching my memory for one word, while another one sticks itself irritatingly in my mind and won’t let go.

Such was the case the other morning, as I discussed with my cab driver the best entree into downtown and the building I needed to get to.

(Its a bit trickier these days thanks less to the protesters than the barbed wire and military checkpoints. Its not difficult, but if you choose the wrong drop-off point, you can be in for a bit of a walk and a series of less-than-helpful chats with well-meaning but often uninformed army personnel.)

What I wanted to say was: in my experience, the Omari Mosque is a good place.

“Experience” is “tajriba”. It was a rather English-Arabic sentence to begin with – I could have just said in my opinion, which would have been the simpler and more Arabic expression.

Instead, I got stuck.

I couldn’t remember the word for experience. The only word that came to mind was “tijara”.

Tijara means “business” or “trade”.

I couldn’t very well say: In my business, the Omari Mosque is a good place.

Well, I could have, but it would have been terribly confusing for the driver. After all, what could my business be – the sale of prayer rugs?

“Tajriba” came back to me ten minutes after I exited the cab. Oh, so frustrating!

4 Responses to “adventures in Arabic: stuck on the wrong word”

  1. sparkleplenty said

    Little Diamond – Malapropisms are one of my favorite sources of amusement. This was classic, and opened my eyes to multilingual possibilities! (Auntie) SparklePlenty

  2. intlxpatr said

    Love this entry, Little Diamond – and I am making a guess as to who SparklePlenty is!

  3. Hello aunts🙂 and welcome SparklePlenty (can I call you Alex for short??)!

    of _course_ you both commented on this post – everyone in our family loves words :-)!

  4. SparklePlenty said

    Ahh, you are so right – words are enticing and any fabulous play on words, whether or not intentional, brings a smile. The more subtle, the better. Enjoyed Intlxpatr’s similar vignette regarding (annoying) converstaion with AM! And yes, Intlxpatr, you guess correctly! LD, you can always call me Alex… 😉

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