Halleluja, praise whoever needs to be praised for this one! All the money we have spent on Arabic tutors for my son is finally paying off. His sister came home today with her very first Arabic homework ever. And he is helping her! There is hope.It is cute to see a 15 year old man-child helping a struggling first grader so seriously. He displays more patience than I do.
Which brings me to the matter of tri-lingualism. The Dutch often pride themselves for speaking so many foreign languages. Besides Dutch of course. I wonder where we got that reputation, because if you see Lebanese children in action, they’re about seven notches above the Dutch.
It is incredible to see how easily these youngsters flip between Arabic, English. Or Arabic and French. Or all three of them. Some of them may even speak Armenian on the side. And sometimes all at the same time.
We call that code-switching. In Lebanon we don’t just use code-switching between sentences, we even do it in single sentences (Intra-sentential switching.) “Kifak, ca va? Did you go to the piscine mbere7?” is a well known example.
My son had to write mbrere7 for me. Sound like ‘muberegh’ in Dutch. It seems that the ‘h’ becomes a 7 when you translate from street Arabic to English phonics.
Code-switching is currently keeping sociolinguists, psycholinguists and general linguists quite busy. How in depth these tri-linguists can communicate varies, but then again we also use a fourth language over here, our hands, which will straighten out any misconceptions that may rise during a conversation.
Right now I’m just happy I’ve got someone who can help my daughter with her Arabic homework.