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Reviews for the 701Lebanese Verbs Book

Just received another book review and rating for the 701 Lebanese Verbs book review on amazon.com. The ratings have been great so far, and hundreds of copies sold already. I am sure that everyone have their own ideas about how a language should be written, but you have to remember that the Lebanese Latin Letters (LLL) script and the Lebanese alphabet used in this books is the result of years of research by dedicated professionals. The LLL is capable to relaying the Lebanese language in much of its nuances, and on the other hand, not too complicated to learn, read, write and type. It is truly a monumental achievement for the Lebanese language in the 21st century, so I advise everybody to learn and use it.

Check the reviews and buy the book here:

http://www.amazon.com/701-Lebanese-Verbs-Maroun-Kassab/dp/0615751245

Lebanese and Levantine

There are many people who ask me whether they will be able to understand other Levantine languages if they learn the Lebanese language, and the answer is of course yes. The Levantine languages encompass those of Lebanon, Palestine, most of Syria and parts of Jordan. They are all related, and some refer to these languages as one major Arabic dialect sometimes known as eastern Arabic.

The fact of the matter is that if you speak Lebanese, you can understand and converse with someone from Syria, Palestine and Jordan with relative ease. But on the other hand, you will not be able to easily converse with and understand someone from let’s say Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia or Tunisia for example.

So if you want to learn Syrian or Palestinian, you can just learn the Lebanese language because it will give you access to these languages easily. Afterwards, and with some minor modifications, you can incorporate the specifics of the other languages in the Lebanese language you learn. The reason I am posting this information is because there is a lack of material on the Syrian language, Palestinian language and the Jordanian language online and in written form for any student that in interested in these languages specifically. The best bet for the time being is to learn Lebanese, since much material is already available and the information is easily transferable to the other languages.

Teaching the Lebanese Language

There are many sites, apps and people out there that claim they can teach you the Lebanese language, but one big question remains: Why are they all unsuccessful? The maximum they can do is help you memorize some words and phrases that are useful in daily conversation.

The reason in my opinion is because they simply do not have a proper methodology and the proper tools to do so. You cannot teach someone a language using numbers in a word to represent letters for example. That is simply counter productive. Additionally, how many out there know the proper inner workings of the spoken language. In all honesty, there are fewer than you can count on the fingers of one hand.

Let me put it this way:

How many primary verb forms are there in the Lebanese language?

If you can first understand this question, then you have some knowledge of the Lebanese language. If you can answer it, then you have some understanding of the inner workings of the language.

The reason that this teaching program is successful, is because it does not only rely on the author of this program simply being a native speaker, which of course I am, but also because years of research has gone into understanding the inner workings of the spoken Lebanese language and then years into creating a teaching method that capitalizes on this research.

In my opinion, there is no other way to go around it. You must have a thorough knowledge of what you are doing, or else, it is just a waste of time.

The vowel “e’ in Lebanese

Let’s look at the second vowel, the “e”

This vowels is a little bit tricky. We should remember that the Lebanese alphabet is unique, and that it is not like English or French.

The “e” is a long sound. Think of it this way, if you want to say yes in Lebanese, you say “e”.

Examples:

Jeb: He brought
Nemit: She slept
Rame: He threw him ( you pronounce it even if it is at the end of the word)
Rameha: He threw her (notice how the pronunciation is consistent)
El: He said

El ken baddo ynem: He said he wanted to sleep

The vowel “a” in Lebanese

I want to look at the vowels in the Lebanese language as part of providing information on how to use them. The vowels are:

a
e
i
ii
o
u

but these vowels should not be thought of as having the same sounds as English for example.

Let us look at the first vowel. In Lebanese this letter “a” actually has two different sounds, as well as a long version:

First sound is as in “Nafas” meaning “breath”
Second sound as in “Harab” meaning “he escaped”
Long sound as in “Faara” meaning “mouse” (Female)

The Lebanese Alphabet

When the Lebanese Language Institute decided to establish a proper alphabet for the Lebanese language, one of the first rules we decided upon was to avoid combining letters to produce consonants. The rule was “one letter, one sound”.

701 Lebanese Verbs

The new book has been out for some time and it has been doing well. I hope that this book will be a good companion to many, and I also hope that it will give a useful insight on the structure of the spoken Lebanese language. The Lebanese verbs have proven to follow a very systematic process in terms of conjugation, and this book will allow you to conjugate any (and I mean ANY) Lebanese verb in almost all the tenses.

What you will also notice is that Lebanese verbs are unique, highly structured and completely different from Arabic verbs in terms of their conjugation processes. To create a comprehensive categorical classification, the verbs have been classified into 68 categories, and any verb in the Lebanese language will fit under one of these categories and conjugate according to the rules that govern it. 

You cannot apply the rules that govern Arabic verbs to Lebanese verbs. These are totally two different processes.

Studying Arabic in Beirut

An Interesting article by Ben Kalt.
Remember, if you want to really learn how to speak Lebanese, sign up for my online course.

What you need to know before taking the plunge

By:Ben Kalt

From: http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=439994#

American: “Lao sa-maHt, ay-nuh el mah-tãm Ka-bab-ji?”
Beiruti: “Speak English or French?”
American: “Uh…English.”
Beiruti: “OK, go straight and first left…you will see. Welcome to Lebanon.”
American: “Shou-kran.”
Beiruti: “You’re welcome.”

The Lebanese local grins at his multilingual hospitality as the foreign student walks away grumbling, “I live here dammit, and I speak Arabic!” after yet another failure to pull off even the most basic of interactions in Arabic after months in Beirut studying.

The ubiquity of cock-eyed, cross-linguistic exchanges like this one have long put an asterisk by Beirut as a place for foreigners to learn Arabic. But with Damascus falling off the student map, Cairo seen as too overcrowded and stressful, and Amman viewed as boring and suffocatingly conservative, the question remains: Is Beirut the place to study Arabic?

Whether you’re a student of Middle East Studies or International Relations, a “heritage learner” trying to rediscover your roots, or you’ve settled in Beirut and long promised yourself you’d really learn Arabic – here’s some food for thought and some options for study in Beirut.

Before picking a place to study, you should know that Arabic is a hard language to acquire. The US Defense Department rates Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) as a “Category IV language” in terms of difficulty, the same as Chinese, meaning 64 weeks of intensive study (that is 30 hours a week) are required to become fluent in everyday conversation, whereas Spanish and German require 26 and 35 weeks respectively. In other words, learning Arabic requires a major investment of time and effort.

If that’s not discouraging enough, at universities, the only Arabic traditionally offered is MSA, or fohss-ha in Arabic. While across the Arab world, fohss-ha is the language of virtually all writing, media and formal speech, it is not used in everyday conversations. Rather, it is ahmeyyuh, or the colloquial Arabic dialect that varies by region, that rules all interactions.

Rana Dirani, Director of the Saifi Institute, asserts, “We don’t encourage [studying] fohss-ha for those living in the Arab world [because] it’s not a living language…Ahmeyyuh is.”

So which kind of Arabic to study? If your future plans are primarily academic, then fohss-ha is the obvious choice. But be forewarned, if you travel in the Arab world and speak only fohss-ha you’ll be understood, but expect bewildered faces and awkward pauses. In this case, you’ll compound your outsider status, you won’t understand much of what you overhear and you’ll forfeit much of the cultural capital and goodwill that accrues when locals happily recognize they can comfortably communicate with you in their everyday ahmeyyuh language. So it depends on your future language needs.

British aid worker and ALPS language institute student Martha Reggiori Wilkes hopes to “speak to refugees,” so studies three hours of ahmeyyuh a day but also studies one hour of fohss-ha because “reading articles would be great.”

Once you’ve settled on what to learn, it’s time to think about how you’ll learn. If you have a very small class, then it may be possible to get enough authentic communicative practice to keep improving, but this depends on your teacher and their method.

ALPS instructor Rima Nawfal tells NOW Extra that “when I was a student, I was always looking at my watch during class.” So now, as a teacher, she tries to create the ‘learning space’ to allow students to speak freely and joke around in Arabic during class, because “personal relationships with students are very important.”

However, larger or more structured classes won’t likely get you enough conversation practice and you will have to make due on your own outside class, which brings us to the main knock on Beirut: doubts about its “Arab authenticity.”

“Everyone will speak to you in French or English,” “Lebanese are not real Arabs” and “you will never learn Arabic in Beirut” are just a few of the stereotypes or, at best, half-truths. Still others belittle the Lebanese accent as overly feminine and the culture as pretentious, superficial or materialistic. But many foreigners are relieved to have the option of reverting to English for logistical needs – to not have to sink or swim in the deep end of Arabic all the time. They appreciate the relative social anonymity and cosmopolitan sophistication of Beirutis as well as the liberal indulgences of alcohol, dancing, Western dress and social mixing of the sexes in some parts of the country. In short, Lebanon comes in the “Middle East Lite” flavor.

But these very comforts and the sheer number of foreigners in Lebanon are a double-edged sword, as ALPS manager Joëlle Giappesi laments. “Too many [foreign students] stay in a Western bubble and live in shared flats with other foreigners in tourist areas [or] in dorms near the university, spending [their] leisure time in cafes and pubs speaking English,” she says.

Giappesi adds that she “love[s] when students ask for a homestay” but acknowledges that there is some reluctance among Lebanese to accept foreigners into their homes, though they’re becoming “more open to the idea little by little.”

Aliya Saidi, Assistant Director of AUB’s Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (CAMES), tells NOW Extra that “older grad students sometimes want to live in an Arabic-speaking only [neighborhood] off-campus for more immersion.” She adds that AUB students sign a “language pledge” to use Arabic in and out of class to the best of their ability. However, she admits that the pledge “doesn’t work very well; students still speak English to each other.”

She added that a place like Damascus offers “more immersion [than Beirut]” but students can get stressed out or feel homesick, so it “requires [more] student maturity and motivation.”

Saifi Institute director Dirani stresses that maintaining “strict rules and structure,” in terms of homework, attendance, exams for advancement, is important for creating the ideal atmosphere because “many students’ priorities are going out and having fun, many are floaters…30 to 50% are really serious students.” Dirani advises that “if you want to learn, just use [Arabic] and don’t be shy,” adding that one of Saifi’s goals “was to create a cultural environment to use Arabic.”

Apart from seeking out Arabic-speaking friends (or better still a lover) to regularly converse with and reinforce what you’ve learned in class, your next best option is to scour the internet for learning resources, and remember the more you enjoy studying, the more likely you’ll stick with it. Language learning is a marathon, not a sprint.

My own preferred way to “study” is watching Lebanese web series like Beirut I Love You, Shankaboot, Mamnou3 or Fasateen, making notes of the new Arabic expressions I catch and brainstorming humorous ways I can try them out on Lebanese I know the next day.

All four series are in Lebanese ahmeyyuh and have English subtitles so you can pause and rewind to try to piece together and decode bits of the Arabic you hear. The context is rich and the language is undeniably authentic, but most importantly, they provide a funny, colorful and entertaining slice of Lebanese life, so there’s no temptation to be lazy and put off “studying.”

As for dealing with your frustrations with Beirutis not engaging you in Arabic, the bottom line is, Beirut is a partial- or optional-immersion environment. Beirutis don’t owe you Arabic practice any more than you owe them English practice. In every encounter the default is Arabic vs. English linguistic arm wrestling – may the best lingua franca win. If you start out confidently and express yourself strongly and clearly with a decent accent, you can earn your Arabic-speaking stripes and most Beirutis will engage you in Arabic. If, however, they judge their English to be better than your Arabic (or are oblivious and just see “foreigner”), they may fire back in English, in which case you can: A) throw in the towel and speak English, or B) smile, show your gumption and insist, by unleashing the best Arabic performance you can muster and see if you can outduel them. Better to accept the communicative challenge and play the game when you are faced with English rather than to grumble and meekly plead “please speak to me in Arabic.”

In the end, whether or not Beirut is the place to study depends, overwhelmingly, on you – your preferences, resilience, attitude and language needs. As ALPS student Michelle Cousland says, “In Beirut, foreigners don’t need Arabic… So the burden is on you to be pro-active and seek people out to practice.” So if you’re hard core and inspired to take on total Arabic, Arab culture immersion and the challenges that come with it, then Beirut may not be the best place.

But if a modicum of Western familiarity, freedoms and fun – and the prerogative to bite off as much Arabic language and culture as you want to chew on any given day – is more your style, then Beirut might bring the best balance of comfort and challenge. As Cousland put it, “Comfort level is important… If you’re stressed about daily life [it affects] your learning and the whole experience…I mean, they have Oreo milk shakes here, what more do you need?”

Mobile app teaches Lebanese dialect

Actually, this app is only a kind of a phase book and a mini dictionary. It does not actually “teach” you the Lebanese language, but still, it is interesting to see a rising interest in the spoken language making its way into technology. Kudos to the developers.

BEIRUT: Leaving one’s homeland for another country to escape civil instability, experience something new, or search for job opportunities often leads to a tug of war between the cultural values and practices of one’s place of origin and those of one’s new environment.

Language is the arena where the struggle is arguably thrown into starkest relief. Should second-generation immigrants hold fast to their parents’ mother tongue in the face of a society that has little use for it?

The question exercises the minds of many in the Lebanese diaspora, estimated to total some 15 million people – a huge number, considering that the population of Lebanon itself totals around 4 million.

“When my daughter was born, it made me think about the number of Lebanese who grow up and live outside Lebanon and how many lose touch with the Lebanese language,” reflects Hadi el-Khoury, an information security expert currently based in France.

“I have met a lot of people who regret not transmitting their mother tongue to their children. This was my inspiration.”

Khoury is the developer of “Keefak,” a mobile application available on iOS and Android that is designed to teach users the Lebanese dialect of Arabic.

“Once I had the idea, I thought – why not?” recalls Khoury. “The smart phone seemed the most appropriate format since they are becoming so ubiquitous. I gathered the team and we got to work.”

The “Keefak” application currently retails at $4.99; once the initial application is downloaded, all further updates are free. Since it was launched in January 2012, there have been over 1,000 downloads.

“Keefak” is divided into courses, with each course containing four components: Vocabulary, Dialogue, Grammar and Exercises. There are currently 15 courses available, all of which focus on developing rudimentary day-to-day conversational Lebanese Arabic.

In addition to Khoury, three people were involved in the development of “Keefak.” Khoury’s brother Joseph developed it for use with iOS applications, Rawad Rahme ensured its compatibility with Android applications, and Antoine Fleyfel took charge of language instruction.

Khoury explains that one of the central obstacles faced during the design process was combining Fleyfel’s expertise as a teacher and author of books on the Lebanese dialect with a sleek, user-friendly format that would work across different devices using different software.

“We had a few difficulties during the development stage, but we were able to overcome them,” the developer of “Keefak” said.

The “Keefak” team aims to devise an additional five new courses every month until September, when more advanced courses will be introduced.

September is also when the Spanish and Portuguese versions of “Keefak” will be inaugurated, a development that will help Khoury’s foray into South America, home to a huge Lebanese diaspora. Currently, the application is available in English and French with Lebanese Arabic transliterated in Latin characters.

A further aim is to develop a more child-friendly version of the application featuring a likable fictional character, more interactive game-centric learning exercises, and an overall injection of color.

“Something to get the kids excited about when they get back from school,” Khoury says somewhat optimistically.

While Khoury admits that sales so far have not been spectacular, he maintains that the Keefak application has huge potential, not just in terms of its primary target market – the Lebanese diaspora – but among tourists, aspiring Arabists in Western universities, and spouses of Lebanese seeking to communicate with their in-laws.

Khoury also says that he and his team are gratified by the fact that their endeavor is serving to re-establish bonds between Lebanese and their homeland.

“Languages open doors and our application can reconnect people who left Lebanon for whatever reason. It is incredibly rewarding when you are helping people reconnect [with Lebanon],” says Khoury – noting in particular the satisfaction derived when positive feedback is given on the “Keefak” Facebook page.

And there is definitely always room for progress.

“We also appreciate the constructive criticism, because it helps us improve the program and adapt to what people want,” observes Khoury.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 11, 2012, on page 2.

Link to online article: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Lifestyle/2012/Jul-11/180137-mobile-app-teaches-lebanese-dialect.ashx#axzz20Jmha3MP

Lebanese lullabies and rhymes

There are many Lebanese lullabies and rhymes other than the famous one sung by Fairuz:

I will post some of them here and try to add to this post so that it would become a collection of Lebanese lullabies and rhymes.

Lullabies:

1- Yalla tnaam

Yalla tnaam (aw ynam for boy) Riima (or the child’s name)
Yalla tḣibb ṡṡala
Yalla tḣibb ṡṡawm
Yalla tijiiha l xawaafi
Kill yawm b yawm

Yalla tnaam, yalla tnaam
La idbaḣla ṫayr l ḣamaam (This is the most common version, but some say instead: “La idbaḣla ṫayrayn ḣamaam”)*
Ruḣ ya ḣamaam la tsaddi`
Biḋḣak xa Riima ta tnaam

* Remark: This statement literally means “I will butcher for her a pigeon”, or as in the alternate version “a pair of pigeons”. People always wonder what does butchering a pigeon or two has to do with a children’s lullaby. It even sounds scary don’t you think. But in fact, there is a very good explanation for this, and most probably the alternate version “I shall butcher a pair of pigeons” is the original and most probable version. Lebanese lullabies extend to ancient times and they are part of a handed down tradition through the ages. The sacrifice of a pair of doves or a pair of pigeons dates to a Hebrew tradition where a sacrificial offering for a first born used to be “a pair of doves or a pair of pigeons”.

2- Naami naami ya żgiiri

Naami naami ya żgiiri
Ta ḣatta tṡiiri kbiiri
Naami taḣt l ḱaymi
Ta truḣ l xittaymi
W tiji ccamis xa bakkiir
Tḋawwi xa kill l jiiri

Bokra bayyik jaayi
Jaayib ġallit zzaytun
W jaayiblik bornayṫa w caal
Ta titdaffi bi Kanun.

Rhymes:

1- Dibbi kiili (Moving two fingers and marching them towards the child)

Dibbi kiili
Dibbi craabi
Ḱiidi l bint (Or ḱalli l bint)
W ḱalli ṡṡabi (Or w ḱidi ṡṡabi)

2- Ya ḣedi w ya medi

Ya ḣedi w ya medi
Ca`lib da`lib bil wedi
Kassir jawz w kassir lawz
W ḱod la ibni ziwwedi

Ya hedi wi ḣdii bi llayl
Sammixna ṡahiil l ḱayl
Win kanno ibni maxkon
Alla ywaṡṡolkon bil ḱayr
Win ken ibni mic maxkon
Ḋallo rkabo ṫul llayl

Sample Lesson

Below are two links for a sample lesson and quiz on Level 1:

Subject Personal Pronouns

Sample Quiz

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Maroun Kassab has been researching and developing the methods for teaching the Lebanese language for more than 10 years.

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