Lost in Translation: What’s on the radio? No, who’s on the radio!

My husband’s mother tongue is Arabic though his English is excellent. When I first met him I thought he had studied, or lived, in the USA because he has a strong American accent when speaking English. To my surprise, neither were the case! His accent came from growing up watching American sitcoms and movies. Come to find out, a number of my university students explained that they practiced their English while watching Friends and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Go figure? Luckily none of them have Janice’s nasal accent. I already got that one covered and no room is big enough for two “Janice laughs!” [Insert Janice’s laugh here.]

As for my Arabic, it is moving at a slow pace! I know a lot of words, phrases and can successfully eavesdrop on my students. I understand enough to know their excuse planning for why their papers are late or why they want to leave class early. It seems that I’m on the ten year learning Arabic plan. Inshallah! 

On a regular basis, my husband will teach me new Arabic words and I will often ask how to say this, or that. Sometimes it goes well, other times things get lost in translation. 

One time, we were driving and an Arabic song came on the radio. One particular word stood out as it was being repeated over and over again. 

Me: What does  ma-asma mean?

My husband: Can’t hear you…


My husband: Can’t hear you…


My husband: Mina! Khalas! Ma-asma means I can’t hear you!

Me: Ohhhhhhh!

I’d like to say that this was a one time occurrence, but in reality it’s well over a twenty time occurrence at this point. It can sometimes be embarrassing, especially when it public, but it sure does make for great comedy!


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