Daily Archives: September 12, 2009

Buying Beebsee & Kookaa Koolaa at the Soober Maarkeet

One thing that is a constant source of amusement for me is the Arabization of English words (using the Arabic script and sounds to write an English word). You see it everywhere – on signs, products, business names, tattoos etc. Just like sometimes trying to write words in English from other languages proves difficult, it’s certainly difficult to render the English language in Arabic too. For example, unless you are writing a formal text, you do not write any of the short vowels in Arabic, just the three long ones (long A, long O, long E). This is because when you are familiar with Arabic, you can still read something without any difficulty and predict very accurately which short vowels go where. Unfortunately, the same familiarity can’t be said for Arabized English words, so all short vowels are made into long vowels so that people can actually read what is written. My name is written Boooooo-maaaaaan بومان .

There are other funny changes too, because Arabic doesn’t have a “p” sound or a hard “g” sound, or a “ch” or a couple of other pretty crucial sounds in English (“v”, “ng”) . Here are some examples (there are much funnier ones… I don’t know why I can’t think of them right now).

  • Pepsi – Beebsee بيبسي
  • Coca Cola – Kookaa Koolaa كوكا كولا
  • Super Market – Soober Maarkeet سوبر ماركيت (It actually says this at Supermarkets instead of the Arabic word for Supermarket… why? I have no clue)
  • Head and Shoulders – Heed Aand Shooladarz هيد آند شولدرز
  • King’s Academy – Keenghz Acaadeemee كينغز اكاديمي (Again, the school really has no Arabic name, just uses their Arabized English name for everything… so strange)
  • Computer – Combyoooter كمبيوتر

II’ve beeen theenkeeng thaaat I miiiight staaaaart speeeeaaakeeng Eeengleesh weeth oonlee loong vooweeels, but it’s kind of tiring. Also, feel free to call me Boooo-maaaan because I will certainly answer to that (Conor Grady has been doing this for about two years now). I’m also happy to write your name in Arabic and figure out what your super cool long vowel Arabic name would be.

This should just illustrate why Jordan’s actually a terrible place to learn Arabic. A huge percentage of the population speaks English very well, and English has even creeped into everyday Arabic – I’m rarely forced to try out my skeeellz and people just answer back in English when I do. I hope I can still leave here with some level of fluency in Arabic though, maaaaybeeeee sooooome daaaaaay.