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  • Translator: khalid marbou Reviewer: Anwar Dafa-Alla

  • Good morning!

  • Are you awake?

  • They took my name tag, but I wanted to ask you,

  • did anyone here write their name on the tag in Arabic?

  • Anyone! No one? All right, no problem.

  • Once upon a time, not long ago,

  • I was sitting in a restaurant with my friend, ordering food.

  • So I looked at the waiter and said,

  • "Do you have a menu (Arabic)?"

  • He looked at me strangely, thinking that he misheard.

  • He said, "Sorry? (English)."

  • I said, "The menu (Arabic), please."

  • He replied, "Don't you know what they call it?"

  • "I do."

  • He said, "No! It's called "menu" (English), or "menu" (French)."

  • Is the French pronunciation correct?

  • "Come, come, take care of this one!" said the waiter.

  • He was disgusted when talking to me, as if he was saying to himself,

  • "If this was the last girl on Earth, I wouldn't look at her!"

  • What's the meaning of saying "menu" in Arabic?

  • Two words made a Lebanese young man judge a girl as being backward

  • and ignorant.

  • How could she speak that way?

  • At that moment, I started thinking.

  • It made me mad.

  • It definitely hurts!

  • I'm denied the right to speak my own language in my own country?

  • Where could this happen?

  • How did we get here?

  • Well, while we are here, there are many people like me,

  • who would reach a stage in their lives, where they involuntarily give up

  • everything that has happened to them in the past,

  • just so they can say that they're modern

  • and civilized.

  • Should I forget all my culture, thoughts,

  • intellect and all my memories?

  • Childhood stories might be the best memories we have of the war!

  • Should I forget everything I learned in Arabic, just to conform?

  • To be one of them?

  • Where's the logic in that?

  • Despite all that, I tried to understand him.

  • I didn't want to judge him with the same cruelty that he judged me.

  • The Arabic language doesn't satisfy today's needs.

  • It's not a language for science,

  • research,

  • a language we're used to in universities,

  • a language we use in the workplace,

  • a language we rely on if we were to perform an advanced research project,

  • and it definitely isn't a language we use at the airport.

  • If we did so, they'd strip us of our clothes.

  • Where can I use it, then? We could all ask this question!

  • So, you want us to use Arabic. Where are we to do so?

  • This is one reality.

  • But we have another more important reality that we ought to think about.

  • Arabic is the mother tongue.

  • Research says that mastery of other languages

  • demands mastery of the mother tongue.

  • Mastery of the mother tongue is a prerequisite for creative expression in other languages.

  • How?

  • Gibran Khalil Gibran,

  • when he first started writing, he used Arabic.

  • All his ideas, imagination and philosophy

  • were inspired by this little boy in the village

  • where he grew up, smelling a specific smell,

  • hearing a specific voice,

  • and thinking a specific thought.

  • So, when he started writing in English, he had enough baggage.

  • Even when he wrote in English,

  • when you read his writings in English, you smell the same smell,

  • sense the same feeling.

  • You can imagine that that's him writing in English,

  • the same boy who came from the mountain. From a village on Mount Lebanon.

  • So, this is an example no one can argue with.

  • Second, it's often said that if you want to kill a nation,

  • the only way to kill a nation,

  • is to kill its language.

  • This is a reality that developed societies are aware of.

  • The Germans, French, Japanese and Chinese, all these nations are aware of this.

  • That's why they legislate to protect their language.

  • They make it sacred.

  • That's why they use it in production, they pay a lot of money to develop it.

  • Do we know better than them?

  • All right,

  • we aren't from the developed world,

  • this advanced thinking hasn't reached us yet,

  • and we would like to catch up with the civilized world.

  • Countries that were once like us, but decided to strive for development,

  • do research,

  • and catch up with those countries,

  • such as Turkey, Malaysia and others,

  • they carried their language with them as they were climbing the ladder,

  • protected it like a diamond.

  • They kept it close to them.

  • Because if you get any product from Turkey or elsewhere

  • and it's not labeled in Turkish,

  • then it isn't a local product.

  • You wouldn't believe it's a local product.

  • They'd go back to being consumers,

  • clueless consumers, like we are most of the time.

  • So, in order for them to innovate and produce, they had to protect their language.

  • If I say, "Freedom, sovereignty, independence (Arabic),"

  • what does this remind you of?

  • It doesn't ring a bell, does it?

  • Regardless of the who, how and why.

  • Language isn't just for conversing, just words coming out of our mouths.

  • Language represents specific stages in our lives,

  • and terminology that is linked to our emotions.

  • So when we say, "Freedom, sovereignty, independence,"

  • each one of you draws a specific image in their own mind,

  • there are specific feelings

  • of a specific day in a specific historical period.

  • Language isn't one, two or three words or letters put together.

  • It's an idea inside that relates to how we think,

  • and how we see each other and how others see us.

  • What is our intellect?

  • How do you say whether this guy understands or not?

  • So, if I say, "Freedom, sovereignty, independence (English),"

  • or if your son came up to you and said,

  • "Dad, have you lived through the period of the freedom (English) slogan?"

  • How would you feel?

  • If you don't see a problem,

  • then I'd better leave, and stop talking in vain.

  • The idea is that these expressions remind us of a specific thing.

  • I have a francophone friend who's married to a French man.

  • I asked her once how things were going.

  • She said, "Everything is fine,

  • but once, I spent a whole night asking and trying to translate

  • the meaning of the word 'toqborni' for him."

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • The poor woman had mistakenly told him "toqborni,"

  • and then spent the whole night trying to explain it to him.

  • He was puzzled by the thought: "How could anyone be this cruel?

  • Does she want to commit suicide?

  • 'Bury me?' (English)"

  • This is one of the few examples.

  • It made us feel that she's unable to tell that word to her husband,

  • since he won't understand,

  • and he's right not to; his way of thinking is different.

  • She said to me, "He listens to Fairuz with me,

  • and one night, I tried to translate for him

  • so he can feel what I feel when I listen to Fairuz."

  • The poor woman tried to translate this for him:

  • "From them I extended my hands and stole you --"

  • (Laughter)

  • And here's the pickle:

  • "And because you belong to them, I returned my hands and left you."

  • (Laughter)

  • Translate that for me.

  • (Applause)

  • So, what have we done to protect the Arabic language?

  • We turned this into a concern of the civil society,

  • and we launched a campaign to preserve the Arabic language.

  • Even though many people told me, "Why do you bother?

  • Forget about this headache and go have fun."

  • No problem!

  • The campaign to preserve Arabic launched a slogan that says,

  • "I talk to you from the East, but you reply from the West."

  • We didn't say, "No! We do not accept this or that."

  • We didn't adopt this style because that way, we wouldn't be understood.

  • And when someone talks to me that way, I hate the Arabic language.

  • We say--

  • (Applause)

  • We want to change our reality,

  • and be convinced in a way that reflects our dreams, aspirations and day-to-day life.

  • In a way that dresses like us and thinks like we do.

  • So, "I talk to you from the East, but you reply from the West"

  • has hit the spot.

  • Something very easy, yet creative and persuasive.

  • After that, we launched another campaign

  • with scenes of letters on the ground.

  • You've seen an example of it outside,

  • a scene of a letter surrounded by black and yellow tape

  • with "Don't kill your language!" written on it.

  • Why? Seriously, don't kill your language.

  • We really shouldn't kill our language.

  • If we were to kill the language, we'd have to find an identity.

  • We'd have to find an existence.

  • We'd go back to the beginning.

  • This is beyond just missing our chance of being modern and civilized.

  • After that we released photos of guys and girls wearing the Arabic letter.

  • Photos of "cool" guys and girls.

  • We are very cool!

  • And to whoever might say, "Ha! You used an English word!"

  • I say, "No! I adopt the word 'cool.'"

  • Let them object however they want, but give me a word that's nicer

  • and matches the reality better.

  • I will keep on saying "Internet"

  • I wouldn't say: "I'm going to the world wide web"

  • (Laughs)

  • Because it doesn't fit! We shouldn't kid ourselves.

  • But to reach this point, we all have to be convinced

  • that we shouldn't allow anyone who is bigger

  • or thinks they have any authority over us when it comes to language,

  • to control us or make us think and feel what they want.

  • Creativity is the idea.

  • So, if we can't reach space or build a rocket and so on,

  • we can be creative.

  • At this moment, every one of you is a creative project.

  • Creativity in your mother tongue is the path.

  • Let's start from this moment.

  • Let's write a novel or produce a short film.

  • A single novel could make us global again.

  • It could bring the Arabic language back to being number one.

  • So, it's not true that there's no solution; there is a solution!

  • But we have to know that, and be convinced that a solution exists,

  • that we have a duty to be part of that solution.

  • In conclusion, what can you do today?

  • Now, tweets, who's tweeting?

  • Please, I beg of you, even though my time has finished,

  • either Arabic, English, French or Chinese.

  • But don't write Arabic with Latin characters mixed with numbers!

  • (Applause)

  • It's a disaster! That's not a language.

  • You'd be entering a virtual world with a virtual language.

  • It's not easy to come back from such a place and rise.

  • That's the first thing we can do.

  • Second, there are many other things that we can do.

  • We're not here today to convince each other.

  • We're here to bring attention to the necessity of preserving this language.

  • Now I will tell you a secret.

  • A baby first identifies its father

  • through language.

  • When my daughter is born, I'll tell her, "This is your father, honey (Arabic)."

  • I wouldn't say, "This is your dad, honey (English)."

  • And in the supermarket, I promise my daughter Noor,

  • that if she says to me, "Thanks (Arabic),"

  • I won't say, "Dis, 'Merci, Maman,'" and hope no one has heard her.

  • (Applause)

  • Let's get rid of this cultural cringe.

  • (Applause)

Translator: khalid marbou Reviewer: Anwar Dafa-Alla

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A2 BEG US TED arabic language specific mother tongue menu

【TED】Suzanne Talhouk: Don't kill your language (Suzanne Talhouk: Don't kill your language)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/02/28
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