qatarperegrine: (arabic)
When we first moved to Doha, Justin and I drove around taking pictures of company logos in Arabic, in order to put together an identify-the-brand quiz. We never got around to actually making the quiz, though.

Happily, someone else has! Can you name the Companies From the Arabic Version of Their Logo?

We got 100%. :-)

Also, let this serve as a general plug for sporcle.com, one of our chief forms of evening entertainment.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
The other day I started playing with translationparty.com, which a friend posted about here recently. Translation Party translates things back and forth from English into Japanese until they reach steady state. For example, "All for one and one for all." gets translated into "One is an all in all," then "One is all," then "All is one." At that point, successive translations won't change it, so "All is one" is the equilibrium.

Here are some first lines of famous poems, run through Translation Party. Can you guess the original? (Answers in the comments section.)

  1. I'll admit the failure of the marriage of true minds.
  2. White Chicken REDDOHOIRUBARO are dependent on rain water beside the glass
  3. Thursday, 1 yellow, this branch, the console
  4. Mr. Mori has been I think I know. His house in the village;
  5. Me and my past and I have a night out of curiosity, he had struggled to forget the weakness of the fraction of shares of the traditional fatigue.
    Or, the easier and more enjoyable intermediary stage:
    Midnight, I was bored and tired, traditional, quirky, and I had forgotten in the throes of a fractional share price weakness in the past.
  6. MANDOREKURUTO, kids, all the legs of the devil, I catch groove shooting stars for several years
  7. This is a very peaceful, fun time, it is necessary to recognize the end of old age
    Note: this one completely reversed the meaning, so it's fun to trace.
  8. I have to die to stop the stage, he is me, I could not stop the universal

That last one -- Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death he kindly stopped for me; the carriage held but just ourselves and Immortality." -- has particularly wonderful intermediary steps. When I ran it last week, many layers of angst emerged:

  • I could not stop for death, he is like me, and I think the only reason is to stop the universal carriage.
  • I have stopped my car and only the universal, he is dead I think why could not stop it.
    (Does that not sound like a line from The Sound and the Fury?)
  • I'm in my own car, I stop myself, I generally have to die or be unable to stop him?

Today the suggestions are different; Google Translate seems to adapt all the time. Now we have:

  • I was dead, he is like me, the only reason I could not stop a stagecoach stop is Universal
  • I could not stop me because the only stagecoach stop is dead, he is like I'm universal
  • I only have to die to stop the stage, he could not stop me as I am a universal

That's deep, man.

Feel free to post other fun poem translations in the comments for others (read: me!) to guess!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I recently used Google translate to help me correspond with a Japanese company, and everything seemed to work out well... but now I'm worried that my emails read like this Read Me.

Excerpts:

"Many to be enjoyed by everyone it is matter of course, design professionals who are willing to give such a high-quality fonts will endeavor to create a vegetarian."

I'm not sure I want design professionals to endeavor to create a vegetarian, but I guess it'll be a very pretty vegetarian if they do!

"If you do not know of any problems or questions, mail a question that you, Question either please comment."

If you do not know of any questions, mail a question. That's so Zen.

"The font data to your hard drive to install about the trouble relating to the copyright holder will be responsible for any Hideki Katayama. And they also can not of any help.

But I don't want my font data to be responsible for even ONE Hideki Katayama, let alone ANY Hideki Katayama!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I wanted to send a coworker a link to my calendar, but first wanted to check that it would only tell her when I'm busy/free, not show her my appointment schedule. So I just opened a browser I don't often use, to make sure I wasn't logged in, and then accessed my calendar. It looked like this:



Google defaults to Arabic here in Qatar, but I didn't realize that means my calendar would be in Arabic. Instead of "Busy," my entries all say "مشغول". I also didn't expect that Arabic Google calendars would go right to left: if you look at the dates at the top it goes the 10th, the 9th, the 8th, the 7th, etc., and my appointments are all written like 10:30-9:30!
qatarperegrine: (Default)
A student pointed me towards Save the Words, where you can do your part for the English language by adopting a rare or obsolete word that's in danger of falling out of dictionaries.

My word is adimpleate, which means "fill up," so if you hear me asking people to adimpleate my teacup in the near future, you'll know why.

The student also pointed out that I could now shout at the tutors to adimpleate their session forms (my constant refrain), which I thought was doubly nice since it reflects the subcontinental use of the phrase "fill up" in contexts where Americans would use "fill out."

Some of the adoptable words are quite lovely: my colleague got boscaresque, meaning "scenically wooded." Perhaps I'll adopt a new word every few days and try to work it into blog entries.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
CNN's front page currently has a sentence that makes me cry inside:

"Though previously Democratic, McCain's supporters see Pennsylvania as a potential swing state with just six days to go."

McCain's supporters are previously Democratic???

And, Pennsylvania is a state with just six days to go? What will it be after then??

I am secretly posting this, not because I think you're interested, but so I have access to this sentence next time I try to convince a student that misplaced modifiers are a bad idea.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
An Italian woman, decrying the assimilation of English words into Italian, in today's BBC News:

"People think it's chic to use English words, but I don't like it at all. It's important to keep language clean."

Yes, it's not... "chic"... to use words borrowed from other languages.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I noticed while traveling through Eastern Europe that, despite the fact that Eastern European languages come from vastly different language families, they all call oranges something like "portokal." Then I moved to Arabic and learned that the word for orange is برتقال, "burtuqal."

Today I learned where all these words come from: Portugal!

The earlier word for orange is from the Sanskrit nāraṅgaḥ, which is where Persian gets nārang, Spanish gets naranja, Japanese gets orenji and we get orange. But these all referred to the bitter Indian orange. It was Portuguese traders who started bringing the sweet orange, Citrus sinensis, back from China. And thus all along their trading route -- Uzbekistan, Georgia, Persia, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy -- the new orange got named for the Portuguese who brought it.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
I found myself staring at the bookshelf in a hospital waiting room this morning, while waiting for a routine appointment. The bookshelf said something along the lines of:
Missionary Materials
Missionary and Guidance Department
For Reading Only

After I finished congratulating myself on reading the Arabic, I started wondering more about the books on that shelf. It held one copy of the Qur'an and a handful of pamphlets and booklets on the amazingness of Islam -- I recognized them, because I have the English versions. But the ones in the state hospital here are all in Arabic.

This leaves, as I see it, two options:

  1. In a stunning market research blunder, the Missionary and Guidance Department failed to notice that the Qataris are already Muslim, OR

  2. All these missionary materials exist for the sole benefit of Doha's Lebanese Christian population, at a rate of approximately one missionary book per Lebanese Christian.
I daresay they need to rethink their target audience a little. Perhaps they could learn from the Al Qaeda missionaries....
qatarperegrine: (arabic)
Last week someone feeling rather despondent wrote "أين تذهب حياتي؟؟" on my whiteboard at work: "Where is my life going?"

Yesterday, a colleague's eyebrows shot up when he saw my whiteboard. "حياتي؟" he asked, dubiously. I looked at the sentence again and realized that, since "my life" is a common Arabic term of endearment, and the ت prefix can denote the second person masculine as well as the third person feminine, the sentence could also be translated "Where are you going, my love?" Oh, the scandal.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
"English please so we all could join the convo!" That was just posted to a Facebook group, after a Chilean girl commented in Spanish. Posted by an ugly American, or a neocolonialist Brit? No, by a Bengali.

I've notice lately that, while I almost never hear native English speakers criticizing others for not knowing English, I hear non-native speakers doing this all the time. The friend lamenting Japan's lack of English signage, the person I heard dissing a guest speaker for his poor English -- neither of these, nor the issuer of the Facebook reprimand, speaks English as a native language. All three live in Qatar. Yet all three expect English to be used as the default language, and become irritated when it is not.

I often don't know how to feel about English as a lingua franca. It's awesome to see people from all over the planet being able to communicate through a shared medium. Without a shared language, Education City couldn't happen. Without a shared language, low-skilled laborers couldn't tell me about the human rights problems they face. Without a shared language, my dinner party on Saturday would have been pretty awkward, as the eight of us would have been speaking in five different languages!

On the other hand, the more English fluency becomes a sine qua non of participation in the global community, the more non-English-speakers are pushed to the margins. The laborers who don't speak English or Arabic can't talk to me about human rights abuses; more importantly, they can't file an official complaint. They simply can't participate in full society like those who speak one of the "important" languages.

Not only that, but as other languages are lost or demoted, the world loses some of its richness. What does it mean for Arabic that Qatari schools are shifting to English as the medium of instruction? Our students are confident Arabic will never be lost, because it is so tied to religion. (Should I tell them about Avestan or Pali?) The switch to English means that fewer of our students will struggle in their first year because they've never been taught in English before. On the other hand, it also means that future Qataris will only be able to talk about math and science in a language that is foreign to them. Surely that has its own costs.

In a strange way, I think it's also unfortunate for us English speakers that our language has become the default one. Of course, it gives us advantages: how many people can live 8,000 miles from their place of birth and still use their native language almost exclusively, I do? But it also means that English speakers can get by without ever learning a second language, which is by no means good for us. Realizing that your language and culture come with embedded assumptions that aren't shared by other peoples is important, and it's something that most people in the world learn early on. It's a shame more of us don't have the opportunity to do the same.
qatarperegrine: (qatar)
A coworker just shared with me the Facebook group WTF Only in Doha, where people post pictures of things that, well, you'd only see in Doha. If you have lived in Qatar, or are a connoisseur of bad Engrish, you WILL find them hilarious.

Yasmien Mills snagged a picture of my favorite menu in Doha, at the Opera at Landmark:And this, from a Mustafa Omar, must be the world's best "under construction" sign:
qatarperegrine: (arabic)
One of the history classes is reading letters written by a 19th century Englishwoman about her voyages in Egypt. They were thrown off by the following statement:
"I am to be mistress of a captain, a steersman, eight men, and a cabin-boy, for £25 a month."

It didn't help that the following phrase appears three sentences later:
"I shall lick the fellows."

I'm afraid they got rather the wrong impression of the lady, until we discussed alternate meanings of the words "mistress" and "lick." Or perhaps I'm the one with the wrong impression; who knows.
qatarperegrine: (arabic)
One fun thing about life in Qatar is that I get to learn things not just about Qatari culture and language, but about the cultures and languages of the many different nationalities represented here.

Today, for example, a student saw a picture of me hugging a redwood and told me I looked like a chipko woman. In the 1970s, chipko women resisted logging in northern India by hugging trees. Did this influence Earth First!, or is this parallel evolution?

Then last week, a Filipina friend asked another Filipina to pass her a book, in what I assumed was Tagalog. The second woman was taken aback, and turning to me said, "She just asked me in Gay!"

"In... Gay?" I said.

"You know. Gay people's language."

I was confused. "Gay people in your country have their own language?"

"Well, yeah," she said. "Don't they in yours?"

Apparently it's called swardspeak. (Additional explanation here.)

When it was time for me to go, my friends said goodbye to me "in Gay." I wasn't sure how to respond, so I said "Ciao."
qatarperegrine: (books)
As I was trying to come up with a name for the photo group, [livejournal.com profile] foobart suggested just using my favorite word as the community name.

"My favorite word is 'stochastic,'" I said.

"OK, your second-favorite word then."

So I've been thinking about other favorite words. Quotidian. Postprandial. Adamantine. Incarnadine.

Hmm, apparently I like Latinate adjectives, although I prefer incarnadine as a verb, as when Macbeth says
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

A 2004 Merriam Webster poll tells us that these are America's favorite words:
  1. defenestration
  2. serendipity
  3. onomatopoeia
  4. discombobulate
  5. plethora
  6. callipygian (I didn't know this one. It means "having shapely buttocks.")
  7. juxtapose
  8. persnickety
  9. kerfuffle
  10. flibbertigibbet

but this list here has an even cooler selection, such as "aegrotat" (a sick note), "famulus" (an assistant to a magician or scholar -- should have asked for that as my new job title), "haecceity" (the now-ness of reality), "quincunx" (five things arranged in a square with one in the center, like the 5 on a die), and ultracrepidate (to criticize beyond your field of expertise).

What's your favorite word?
qatarperegrine: (travel)
This morning found me driving over to the airport immigration office to renew my tourist visa.

Yep, tourist visa. When I came here three years ago my work visa was mistakenly issued in my maiden name, and thus all my official paperwork in Qatar, from my residency permit to my liquor license, is in my maiden name. Last year I got a new passport, and Qatar refused to transfer my old visa over, because (surprise!) the names don't match.

Since then I've been traveling with my old passport and residency permit stapled to my new one, but when I returned from Gabon a month ago, airport immigration not only refused to accept it but also cancelled it on the spot. I entered the country on a one-month tourist visa, and since my new work visa isn't ready yet, I had to renew it today.

I was dreading my trip to immigration this morning, but it was not the madhouse I expected. There were signs all over the building making it clear exactly where you needed to go for various visa procedures, and the employees were quick and efficient. As you can see from the picture, people even stood in lines! (Cynical comment from an anonymous cynical friend: "Well, the clients aren't locals....") I expected a huge headache, but it was not an unpleasant experience at all.

Next up: medical and X-ray! Again!
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
A political science professor from the UAE made some scathing comments about the Arab world at a conference on democracy and development held here yesterday. "We have a surplus of violence," he said, citing the (somewhat perplexing) statistic that Arab world contains 4% of the world's population but 36% of its violence.

He also said, in the words of the newspaper, that "the region is full of tyrants and notorious for large-scale violation of human rights" and likened the Arab world to "a big prison." Meanwhile, a former Bahraini minister said that "We have corrupt political and financial systems and weak and backward societies."

Gosh.

Coincidentally, we're learning about the Arab world in Arabic class this week, too. On Sunday we learned that the Arab world has tharawaat kathira wa quwwa kabira, much wealth and great strength. The next lesson explains that the Arab civilization is responsible for the spread of science and literature, and that its libraries 'aghnat al'alam kullah, enriched the whole world.

Somehow, these things are all true.
qatarperegrine: (arabic)
My coworker Mohamed told me a story yesterday that I think illustrates the regional dialects of Arabic quite well.

In classical Arabic, the word khiashim (خياشيم) means "gills." In Sudan, where Mohamed is from, the derived word khashm (خشم) is used to mean "mouth." So, Mohamed said, a Sudanese dentist who had recently moved to the Gulf region told his first patient "Iftah khashmka" -- "Open your mouth." The patient got agitated and said, "What do you mean? How am I supposed to do that?" Here in the Gulf, it turns out, khashm means not "mouth" but "nose."

So, there you go: regional dialects of Arabic in a nutshell. Arabic is diglossic, which means that the formal (usu. written) and colloquial (usu. spoken) forms are only tangentially related. There is, for example, a formal Arabic word for mouth, but people would never actually use it in conversation. The word they'd actually use differs from region to region, and although one can often see how those vernacular words are derived from classical forms (as with khashm and khiashim), that's not enough to make the various dialects of Arabic mutually intelligible.

In other Arabic news, today in class I stupidly mistook a ن for a ب and said that the main character in our story urinated (تباول) before bed instead of that he took (تناول) his medicine. Oops. One of my classmates helpfully said, "Well, he probably did that, too."
qatarperegrine: (arabic)

ثمّ يأتي الشّتاء، وتسقط الثّلوج فتابس الأرض حلّة بيضاء

This is not the most useful sentence we have learned in Arabic class.

It means something like, "Then comes winter, and snow falls, blanketing the earth in a white garment."* This is not something I have the opportunity to say very often, living in Qatar. (For the record, it's 73 degrees right now.)

* If you can translate it better, please do. The instructor was a little vague.
qatarperegrine: (qatar)
Today marks the beginning of the Asian Games, for which Doha has been gearing up for literally years. Right now we're watching the opening ceremonies on TV, since we were too cheap to get tickets. The commentator just said "Indonesia is the largest Islamic state" in Arabic, and I understood her. w00t! I understood an entire sentence!!!

In other news, I'm flying out to Pittsburgh tonight. I'll be there for the next three weeks, and then in Eureka. I'll be getting a U.S. cell phone number for the duration, so if you want to see or otherwise contact me while I'm in the States, e-mail me and I'll send you my number.

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