I just think that maybe I will go my whole life not speaking the traditional arabic language. Sometimes my mom tries to help me learn but I can’t put my whole life on hold. I have school, I come home from school, I have homework, and by the time I’m done I will be tired and go to sleep.
Another question I ask myself is if I try to learn Arabic, when will my parents and I ever have the time? Some weekends yeah, but it’s not guaranteed that I will try. The older I get, the harder it is for me to learn. Usually when there are fluent speaking Arabs around me, it feels as though I don’t fit in with them. I can’t interact with them and the only word that can come out of my mouth is the word “Hi”, but in Arabic. It feels as though if I spoke my language fluently, it would make me feel better about myself. My cousins and family/ relatives who would be in a shock if I could finally speak Arabic around them. Since I was born here, they think I have become too American for them. They learned their language in their country, Palestine and I’ve never been to their. I’ll never be able to speak Arabic fluently until I do. It’s a reoccurrence everyday when I beg my parents to let me fly there and stay until I become fluent in Arabic
The only time I really feel frightened from my own language is when my parents decide to invite people over. My parents never invited these people before. It’s a tradition when once they are invited to your house we welcome them into our home by greeting them. Usually, once we are done greeting them, the children go into our room to play so the adults can talk. I thought to myself and decided to just sit here with the adults in my family. I’d also imagine that I’m an adult sitting with the rest of the adults in the room. It felt pretty cool. About 5 minutes later, everyone is getting comfortable, my mother, father and guests are having, well I should say, a good conversation going. My mom gets off the couch, goes to the kitchen and brings back tea for the guests. Once my mother sits down that’s when our guests begin to ask me questions in Arabic. That’s when I started to panic about the decision of staying with the adults. I begin to think, “Please don’t ask any questions, PLEASE!” They continue to ask questions in Arabic as I sit there with nothing to say. I understand what they are saying in Arabic, but I never know how to respond. So instead I respond in English and all I can say is thank goodness they could understand and speak English too. The next thing they asked me was if I was born in my country and I would respond, “No” because I was born here in the U.S and I would ask “Why?” and they simply said, “Oh because you don’t sound like it, you have an accent”.
Now not only do I not know how to speak my own language, it’s the fact that I have an accent as well which also makes people think I know how to speak my own language.
I always think that being born here in the U.S was a mistake for me. Mostly because if I was born in my country or even went to my country like my older sisters did maybe I would have already spoken fluent Arabic like my 5 year old cousins.
On most days when my father is home, I like to speak Arabic with him for a while just so that I can teach myself. Usually when I talk to people and they come across the question, “ Do you speak Arabic?”, and I would be like, “No. I don’t speak Arabic at all.” Their reactions sometime seem to be quite a shock in which they say, “How come you don’t speak Arabic? How do you call yourself a Muslim if you don’t speak your own language?”, and sometimes I do get offended by what they say since it gets easily wrapped around my head and I think that it’s true and their right. I never even tell my parents that people say this kind of stuff to me because they’ll go with the 1,000 reasons on why I am a Muslim without the reason that I don’t speak Arabic.
In the short story, “If Black English Isn’t A Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin, he says “It goes without saying, then, that language is also a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identify: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces on from, the larger, public, or communal identity.” This means for me that not only do I not know my language, but if I did It will show who I truly am and what I stand for. It’s like saying, what’s a muslim, if she doesn’t even know her language.
All I know that is one day I will speak fluent Arabic. There won’t be a day when I will quit because I won’t give up trying to speak my own language. If it means wasting every day of my life for trying to speak Arabic then I will. If it takes a day of me being with friends then at this point forget my friends, speaking my own language is way better. However, if I master my own language and I’m able to speak my language fluently, I’ll make sure that my parents won’t ever hear me speak english to them ever again.