We were very “busy beavers” at our sessions on Sunday 19 February 2017.
I arrived for the last 15 minutes of the children’s group and witnessed the relaxed and happy atmosphere, with a dozen or more children of various ages, along with their parents and helpers.  Clay creations of fruit in a variety of forms were lined up on the table ready for the next step of firing, and the children were sitting quietly in a group while listening to Zain and Hassan.

As more adults arrived for the next session, we had the opportunity to chat and introduce ourselves to newcomers while enjoying refreshments.
As usual, I indicated that my name is Susan but most people just call me Sue. While Susan is a name in Arabic-speaking countries, I gather it is not generally shortened to Sue.  Recently, I found a word in my Arabic dictionary which appeared similar in sound to “Sue” –it gives the sound “soo” but with a “hamza” at the end, giving it a staccato ending.  Unfortunately, this word means “evil” so I was a bit worried. Thankfully, I was reassured with a smile by first-time visitors to ALCASA, Roseanne and her husband – Syrians who have spent the last 13 years in Dubai.  Evidently, if the “Sue” is said with a smooth ending, it is not a problem. Phew…that’s a relief!

After our chats, we all got down to work in our conversation sessions, splitting into small groups of one or two non-Arabic speakers with one or two native Arabic speakers.  We talked about what we do in the holidays.

Hafiz and I learnt a new expression in our conversation session with native Levant speakers Mona and Hanaa.  After we said “thank you” to them both for their patience in listening to our stumbling efforts at speaking in Arabic in the role play, Hanaa said:

!لا شكر على واجب
(“la shukr ‘alaa waajib” – for those who can’t read Arabic)

It is like saying “My pleasure” but its literal meaning is more like “No need for thanks as it is my duty to assist.”

Learning new idioms and sayings in Arabic is interesting.  In my opening sentence, I used the English term “busy beavers” – I could have said “busy bees” and no doubt there is a different idiom for this in Arabic which I haven’t learnt yet.

Perhaps we could look at comparing some idioms at one of our monthly sessions?  We have a multicultural group of people attending, various ages and backgrounds – including an Iraqi who lived in Denmark for many years, married a Dutchman and lived in Holland for some years as well; a young Singaporean who came to Australia nine years ago and is studying to become a high school teacher of maths and science; but he loves languages too.  We have a young Italian who works on The Ghan train and I understand he speaks five languages; a Frenchman who has lived in Australia for years now, and I came from the south of England as a teenager – I won’t say when, but it’s been a long time.  There are some second and third generation Australians attending as well, but many are migrants in some form.

Of course, being an Arabic language and culture association, we have people from various Arabic backgrounds – Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq, to name a few.

We all lead busy lives beyond ALCASA, some cannot make every session, and some move on to other places, but it continues to grow and develop each year. There will be more cultural workshops throughout the year at some of our monthly sessions, and these will be promoted on the “Arabic in Adelaide” Facebook page as usual.  Newcomers are always welcomed.

Susan Young