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Lessons from Iraq’s War 2003 - 2011


Despite the fact that there are almost 2000 spoken Arabic dialects in the Arabic speaking countries, according to Professor Juan Cole from the University of Michigan,

the majority of the western world still believes that there is one single Arabic language. Georgetown University in Washington DC practices that inaccurate method by teaching the book al-kitaab, which teaches in part the Egyptian dialect as an example of the standard Arabic.

The next paragraph uses a simple example that may explain to those who think that all the Arabic speakers share one simple and clear Arabic language that this is incorrect. Such an understanding is nothing but a joke similar to the one below (Telian), meant to make our troops aware of the huge differences between the Arabic speakers, as well as give a better understanding to those who intend to hire proper translators and interpreters.

In  Iraqi slang, the word Teli means one small lamb (yeanling), derived from the Chaldean Babylonian word Telia (plural Telian), which means “teenager.” Telian has a completely different meaning in the Egyptian slang, which is “Italians.”

 Lost-in-Translation Joke: TELIAN
A British patrol accompanied with an Egyptian interpreter went to raid a small suburban village between Nasiriyah and Basra in southern Iraq. Basra and Nasiriyah at the time were the main bases for the British-Italian Forces. The patrol stopped in front of a small house made of cement bricks and mud. The officer in charge noticed dry blood covering a big spot of that house's front yard.

The officer: Bloody hell, what on earth is that?

The company (all together): Blood.

The officer: Bloody hell! … Let Mohammed the interpreter question the owner of the house.

Mohammed (In Arabic with an Egyptian dialect): Eeh el-Dam da …(What is all this blood about?).

The Iraqi, southern villager: Shinhee … (What?).

Mohammed (In standard Arabic with an Egyptian accent): Ma haza al-dam … (What is all this blood about?).
The poor Iraqi villager: E’dna Nither … Thibahana ethnain Telian (It is a vow … we butchered two little lambs).

Mohammed: Sir, they have just beheaded two Italians!

In the next issue, UR will offer those who are interested in learning the Iraqi dialect well-written and very simple classes that will allow them to communicate in Iraq smoothly and astutely in no time.

This topic is extracted from the book entitled Winning Iraq, with author Amer Hanna’s permission.

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