The Arabic screenplay

The more I study Arabic, the more I feel like the language is a screenplay and I am simply an actress who doesn’t know my lines. When tossed onto the stage of real life, I am lost, babbling my way through awkward situations.

“In the name of God, start eating.”

“Your greeting is welcome!” Oops. Or worse: “Goodbye!”

“Thank you” in response to polite comments is effective in both English and Spanish, and I don’t see why Arabic should be any exception.

“Send greetings to your family!” “Thank you!” (But not in Arabic.)

“Here. Wash your hands.” “Thank you!” (But not in Arabic.)

Somehow, one must learn and say beautifully trite phrases after anything. The problem for language learners is which phrases to say when. Saying “Praise God!” after someone sneezes is not acceptable.

Often when comments are made, I don’t even open my mouth, harnessed by the fear of reciting the wrong line.

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