Obies Using Languages: Mariam Osama Saied ‘20

Mariam Saied is a prospective Biology major and MENA minor.  


What other languages do you know and how did you learn each of them?

I speak Arabic at home and I learned some French at school although I’m bad at speaking it. I’m also Coptic which is a minority religion in Egypt. In our masses, we speak Coptic which is a mixture of Greek, Latin, and the old version of Arabic which is connected to the language that ancient Egyptians used. I can sing songs in Coptic but don’t speak it conversationally.


Which language do you feel like you can communicate best in or are more yourself? Definitely English–and that’s one of those sad things because Arabic is my first language which we speak at home. But when I went to school and began learning English, my mom tried to keep me on this path so I wouldn’t have an accent and I would become more American. Even though I’m completely Egyptian and am proud of my heritage, I feel separate from Egyptian culture. We think in language and I think in English, so that separates me from the rest of my country.


What language feels most like home?

Arabic because I grew up in an Arabic community. You always knew someone was close to you because they spoke in their native tongue–Arabic.


What is your favorite word or phrase in another language besides English that is untranslatable to English? What does it mean?

There is one phrase that we say a lot in the Coptic religion called kryielason. It is a hymn that we sing especially during Easter where for each of your knuckles, you sing it three times. This phrase literally means Lord have mercy, but culturally it has a different connotation.


When you speak in other languages, do you think in the language you’re speaking or translate the words from another language in your head before speaking?

When I’m speaking Arabic it just comes naturally to me, but when someone else is speaking to me in Arabic I translate it automatically to English–in other words I understand everything but i’m comprehending everything first in English.


What is your favorite food tied to the language you know?

Molokhia is my favorite food–they are leaves that you have to lay out in the sun for a long time to get the moisture out. Then you chop them up and cool them in water with spices and its amazing–it’s both sweet and savory at the same time.


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