RD_03-Learning Arabic from Egypt\u2019s Revolution _ The New Yorker (1).pdf - Learning Arabic from Egypt\u2019s Revolution | The New Yorker Letter from Cairo

RD_03-Learning Arabic from Egypt’s Revolution _ The New Yorker (1).pdf

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10/24/2017Learning Arabic from Egypt’s Revolution | The New Yorker1/22When you move to another country as an adult, the language flows around you like ariver. Perhaps a child can immediately abandon himself to the current, but most olderpeople will begin by picking out the words and phrases that seem to matter most,which is what I did after my family moved to Cairo, in October of 2011. It was the firstfall after the Arab Spring; Hosni Mubarak, the former President, had been forced toresign the previous February. Every weekday, my wife, Leslie, and I met with a tutor fortwo hours at a language school called Kalimat, where we studied Egyptian Arabic. Atthe end of each session, we made a vocabulary list. In early December, following thefirst round of the nations parliamentary elections, which had been dominated by theMuslim Brotherhood, my language notebook read:mosqueto prostrate oneselfsalah (prayer)imamsheikhbeardcarpetforbiddenOn many days, I went toTahrir Square, to report on theLetter from CairoApril 17, 2017 IssueLearning Arabic from Egypt’sRevolutionAfter the Arab Spring, lessons were a way to absorb language, culture, and politics.By Peter Hessler
10/24/2017Learning Arabic from Egypt’s Revolution | The New Yorker2/22ongoing revolution. If I heardunfamiliar words or phrases, Ibrought them back to class. InJanuary, after some protesters hadbecome suspicious of myintentions as a journalist, thenotebook had a new string ofwords: agentembassyspyIsraelIsraeliJewThe following month, I learnedtear gas,slaughter,and Canyou speak more slowly?Conspiracy theoryappeared inmy notebook on the same day asfried potatoes.Sometimes Iwondered about the strangeness ofTahrir-speak, and what my Arabicwould have been like if I hadarrived ten years earlier. But itwould have been different at anytime, in any place: you can neverstep into the same language twice.Even eternal phrases took on anew texture in the light of therevolution. After I couldunderstand some of the radio talkshows that cabbies played, Irealized that callers and hostsexchanged Islamic greetings for afull half minute before settling
10/24/2017Learning Arabic from Egypt’s Revolution | The New Yorker3/22Odown to heated arguments aboutthe new regime. Our textbook wasentitled Dardasha”—“Chatter”—and it outlined set conversationsthat I soon carried out withneighbors, using phrases thatwould never be touched by Tahrir: Peace be upon you.May peace, mercy, and theblessings of God be upon you.How are you?May God grant you peace! Areyou well?Praise be to God.Go with peace.Go with peace.ne of our teachers, Rifaat Amin, prepared a five-page handout entitled

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