بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
In this introductory article, I will discuss a theory I have developed for learning multiple languages in order to use them in a speaking context.
A similar theory may or may not exist in theoretical linguistics, but as I am not in the linguistics field per se, this theory is based on my own experience learning the Arabic language and through speaking to many Arabic natives.
What the Common Language Theory will not help with
In order to understand what this Common Language Theory (referred to as CLT in the rest of this article) is, the reader should know what it is not. The CLT will not help to read nor write text of the language being learned, especially with non-Latin characters. It will only enable reading of the learned-language (like non-Latin characters) by way of the frequency of phrases used.
What is the CLT designed for?
The CLT is designed primarily for speaking and engagement. Although I have learnt Arabic extensively (reading, writing, understanding and speaking), I found a series of patterns emerge when using certain words, phrases and sentences when speaking with Arabic native speakers. The patterns are not based merely on usage, but also on the frequency of these words, phrases and sentences being used.
This led me to believe that when engaging in simple conversations with native speakers (and within various contexts), it is not required for the learner to go through the whole process of learning grammar, morphology and all other related aspects of a certain language.
Much like how toddlers learn their native language through interaction and engagement, this theory is aimed at developing a series of words, phrases and sentences that can easily enable a non-native speaker to speak with natives relatively quickly.
An introductory scenario as an example
In order to demonstrate a working example, I will provide a dialogue that is applicable whenever a person meets another person for the first time. In this example, I will use Arabic and English. Arabic will represent the foreign language as English is my native language. I will use a Latin transliteration to write the Arabic text.
Non-native: Assalamu Alaikum - Peace be upon you
Native: Wa alaikum salam - and peace be upon you
Non-native: Kayfa haaluk (كَيفَ حالُك)? - how are you?
Native: Alhamdulillah bikhayr (بِخَير) wa anta? - All Praise to Allah I am well and you?
Non-native: bikhayr alhamdulillah - I am well, All Praise to Allah
(It is at this point that a native speaker may be intrigued by your ability to converse in their language. They may either ask you a question or you can follow up with a question to them)
Native: hal tatakallam alarabiyyah (lughatul arabiyyah) (هَل تَتَكَلَّم العَرَبِيّة)? - Do you speak Arabic (the Arabic language)?
Non-native: na3m(1), atakallam Qaleel (2) - I speak a little
Native: min ayna anta? - where are you from?
Non-native: ana min oorubbaa wa anta? - I am from Europe and you?
(If you are in an Arab country, it goes without saying that the Arabic-speaking person is most likely from that country. However, they could also be immigrants themselves...)
Native: ana min Sooriya - I am from Syria
(It is important to avoid being 'led' in the conversation as you will inevitably be asked a question or hear a phrase which you don't understand)
Non-native: hal tatakallam alingleeziyyah? - Do you speak English?
Native: na3m/laa/qaleel - yes/no/a little
(Two important points to note here is that 1) The conversation may not flow as indicated above and 2) If it does, then context will apply next. Both these issues will be addressed below)
(1) the 3 represents the 'ain'/ع throat letter (2) the Q represents ق pronounced from the throat like 'qaw'
What to do when getting stuck
You are likely to come across many scenarios where you don't understand what the native speaker is saying. In these situations, it is important to know how to say the following phrases to be able to continue the conversation in the foreign language whilst being able to understand at the same time.
la fahimtuk (لا فَهِمتُك) - I did not understand you fahimt (فَهِمتُ) - Understood marratan ukhraa bi-buT'aa(3) min fadhlik (مَرّةً أُخرى مِن فَضلِك) - can you repeat slowly please (the literal meaning is: once again slowly please) hal yumkinuka an tatakallam hadha fil ingliziyyah? - can you say that in English? kayfa aQool(4) hadha ... fil arabiyyah? - how do I say this ... in Arabic? (insert English phrase at ...) madha ta3nee - what do you mean? maa ma3naa ... ? - what means ... ? (you can insert the word you don't know, eg. maa ma3naa kitaabun?) hal yumkinunaa an natakallam fil ingliziyyah al'aan? - can we speak in English now?
(3) The T represents the letter ط pronounced like 'saw', hence 'taw' (4) the Q represents ق pronounced from the throat like 'qaw'
Context 1: the most important verbs
In daily conversation, it is normal to use verbs in the first person, I, the second person, you, and less commonly the third person, he and she. It is also less common but applicable to use the first person, we.
It is difficult to objectively create a list of frequently used verbs. A simple internet search also reveals many websites testing anywhere from 50 to 100 verbs. This is too much for a beginner to learn. Therefore, I will list no more than 15 to 20 verbs based on their usage alone as well as their usage together in basic conversation. Certain languages (like Arabic) have morphological changes. Therefore, I will list these verbs in a table (based on the example).
Arabic also has two special verbs used in certain questions. The meaning of these two verbs is:
can or is it possible to (يمكن)
Able or able to (يستطيع)
These verbs also require conjugation as above. This is left to the reader.
Knowing these verbs and their conjugations alone is minimally beneficial. It is important to know how to combine these verbs together as well as use them with the appropriate nouns.
Context 2: A much longer intro by a fascinated native
(Full translations won't be provided as the reader should be able to piece together the meanings)
N = Native NN = Non-native
N: limadha tata3allama alarabiyyah? (why ...?) NN: ureedu an afhamu(5) alQur'an N:
(5) Arabic uses a particle called 'an' which means 'to' and is placed between two verbs. The two verbs need to match in their conjugation. So, a literal meaning here would be: I want to (I) understand.
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