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When language is considered a barrier

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Hi beautiful and courageous ladies and gentlemen!

Fact: Homosexuality is a taboo in the MENA region.

Conclusion: Talking about homosexuality in Arabic in the MENA region is a taboo of a taboo. Kinda complicated taboo.

I've realised that after around 7 months of launching Ahwaa.

This topic isn't targeting those who prefer English as the first language of communication, or those who were raised in the West. I mean exactly homosexuals who were raised here with native Arabic.

A question, a kinda of poll, do you think that Arabic is a barrier? And does talking about homosexuality in English represent more safe/reliable/easy method in that regards?

Let's open up, I think talking about sexuality frustrations in Arabic will gain us a new land of the silent majority who don't know anything about homosexuality/or those who're homophobic by nature (disputed.)

Your views!

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  • 17-24_f_w_h3_f2
    Experience

    Hey Amadeus! Very interesting topic here.

    Personally, speaking in Arabic about these matters do act as a barrier. And like you said, it's not about preferring English as a first language of communication because when speaking in English, expressing myself and etc. sounds more acceptable than when I do it in Arabic. When I communicate my thoughts in Arabic, it just feels wrong. Like I'm not supposed to be doing that or have those thoughts to begin with. And most importantly, I feel like I have no one to express these thoughts to.

    • 17-24_m_w_h3_f1
      Comment

      This is the thing! I was quite sure of my observation! Thanks Awktopus for sharing your thought!

      Why don't we take it from here, and start interacting for once at least on Ahwaa Arabic. Let's try tearing this barrier down, and let's start now! Why don't everyone of you make one new topic at least in Arabic, and start discussing it. I think it'll help, because our misconception about Arabic is only in our heads, however we can use it as a method of communication.

      I'm not saying, let's use Arabic forever, but rather, let's break this barrier, so in the future we'll have been broken all the barriers!

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    • Real interesting topic indeed Amadeus. I'm not an Arab so I can only comment as an outsider though I do speak Arabic. But what I can say is, since I was educated in English and it was kind of the language of the popular culture I grew up with, it made a lot of sense to discuss these issues in English, however, I understand perfectly the issue of the barrier:
      When I was a teenager it was emotionally very difficult to speak about homosexuality in the mother tongue (Hebrew, Spanish) because it just felt so wrong... So I wrote my own journals in English and then when I had my first relationship because he was in a similar situation, we spoke in English to each other, since at the time, the idea of a man saying to another man "I love you" or "I want you" in the mother tongue, when we are in a oppressive environment of course. Even several years later I'm still not entirely comfortable with it, however as for Arabic, if there's a way to begin actually using Arabic, and to break this cold distance self-imposed through English or whatever else, it's a HUGE step. I see that this is a baby step to come to a point where memoirs and personal stories are written in Arabic and while it might be not so comfortable for many all too sheltered and protected from the hostile reality by English, it might be a great relief for many others who are just coming in contact with the issues at hand.

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    • 17-24_m_w_h3_f1
      Comment

      I do agree with you lonelynumber. You've touched the nerve of the topic, I didn't mean Arabic in specific, but all the native languages driven from mostly "oppressive" environments, like Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Urdu... etc.

      I think it's a huge step, that's why I'm inviting those who might be interested to contribute to Ahwaa AR. It'll not only be a relief to those who suffer from such problems in their own lands, but also to those who don't speak English!

      Thanks for your amazing contributions guys and gals!

      Side note: GALS (capitalized letters) stand sometimes for Gay and Lesbian Singers! :)

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  • 17-24_f_b_h1_f3
    Comment

    Awesome topic Amadeus!
    I'm Arab but unfortunately after having been raised in the US my Arabic is only as good as what Sunday school could beat into my head, so not that great. I really reaally wish I could talk about homosexuality in Arabic- there's a certain poetry to the language that would lend a lot to the topic.

    Another reason why I think speaking about homosexuality is easier in English and so taboo in "mother tongues" is because of the way that the LGBTQ identity has been created in modern times. Arabs have always been queer, you only have to look at beautiful poetry from hundreds of years (ooh boy did they have a way with words!). But the way we think about homosexuality *these* days is mainly an idea that was created in the US and then traveled around the world. Hence, English. At least, that's the way I see it.

    That's also why I wish I could talk about homosexuality in Arabic- it would help "reclaim" part of that historical Middle Eastern queer legacy. There didn't used to be such a strict line between heterosexual and homosexual in the Middle East. Sexuality in general was much more fluid and much more celebrated! I'd love to see that again.

    • 17-24_m_w_h3_f1
      Comment

      Hi arabsest,

      Thanks for your comment! I'd like to read about that indeed! I really don't know the queer poetry you're talking about, but I'd like to read it. I think I've read a couple of classic homosexual Arabic poetry in the past, but if you know more that would be awesome!

      And for your wish, you could start right away by clicking النسخة العربية at the top of the website to shift to Ahwaa AR.

      Best regards,

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    • 17-24_m_w_h4_f3
      Comment

      even though I raised n still live in Middle Eastern Country but I prefer to speak n write (here n in other sites) in English because I feel more comfortable when I do that.
      Any way ... We can speak in all the languages that we know, but will that make any difference in our Untolerant world?
      That's the real question.

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  • i was raised and taught in a middle eastern community but my Arabic is rlly crappy , always has been , whenever im trying to express myself in Arabic words just don't come to mind , that's why i choose English which just comes easier to me its not much of a barrier as much as it a habit and educational barriers , for instance if i was to type what i just in Arabic it would have taking like half an hour instead of a few minutes XDD

    Reply to adhamyasser
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  • 35-50_f_w_h3_f4
    Experience

    In my case my family don't speak great English and it makes me less worried about them snooping around and finding out about me. I do maintain a blog in Arabic but it's only political and I don't talk about myself or sexuality so it doesn't bother me as I'm not very secretive with these opinions as I am with my sexuality.

    Reply to Joon
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  • 17-24_m_b_h2_f4
    Comment

    i feel weird talking abt it or any other "non-traditional" topics , the words comes out stupid and lacks meaning , and when u try to insert coupla english words to try to get ur idea through , ur considered smug and trying to look down on them (whoever ur talking to) and they just stop listening .
    so i prefer to start the whole thing in english everytime someone wants to talk abt it , and maybe add some sentences in arabic here and there if im explaining some concept that doesnt exist in the arab culture ,i mean, imagine explaining stereotyping and integrating that in homosexuality while using arabic , its a DISASTER .
    personally , i tell the person im talking to that ill be talking in english cuz arabic would sound stupid , it takes a bit longer but its better than taking little time and nothing at all reaches them .

    • 17-24_m_w_h4_f3
      Comment

      O-o that's weird!!! bcoz u just said what I go through from time to time especially the (look down
      on them) thing
      thanx

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    • 17-24_m_b_h2_f4
      Comment

      lol XD we deal with the same species here , hetero-arab-males (no offense but u know what i mean) they have this "my way or no way" thingie going on , and when ur this close to prove ur point .... ur instantly labeled 'bad' 'foul mouthed' 'smug' 'snooty' ....and the list goes on

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    • 17-24_m_w_h4_f3
      Comment

      Amen bro!!! thanx

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  • Default-avatar
    Experience

    My comment is not as a speaker of Arabic, but as a linguist and someone with a particular interest in sociology.

    One of the things I notice, in any given language, is that the connotation of a word and the nomenclature used around it is directly tied in with the culture's attitudes towards the subject matter.

    Take, for instance, in my language many of our terms for an unintelligent person were originally terms for a person with a mental disability of some sort (idiot, imbecile, and moron respectively. These were formerly the politically correct/neutral terms used even in academic terminology) At one point the term "mentally retarded" arose to replace them, as they had gained negative connotations for simply being associated with foolish persons. "Retarded" soon gained its own negative connotations, and was replaced, and even its replacement is potentially being replaced...I'm sure you see a pattern here, the "euphemism treadmill" as it were.

    This euphemism treadmill is a result of the fact that people are trying to treat the symptom (the connotation of the word) and not addressing that it's the attitudes held about the subject matter that caused the word to gain those connotations in the first place.

    So take for instance the Western term "gay". Gay is, in many ways, a negative stereotype of homosexuals...and yet, it has moved in the opposite direction towards greater legitimacy and acceptance. This is because attitudes and dialogue on the matter of homosexuality in the west is changing.

    I suspect, based on the above, that if Arabic feels like it has barriers to discussion on the matter it is not because the language isn't ample and eloquent, but because the attitudes of the Arab community effect the meanings of words.

    Reply to Peter
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  • I totally understand all of your points. But, I am a Native English speaker. I do know how to speak Arabic, but I do not know how to read Arabic. I use it to my advantage that this site communicates mainly in English, but I do feel as if you all should come out to yourself, confidently in Arabic, you will feel more confident in general.

    Reply to OurGeneration
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  • 12-16_f_b_h1_f2
    Experience

    I just realized, I don't know what lesbian or homosexual in my language is. That said, I feel like saying love or other sexy things in my language, Urdu that is, sounds plain wrong. If I express myself poetically, I suppose it will sound alright but I guess I'll have to be on stage performing for that one.

    Reply to Huma
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  • I think everyone raised very valid points, so it is a combination of social and cultural attitudes to sexuality in general and it is also the comfort of speaking about something very personal and intense in another language hence mitigating its impact and how it sounds.
    But I think for for Arab-speakers, and specifically where I come from - Egypt- its a historical, cultural and social condition.
    It is inextricably linked with our history, society and culture. We are a post-colonial society where the privilege of education, was for the longest time reserved for the select few, and even among those select few, Western-styled education was regarded as the ideal education anyone could attain.
    Even at the height of nationalism, most official documents were bilingual (not in English though, surprisingly, but in French).
    And after independence there was general mistrust in the kind of education that the government or that state provides, and still Western-styled education was looked upon with prestige. Only those who could afford or manage to enrol their children in Western-styled schools (whether French, English or German) were regarded as the truly educated. Hence linking education with class, another catastrophe that plagues Middle Eastern societies.
    So you end up being schooled in one language and completely immersed in the terminology that has to do with identity, sexuality, culture,....etc

    Added to the fact, as someone said before, all the reference points and cultural references for gay cultural are strictly Western (films, showtunes, stories, sitcoms, TV,...etc). How could we then use Arabic to discuss an experience that does not actually exist in Arabic?
    We have to create it from scratch. And this is the ingenuity of LGBT community in the Arab-speaking world. Because they have to come up with their own stories and representations in Arabic.
    No easy task if ask me.
    With the explosion of virtual space to write, exchange and just express random thoughts, you now have a certain accumulation of experience in Arabic (many very interesting Arabic blogs for example) that try to represent this identity in Arabic
    It will take time, but it will happen eventually!

    Reply to Zizi_Forever
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  • 17-24_m_w_h3_f1
    Experience

    This is an awesome topic, It's sad yet true but I kinda don' like the idea of using Arabic, It's not because I hated Arabic itself, I hate the majority of the Egyptian people for not accepting me the way I am, I hate everything about them, I don wanna be one of them, I hated Arabic for that cause, They speak in Arabic n it's one of the most important aspects of the Egyptian culture; To use the slang Arabic, I mostly use English to feel detached, I don wanna be related to those narrow-minded fuckturds by any means. So yea Arabic is defo. a barrier.

    Reply to Manson
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