A tale of two linguists and the conflict that separates them

Shaina Shealy reported this one in Israel and Gaza. She and I had a great conversation about it in the podcast.

The windows of Arik Sadan’s classroom at Hebrew University in Jerusalem look over the Silwan Valley, a sloping desert dotted with tall, white, rectangular Palestinian houses. Inside his classroom, most students are Jewish. Sadan teaches them Arabic.

Sadan wrote a book, “The Subjunctive Mood,” tracing Arabic linguistic thought from pre-Islamic Arabia to the 19th century, which earned him the title of the world expert in Arabic’s subjunctive tense. His native tongue is Hebrew and he can talk about Arabic grammatical thought — specifically, his philosophies behind ancient linguistic decision-making — for 15 minutes straight. “When you look at the structure,” he says, “you can see a logic of thinking that’s common across borders.”

Arik Sadan (L) and Sobhi Bahloul (R). Photos: Shaina Shealy

Arik Sadan (L) and Sobhi Bahloul (R). Photos: Shaina Shealy

Beyond Israel’s southwest border, Sobhi Bahloul also wrote a book: Kitaba Wa’Ti-ibrya. It was published in seven parts (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Hebrew; Hebrew Writing I and II; and Hebrew Editing I and II) and adds up to Gaza’s Hebrew language curriculum. Bahloul trained all of the twelve Hebrew teachers in the Gaza Strip.

Sobhi Bahloul is Palestinian, 53 years old and has been speaking Hebrew for over half of his life. After graduating from Tel Aviv University with a MA in Hebrew Language in 2002, he became Hamas’s go-to guy for all things related to Hebrew. He teaches at universities, consults with businessmen and translates documents for Gazans in Israeli hospitals and prisons.

“Hebrew is the language of an enemy,” Bahloul says. But he also believes Hebrew can bring Gazans closer to Israeli culture by helping them understand customs and daily life.Sobhi Bahloul and his Hebrew students in Gaza City.Bahloul and Sadan’s deep understanding of a language that is not only foreign but potentially adversarial brings them uncommonly close to other cultures. Both men are so passionate about language that they teach everyone who expresses interest — including soldiers, informants and militants. But they are driven by a belief that language’s unifying power outweighs its other uses.

PODCAST CONTENTS

00:00 Learning the language of your enemy

01:53 Music: “Habib Galbi” by A-WA. More about these three singing sisters here.

02:33 Israeli linguist Arik Sadan, an authority on the Arabic subjunctive.

Linguist Arik Sadan05:15 Jews are turning their backs on a language that used to be central to their culture: “The Jewish heritage– a great percentage of it– is Arabic.”

07:30 The way Arabic is taught in the Israeli army: “Know thy enemy, in order for you to stop the next explosion. You tend to forget that it’s a language.”

9:10 Sadan’s sad joke: “I only wish that the Hebrew people and the Arab people would be a bit as close as the languages are.”

11:20 But is he in the Mossad?

12:45 Searching for Arik Sadan’s Palestinian counterpart.

13:20 Sobhi Bahloul has trained all twleve of Gaza’s Hebrew teachers and developed Gaza’s Hebrew curriculum.

14:42 “If you understand each other, it’s good.”

16:35 Bahloul’s students don’t learn about Passover, but he wants them to learn other cultural references.

17:45 Learning Hebrew to survive in an Israeli prison.

19:40 Bahloul breaks the ice with Israeli soldiers.

21:14 Have Arik Sadan and Sobhi Bahloul ever met?

23:30 Gaza’s Hebrew students’ Facebook friends in Israel.

24:08 Learning Hebrew in order to understand the labels on cosmetic products.

27:10 Music: Eich Efshar by Jane Bordeaux

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ISIS, ISIL or Daesh?

Nina P. put together this episode.

For the past few years, a new word has been popping up to describe the group known as ISIS, ISIL and the Islamic State. That word is ‘Daesh.’

In this mini-episode of The World in Words, we explore the meaning of the word Daesh. You may have heard French President François Hollande use the word in the wake of the Paris attacks, in lieu of ISIS or ISIL or Islamic State. Secretary of State John Kerry has been using the term for the past year as well.

Daesh isn’t actually a word, but an acronym for the Arabic name of the group: ‘لدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام’ (‘al-dowla al-islaamiyya fii-il-i’raaq wa-ash-shaam’). And the jihadist group doesn’t exactly like being known by their acronym DAESH. In the podcast we explore why. We hear from writer Zeba Khan and linguist Alice Guthrie about Daesh. How do you pronounce it? What does it mean exactly? Who coined it? And why does the group that we commonly know as ISIS dislike it so much?

CONTENTS

00:35 French President François Hollande in the wake of the attacks

00:47 US Secretary of State John Kerry has been using ‘Daesh’ for the past year and so have many other nationstates outside of the Middle East

2:27 How to pronounce ‘Daesh’

3:30 An acronym which challenges legitimacy

4:56 Daesh sounds slightly like the Arabic word, ‘daes’

5:16 The Syrian activist who coined the term ‘Daesh’

6:13 There’s something about the word evokes a dark period of history

8:16 How the media gets it wrong

10:18 The ways in which you can play with this made up word, ‘Daesh’

13:00 Satire is only so powerful

FURTHER READING:

“Behind the ISIS/ISIL conundrum” by Christopher Woolf

“Words matter in ‘ISIS’ war, so use ‘Daesh'” by Zeba Khan

“Decoding Daesh: Why is the new name for ISIS so hard to understand?” by Alice Guthrie

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Faking the Funk: Singing in another accent

Nina P. did this pod. She had me on to chat, Marco too. He flunked the quiz. I flunked the quiz. We all flunked the quiz.

Contents:

00:00 Our listeners are the smartest. Thank you.

2:53 The World’s host, Marco Werman gets quizzed and talks Soul Train

9:55 Linguist Bill Beeman on singing in foreign languages – It’s all about the vowels!

13:51 Linguist Jane Setter sings like Tammie Wynette

15:47 Alesha Dixon controversy

19:31 Cliff Richard, the British Elvis

21:20 Ethnomusicologist Langston Wilkins and the influence of the African American voice

23:20 How can a Canadian artist who sings with a Jamaican Patois be authentic?

24:00 “Blaccent” and the problem with Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea (Photo: Daniel Gregory)

Iggy Azalea (Photo: Daniel Gregory)


28:20 The difference between Iggy Azalea and Mick Jagger

32:00 Goodbye for now. Patrick takes us out with a song

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The pop punk singing accent is weirdly cosmopolitan

Nina did the pod this week. She had me on to chat, and I displayed my ignorance. It’s a great listen.

Contents:

00:00 Blink-182’s lead singer Tom DeLonge on aliens

1:50 Patrick Cox listens to “All the Small Things” by Blink-182

3:04 Dan Nosowitz declares his love for pop punk

4:04 Dan defines pop punk

5:46 Dan likes to sing like Tom DeLonge in the car on road trips

7:15 What the heck do you mean by pop punk accent?

8:23 Oh, the early aughts! Paris Hilton! The OC! The Vans Warped Tour!

8:57 Dan chooses the song “First Date” for linguist Penelope Eckert to analyze

10:13 Penelope “Pennie” Eckert’s response

11:00 What about Johnny Rotten’s accent in the Sex Pistols?

13:15 The California Shift defined

15:30 What’s the deal with Avril Lavigne’s pop punk-y accent?

17:15 What about the accent for newer pop punk bands?

17:45 The sneering California accent

18:55 Wherever punk goes it mutates

20:13 Green Day’s lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong sings with a non-rhotic style. Rhoticity! What is it?

21:22 Chris Appelgren owner of Lookout! Records, has a theory of his own about the pop punk accent

23:23 preview of next week’s podcast

25:00 Announcements

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Talking Texas in Persian, Turkish and Norwegian

In the podcast this week, a Persian expression that includes “Texas.” Also, the meaning of haka, beyond New Zealand’s rugby fields.

CONTENTS

00:00 What is not Texas here?

01:00 Helt Texas “(Completely Texas” in Norwegian) explained.

02:02 Ashley Cleek asks her Iranian husband Reza about the Persian expression Inja Texas nist (“It’s not Texas here”).

03:15 “Texas is like the uber United States.”

03:30 Texas acts as a stand-in for an out-of-control place, says Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University.

04:00 Reza’s Lucky Luke theory.

Reza Jamayran poses in front of an image of a childhood hero, Lucky Luke. (Photo: Ashley Cleek)

Reza Jamayran poses in front of an image of a childhood hero, Lucky Luke. (Photo: Ashley Cleek)

05:00 Ashley and Reza finally go to Texas. Reza calls his mom.

06:00 Another great Texas story in a similar vein: Julia Barton on Dallas.

06:40 Rugby and the haka.

8:05 The sound of the haka.

09:50 In Maori culture, “the more ugly you are, the more beautiful you are,” says New Zealander Corey Baker

11:40 A haka that challenges young, struggling Maoris to turn their lives around.

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Learning English on the fly

Podcast contents

00:00 English-proficient kids help their English-challenged parents

01:14 Monica Campbell visit an ESL class

02:23 “Their kids are learning to be Americans, but they don’t have the opportunity to be Americans in the same way.”

03:23 Some schools are holding separate PTA meetings in Spanish, says Patricia Baquedano-López of UC Berkeley.

03:58 Vietnamese immigrant and ESL student Quang Dang tries to keep up with his 4-year-old daughter.

06:27 Another student from Mexico is learning English so she can ensure her special-needs daughters gets help at school.

Photo: Christopher Connell/Flickr/Creative Commons

Photo: Christopher Connell/Flickr/Creative Commons


08:58 Monica’s father and the “Champagne of teaching.”

11:37 Is there less of a demand for ESL classes? Don’t some immigrants get along just fine not speaking English?

13:04 Joy Diaz learns about Arabic and influence on Spanish from her daughter’s preschool teacher.

14:07 Singers Juan Luis Guerra and Celia Cruz (unconsciously) pepper their Spanish with Arabic.

14:45 It is, of course, all about the history of Spain.

17:15 This wonderful song is “Bilingual Girl” by Yerba Buena.

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Help! I can’t communicate with my Mandarin-speaking grandparents

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