Yesterday, I found myself sharing dinner with an interesting bunch of people.
(Side note: what self-respecting Armenian restaurant runs out of Su-borek before 8 PM?)
Two of my dinner companions hailed from Iran and were here for a visit: one for the first time and the other for the fifth. I was fascinated because I had never met anyone from Iran and was eager to learn more about them and their country.
Of course, one of the very first questions we asked them was “what are you doing here?” It’s sad that we have to ask people the reasons behind their visit, as though Lebanon doesn’t deserve tourism?
It was quite an interesting discussion and one of the very first topics raised was media perceptions of places and people. I couldn’t agree more to how this hinders getting to know the world around you.
And I think we’ve become so caught up in our old ideas that we just don’t make an effort to change them anymore.
As the dinner went on, we talked about a variety of subjects that anyone would, proving that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you believe in to be able to have a nice evening out.
One of my favorite topics raised was about learning languages.
It’s one of the things I wish I could do more of. In addition to being a native Arabic speaker and having near-native fluency in English, I learned French up until my last year of high school.
A few years ago, I discovered Duolingo and became obsessed with learning German and Spanish. Some days I’m more motivated than others to study, but mostly I’m in this rut, I’m too tired.
How many times have we, native Arabic speakers, found ourselves stuck trying to translate things like “na3eeman” to people from other countries? I know it’s happened to me so many times without much success.
Anyway, our Iranian dinner companion was talking about her experience in learning Arabic and the difficulties she’s encountered between the different dialects and what not.
It’s funny that the whole world wants to learn Arabic and understand our culture better while we’re just doing everything we can to avoid using it (I’m guilty of this myself, on multiple occasions).
It’s a true shame that when I was in school, the class we would least pay attention in was Arabic while we sat there without a peep in foreign language classes. I can sense not much has changed.
This all reminded me of a funny incident when I was at Lina’s wedding in Malta. The majority of the music was in Arabic and I was the only one in the group who knew the language. Someone, I can’t remember who, found the song to be interesting and asked me to translate thinking maybe it had some deep meaning behind it.
It was that tannoura song. (Of course who am I to judge, I like reggaetton.)
I think the take-home message from yesterday was “give it a chance” be it a place or a person or even a language- you never know what you might end up learning.
It is a small world after all and we stand to gain so much if we just listened to one another. We’re all sharing stories at the end of the day.
Oh and I’ve got the song stuck in my head now.