Chapter 7: English and the global perspective
Have you ever thought about how a small journey to a different country could change your life forever? It all started when my Syrian family immigrated to the US when I was 23 years old, due to our financial status and the difficulties of the lifestyle in Syria while the war was happening there. Getting exposed to a new culture with a new language was one of the most terrifying, yet exciting, experiences in my life, made all the more difficult due to the differences between Arabic and English, the culture, the lifestyle and the education system.
No matter what country we live in, we have to learn its language in order to understand and interact with others. The language that people speak in Syria is widely different from the American language. The Arabic language difficulty itself is by learning it.For example, letters are very different from English ones, because the alphabet contains 28 letters instead of 26. The figure below illustrates the differences between the alphabets. Each letter in the Arabic language has multiple forms; unlike in English, you can notice how the shape of the letters are different and each letter in Arabic language have its own direction, Arabic letters change shape depending on if they are located in the beginning, middle, or end of a word. Also, Arabic letters are often very similar; some letters are almost identical, and their only differences are an extra dot or two. For example, in the “G” in the figure below, two Arabic letters can be seen, with only a dot in the middle differentiating them. In addition to, if you look to the letter E in this figure you can see the same letter in Arabic language inside it on the right side, Lastly, Arabic is written right-to-left, while English is written left-to-right.
In general, dual-language speakers and learners as (Arabic-English) find the Arabic language much harder than the English language. Furthermore, Arabic language contains very difficult grammar; for example, Arabic nouns are gendered, and the adjectives describing them must agree with their gender. Also, each word has accents to help identify the tense and whether the word is a noun or a verb. In addition, if you want to form any sentence in Arabic you should know that the adjectives come after nouns in Arabic; for example, if you want to describe a beautiful house in the Arabic language, you would say “house beautiful” not “beautiful house.” Moreover, the English word for “you” has no gender, but in Arabic, there are multiple words for “you” that vary depending on the number and gender of people it’s directed towards. Syrian schools are obligated to teach grammar every semester, giving ten semesters of grammar by the end of high school.
Furthermore, the Arabic formal language, which is used for reading and writing, has its own grammar, spelling, and punctuation, that often differs from the more casual spoken language so it depends on the reader himself ( whether it’s a novel, a poem or a story). The dialects of Arabic differ greatly depending on their location in the Middle East and North Africa; for example, a someone who speaks the Morroccan dialect of Arabic would have trouble understanding someone from Syria or Lebanon. In academic settings, the formal dialect is used; this formal dialect acts as common ground for people who speak different dialects of Arabic. Furthermore, in Arabic when you want to read any poem you must be careful of the punctuation and the accents on each word because many words exist that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently based on their accents. Also, in Arabic language there is no ( P ) sound so there is no differences in sound between “Black” and “Pen “and it have one letter written the same.
When I moved to the US as a transfer student and started to learn English, I noticed how far it is from the Arabic language, from letters, to grammar, to pronunciation, and writing.However, both English and Arabic languages have what is called “slang words”, that is way different from the formal written language that is used professionally.
Throughout the history, we can see how each country has its own culture and own lifestyle. In Syria (a third world country), the lifestyle is very simple compared to the lifestyle in America, due to the technological improvements and developments in the US (a first world country). The U.S has a very strong and maintained internet network that allows many people to contact each other easily and quickly. For instance, we can order food online, pay our bills from our home, and communicate with each other via zoom or video calls. However, this improvement may prevent people from communicating with each other personally.
Syria as a country doesn’t have all these advanced services that the American people have, although it has an advantage of all hardworking and well-educated people. Also, since English is my second language, trying to engage with others and make new friends was so difficult at first, but I watched movies to strengthen my conversation, worked in different jobs, and tried to speak even when I was confused in order to straighten and improve my English.
Furthermore, Both Syrians and Americans value education and view it as an important and a necessity part of life. However, the education system between them differs in many ways. In Syria, they only use the traditional way of learning, so all teaching is in the form of lectures. College students don’t have to write essays on topics outside their majors, and research is only held in class and from existing books from the school library. For me, being an international student working and studying online is much harder than in-person learning; while I don’t have the openness to new technologies and online networks like the Americans do, because technology is hardly used during school in Syria, I am learning how to deal with all the programs that we need to submit our works at the same time that I learn new content and that is really hard when we have to learn many different things together. Also, face to face classes give me the opportunity to complete experiments with peers and allow me to explain all my ideas to my teachers in a more effective way. For me, it is hard to learn the American style of education and the content of my classes at the same time. For example, in my country, I never wrote essays in college, communicated through, completed virtual activities, or participated in an online class. Despite these difficulties, I am trying to do as much as I can to study effectively and be successful in the future. In the end, many differences can be observed between the two counties; however, that’s what makes it exciting, and makes me want to travel the world to experience many different cultures and learning materials in many new languages. We are created equally, but our history, geographical locations, and many more differences between different countries lead to different cultures and traditions in each section of our world.