‘A morning (full) of jasmine’

(In this new post, team member Grazia reflects on the perfume of languages…)

Can you associate your native tongue with a smell? With a taste? With a particular word?  

Well, this could be an interesting experiment to do! What does your language smell like? What does it taste like? You may find those questions a bit extravagant but give it a try! You will be surprised to find yourself thinking of particular places, meaningful memories, and dearest people… And – to your surprise – you will discover that probably you can associate a smell and a taste to your native tongue! 

So, in my personal experience, Arabic has the perfume of jasmine and it tastes of Arabic coffee! I will tell you about the coffee another time, but why jasmine?  

In Arabic there are many ways to say ‘good morning’. Many of you will probably have heard the greeting par excellence ‘As-salam ‘alaykum’, literally ‘Peace be upon you’, to which you reply ‘Wa ‘alaykum assalam’. Also you may know ‘Sabbah al-khayr’, literally ‘Good morning’, and its reply, ‘Sabbah an-nur’, literally, ‘A morning of light’. These, in addition to the more generic ‘Marhaban’ and ‘Ahlan’, are the greetings that you will first learn in any Arabic language course.

However,  in colloquial Arabic there are many other ways to greet someone in the morning, for which it is difficult to find an equivalent in other languages… and here it gets really interesting! For example, you may hear people saying to each other ‘Sabbah al-ward‘, ‘Sabbah al-fool‘, ‘Sabbah al-’ishta’! These greetings – which literally mean: ‘morning of flower’, ‘morning of jasmine’, ‘morning of cream’ – may be translated with ‘I wish you a morning full of flowers, a morning full of jasmine, a morning full of cream’… Isn’t this poetry?  

(…now can you guess how to say ‘morning’ in Arabic?)

What we are doing these days in our offices in Gaza and Glasgow, in addition to the preparation of a teacher training course, the revamping of the Arabic course’s website, and the promotion of the Online Arabic from Palestine course, is to integrate our language course with linguistic and cultural information to enrich it even more! We hope to provide learners with useful cultural information, but also with some beautifully colourful notes, which may not be indispensable for a beginner learner, but which can enrich the course with a new flavour… or a new smell.  

Such small words, phrases, gestures, cultural notes may bring you closer to the Arabic language and its cultures!