Obies Using Languages: Jad Salem ’17

Jad Salem is a third year majoring in Mathematics at Oberlin College.

How does knowing three languages influence the way you think?

Knowing sayings/adages from different languages definitely changes the way I think. I feel like sayings differ depending on where they come from, so it’s like having 3 perspectives sometimes.

How has language in your home influenced the way your friends interacted with you in middle and high school?

In my home, we spoke a mixture of English and Arabic. In my school, I definitely bonded with other people who spoke Arabic, but I’m not sure if it was a language thing or a culture thing…(well I guess language is a culture thing?) Some of my friends at school took Arabic classes with me on Sundays, so that gave us a lot to talk about! Other than that, as far as I know, language in my home didn’t really affect how people interacted with me.

What are your hopes & dreams about learning languages in your future? Are you studying abroad?

I mostly want to focus on maintaining/improving my French and Arabic! I think they’re both beautiful languages, and I definitely gain a lot from having experience with both of them. My Winter Term project this year is learning Magyar (Hungarian), so I hope to get familiar with the basics then!

What aspect of teaching others how to speak and write in Arabic is most exciting to you?

What excites me most about teaching Arabic is interacting with other people who are interested in Arabic (or languages in general.) Teaching also allows/forces me to compare the structure of Arabic with the structure of English, which is always interesting. I often don’t think about Arabic in terms of English, so making these connections can be illuminating.

What concepts or idiomatic expressions are there in Arabic that do not exist in English or French?

So many! There are lots of little things you say in Arabic that you don’t in English. For example, when someone is eating, you tell them “sahtain,” which literally means “two healths.” The idea is you’re wishing them good health. Another is “ala rossi/ala ayni”, which means “on my head/on my eye.” You use this phrase to describe a task that you are happy to do for someone because you care about them (e.g., “can you give me a ride to school?” “ala rossi.”) Also I’m not 100% sure what an idiom is, but I think those count maybe? Anyway, the list goes on…

Can you teach me Arabic? Please?



Image Courtesy of Claire Appelmans


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