One of the many challenging elements of learning a language is learning of the unique expressions within that language and culture. Our vocabulary today reminded me of this again. I’m not sure if it is the same way in other Arabic speaking cultures, but here in Beirut, there are a host of sayings, with varying degrees of formality, and with accompanying responses, that one can say to show politeness.
An example of this is that when you offer someone something to eat, or are sharing a meal with someone, one might say something along the lines of “saHtein”, meaning “double helping of health”. And if you really want to give a high class response to this well wish, one is supposed to say in response, “a’albak” [or “a’albik” if your speaking to a girl], which means roughly, “to your heart!” In greetings or salutations, these well wishes can potentially go back and forth for quite a while, all in very beautiful words… “I wish you the very best,” “With you my peace,” “May God give you peace,” “May God give good things to you”…and so forth. I have a couple pages in my Arabic notebook where I collect these phrases. Once a week or so, I try to go through them and practice what I’m supposed to say in response to this one or that one…it’s sort of a game that I’m continually practicing for.
Today, in our new vocabulary list, I came across a new one that I hadn’t heard before…” ‘alf saHtein,” the meaning of which is the title of this post. Now that is one serious well wish!!
posted by: caleb