Living in Dubai we didn't need to learn the Arabic language. The kids took Arabic everyday at school but are far from being able to communicate in it. Everyone there spoke a broken type of English dripping with their homeland accent. The expectation that you would misunderstand each other sat right under the surface of every conversation like a small but annoying paper cut. How could you not misunderstand with up to 202 different nationalities living and working together? Often in the middle of a discussion one had to check for the others' understanding, "Do know what I mean when i say....?"
i found both comfort and amusement that no matter WHAT nationality your background, everyone in Dubai learns 3 or 4 basic Arabic words that allow you to communicate.
1. Khalas (Enough!! or Stop) i have heard this Arabic word coated with various accents and it never ceases to make me chuckle because everyone is bound to use it. Whether you are from France, Japan, the Philippines, Ghana, Brazil, Texas, or Indian, if you live in Dubai, you know how to throw out a good "Khalas!" (which is usually said with a sort of throat clearing and an annoyed emphasis on the word) Ex: "Khalas! I can't eat any more."
2. Yella (Let's go or hurry!) Ex: "Yella! We are leaving!"
3. Habibi/Habibti (term of endearment for boy or girl and sung numerous times in Arabic songs) Ex: "Oh Habibti, I miss you!!" (To be said with a bit of sing song voice in your voice.)
4. La! (No!) A personal favorite of mine when hearing moms reprimand their children. "La, La, La, La!"
To become conversational in Dubai Arabic all you need to do is mix any combination of the above words:
Example: "No, Riley enough playing it is time to go home."
Translates "La! Khalas Riley! Yella habibti."
Lest any of you think now that we live in an English speaking country there are no longer language barriers. Let me introduce you to:
Rice Bubbles, Togs and Jandals.
Luckily, i learned from my Australian, British and South African friends in Dubai that just because we THINK we all speak the English language doesn't mean we know what the other person is talking about.
When i converse with someone in the English speaking country of New Zealand, i expect to be able to get all the information i need from them over the phone. Within a few minutes though, i realize they are throwing out words that ring completely senseless in my ears.
For example, today i called up the local activity camp to clarify some questions i had regarding summer events for the kiddos next week. (NZ Fact: Summer is in January here which means summer break and Christmas collide. Imagine the look on my kids faces when they realized they now have birthdays in completely opposite seasons!) i thought i would be quite fluent and prepared to speak with the director and ask educated questions. i had already looked words up online that i didn't understand. My American English already knew my kids would be participating in; sailing, canoeing, kayaking, sling shot, and archery, but i had to Google ABSEILING to find out it means rappelling. i knew TRAMPING translates hiking and MORNING TEA & AFTERNOON TEA means snacks for the kids which was easy to figure out based on context. Armed with my grasp of the Kiwi vernacular, i thought i was prepared for an intelligent question and answer time over the phone. That is until she started throwing out words like TOGS, SUNNIES, DICKS and JANDALS. Between the NZ accent and new phrases, i hung up dazed and confused and unsure i wanted my kids to attend this sort of camp. Putting my mobile down and wiping the confused look on my face, i was able to clear my thoughts and re-play the conversation in slow motion through my head to recall words i know i have learned.
Riley is wearing JANDALS but Kyle is not
We are all wearing SUNNIES to protect our eyes
In Dubai we always wore TOGS to the beach because everyone knows you swim better in a swimsuit.
As for DICK that is just Kiwi accent for the American word DECK where you hang out outside and enjoy the weather.
This January summer we will be making Rice Bubble Squares which just doesn't have the same ring to it.
And for those of you that think i may be exaggerating the Kiwi language difference check out this site for more