Fulfilling My Dream to Learn Arabic — and Using It
Currently living in Cairo, Egypt as a professional horse trainer, I find myself staring at my ticket to Qatar. I shouldn’t be surprised. It is not the first time I’ve been asked to fly on a whim to another country for work. It seems there’s always a competition or riding school to develop or clinics to give.
Needless to say when the opportunity to travel to Doha, Qatar to attend one of the largest show jumping competitions of the year presented itself, I jumped at the chance. With two days notice, I crammed what I could fit inside my small duffel bag and braced myself for the four-day weekend ahead of me.
Something about learning a random language such as Swahili or Arabic or Hindi, had always resonated within me.
Four years ago, I had lived in Egypt for almost a full year and in that time had managed to pick up the language. The Egyptian Arabic was difficult to learn but my passion for the language and determination had me speaking like a true local in no time. To my dismay at the time, a string of new jobs would take me away from my beloved Egypt, and instead I found myself working in India for the next two years, and attempting to test my tongue at Hindi.
Again I found myself raptured by the language and immersed in the culture and customs like a true local.
When I was a teenager in high school, back in California where I grew up, I remember that learning a foreign language had been a graduation requirement. As a teen, I had not been keen on the idea of learning Spanish–the only other spoken language in the States that I could genuinely have benefited from learning. French had also somehow seemed rather dull to me. Learning a foreign language wasn’t good enough. I wanted to learn a new language. Something about learning a random language such as Swahili or Arabic or Hindi, had resonated within me.
- Krystal in Qatar
Fulfilling My Dream to Learn Arabic — and Using It.
I opted for French but never gave up on the idea of learning another more “useful” language by my standards. My other co-workers or friends thought me strange for learning such languages. After all, what possible use could I have for either language once I took yet another job in yet another random country.
My moment of calling came true as I boarded the flight to Doha, a mere three-hour flight. I took my seat in the middle and found myself in between two solo male travelers. To the right was a native Arabic speaker, and to my left was an Indian speaking Hindi.
Imagine the feeling of liberation and power I felt as the two spoke their mother languages on the telephones and with fellow passengers…And. I. Understood. Every. Word. A smile lit up my face as I realized my love for language had led me to this moment. I spent the next three hours chatting away with them in their own languages.
With some shopkeepers I found myself speaking a mix of Hindi, Arabic and English all at the same time–something I could never had predicted.
Luckily for me it wouldn’t end there. As it turns out, Qatar is a country filled with expats. In fact, there are more Indians working and living in Doha than Arabs and my short time in the city shopping and wandering the markets and taking taxis and eating out had me testing my skills in either language. With some shopkeepers I found myself speaking a mix of Hindi, Arabic and English all at the same time–something I could never had predicted. Overall, my trip was an eye-opening experience for me and even though I was a total stranger to the land of Doha, I found myself right at home.
I smiled yet again as I sat in a cafe and watched the people go by. In my head, I felt myself check what had previously been an empty box in my bucket list. Learn a random language and use it. Check.
Time to start learning Swahili.
This post was originally published in December 4, 2014 on Pink Pangea. Top photo credit by Unsplash.