Adventures in Arabic, Part III

This week we bring you our third and last entry in the “Adventures in Arabic” series. The content in Parts I, II, and III reflect eight months of elementary study of the Arabic language and include not only linguistic observations of interest but literary, cultural, religious, and strategic ones, too. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Or, that is, شُكْراً (shoo-krahn).

A girl writes Arabic calligraphy on a wall. Image Credit: Nur Meryem Seja on Flickr

A girl writes Arabic calligraphy on a wall. Image Credit: Nur Meryem Seja on Flickr

GRAMMAR

Gender applies here, too.

Remember that binary distinction that you had to make in Spanish class between el niño (boy) and la niña (girl)? Yes, gender appears as frequently and as importantly in Arabic, too. Just like the romance languages, French, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, and more, nouns are divided into two classes, masculine and feminine, and the adjectives that modify them must abide by certain rules to respect the conventions of grammar. Even in English, word pairings like actor/actress, bachelor/bachelorette, god/goddess, host/hostess, waiter/waitress represent a similar concept.

Words belong to families.

A visual word map that traces different manifestations of the root ف-ه-م. Image Credit: Blogger Sawitri from myarabicnotes.blogspot.com

A visual word map that traces different manifestations of the root ف-ه-م (f-h-m). Image Credit: Blogger Sawitri from myarabicnotes.blogspot.com

Consider, for a moment, these groups or “families” of words below:

happy, happily, happiness, unhappily

interest, interesting, disinterested, uninterested

simple, simplify, simplistic, simply

In English, we have a base form of a word that provides a sort of template for additional suffixes and prefixes that we affix to its beginning or ending to establish new meanings. As outlined in the initial text used for Arabic 201, Alif Baa by Kristen Brustad, et al, in Arabic, “words are usually formed from a core of three consonants that constitute [their] basic meaning[s], called the root[s] of the word[s]. Words are formed by putting roots into different patterns or syllable structures” (207). For example, the root ب ت ك (k-t-b) will always address something in relation to the act of writing or the written word; the root س ر د (d-r-s) will always address studying; and ع – م – ج  (j-m-3*) will always address groups or plurality. These roots are organized in different patterns and coupled with various short vowels to indicate nouns, verbs, people, adjectives, and more.

k-t-b,  aktab (I write), maktaba (library), kitaab (book)

d-r-s, tadros (she studies)dars, (lesson), madrasa (school)

j-m-3*, aljamaعa (Friday), jaamiعa (university), tajmع (group)

SCRIPT

Transliterations are approximations.

A transliteration involves using the script of one language to write another. Unlike the Latin or Roman script used to write English, the Arabic script does not have letters for “p,” “v” or “x.” So, writing “Patricia,” “Victor,” and/or “Xavier” pose unique challenges. “P” and “v” are typically substituted by the Arabic letter “ب” (baa) while “اكس” (iks) is used to establish the sound of “x.” Accordingly, to make additional negotiations, “Champaign” is written as  “شمبين” (shambeen); “Europe” is “أوروبا” (oorooba) and “Harvard” is written as “هارفرد” (harfard). Also note that there is no capitalization in Arabic.

 The Arabic script can appear to be more “dainty” than the Roman script.

Take these words for example, all typed without any formatting and in the same size font. The Arabic words appear to be more condensed as they take up less space.

dog كلب

cat قطة

 fish سمك

Print vs. handwriting

There is a difference between reading a standardized font in print and reading someone’s cursive handwriting. This distinction would seem obvious as, inter-culturally speaking, even handwriting in English differs in appearance from language in print. See below:

A typed grocery list, from right-to-left and top-to-bottom: milk, eggs, strawberries, sugar, flour, banana, orange, meat, chicken, fish, dates, gum, eggplant, wipes, soap, juice, honey, watermelon, ice cream (a transliteration), chocolate (a transliteration).

A typed grocery list, from right-to-left and top-to-bottom. It reads: “milk, eggs, strawberries, sugar, flour, banana, orange, meat, chicken, fish, dates, gum, eggplant, wipes, soap, juice, honey, watermelon, ice cream [a transliteration], chocolate [a transliteration]”.

The same grocery list, as above, but in handwriting. See the previous image’s caption for a translation of the listed items.

The same grocery list as above, handwritten. See the previous image’s caption for a translation of the listed items.

 

 CULTURE

Some names are very common.

As in English with names like Michael, Matt, John, Jennifer, Stephanie, and Mary, there are certain names that will appear over and over again in Arabic. Among them are Ahmed, Mahmoud, and Mohammed (Muhammad) for men and Fatima, Khadija, and Salma for women. As in English with names like Mary and Sara, some of these stem from holy texts. Mohammed, for example, and the many derivations thereof, refers directly to the founder of Islam.

You can make yourself a celebrity by reciting the Koran.

In many Islamic societies, the recitation of Koranic verses, or “قراءة (qirat), is a highly prized ability. Many young talents who sing well on shows like American Idol, The Voice, and The X Factor are applauded for their voices; reciting the Koran in some places in the Middle East can garner fame and attention.

STRATEGY

Typing.

If you take learning Arabic seriously, there are some invaluable resources you need to have handy. Some of the greatest of these are the tools used to type the language in the absence of an Arabic-lettered keyboard. Each of the sites below will allow you to type and/or select the letters you need to create Arabic language texts.

A dictionary.

Guess what word is used most frequently in the Arabic language. “The” or “ال” is the first; the twelfth is “God” or “الله”; and the 93rd is “world” or “عالم. With A Frequency Dictionary of Arabic: Core Vocabulary for Learners, students of Arabic can review the words that are most frequently used.

A screenshot of the University of Illinois' Summer Institute of Languages of the Muslim World

A screenshot of the University of Illinois’ Summer Institute of Languages of the Muslim World

Thank you for joining us on our Adventures in Arabic. In addition, we encourage you to study any other language with a script different from your own. In a world of shrinking borders, knowledge of your neighbors will surely be valued in whatever profession you assume. On the University of Illinois campus, Arabic is offered not only through the curriculum but also through short-term IFLIP courses and intensive SILMW courses over the summer. For more posts like these, be sure to like our Facebook page and tune in next semester for more from Glocal Notes and the International and Area Studies Library.

Sports and Sovereignty: An Interview with Antonio Sotomayor

Antonio Sotomayor, PhD, an Assistant Professor and Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian at the International & Area Studies Library at Illinois

This week we speak with our very own Latin and American and Caribbean Studies Specialist Antonio Sotomayor about his debut full-length book The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico. In March 2016, Dr. Sotomayor and his book received an in-depth profile from the Illinois News Bureau in addition to other national and international coverage. Since the 2016 Olympic games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are growing ever nearer, we caught up with the author for a few more questions about this fascinating and little-studied topic.

Glocal Notes: Your book takes as its thesis that national sovereignty can be, more than many other means under colonial rule, expressed through athletics. What are some of the real impacts on politics or public opinion that have occurred as a result of Puerto Rico’s competition and success as a team in internationally?

Antonio Sotomayor: It depends on what you mean by “real.” I view Olympic sport, and sport overall, not only as representative of politics or culture, but as politics as such and as a cultural medium. In that regard, Puerto Rico’s membership as a sovereign nation in the Olympic Movement has “real” implications in the different dynamics involved in the Olympic movement that include international relations, foreign diplomacy, representations of the nation, women’s agency in a patriarchal society, etc. Hence, Olympic participation for Puerto Ricans has given them a voice on several international political issues throughout the existence of the delegation including the Good Neighbor policy, post-WWII reconstructions, different Cold War boycotts, etc. For example, in my book, I dedicate a chapter to the Cold War conflicts that came with Puerto Rico’s hosting of the Central American and Caribbean Games in San Juan in 1966 and discuss the different ways Puerto Ricans navigated Cold War and regional politics in relation to the participation of Revolutionary Communist Cuba. Some Puerto Ricans, as allies of the United States, wanted to exclude the Cuban delegation due to their communist ideologies and were even willing to go against any policy by the U.S. to uphold their beliefs. Other Puerto Ricans – those who sympathized with Communist Cuba – defended their Caribbean “brothers” and were willing to risk their freedom to do this. This event caught the attention of the regional and international media and the resolution involved the direct intermediation of the International Olympic Movement led by an American, Avery Brundage (President of the International Olympic Committee), and a Soviet, A. Andrianov (Vice-President).

GN: The internationally competing Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team is another example of sovereignty through sports. Can you tell us about any other examples of this phenomenon, whether historical, current, or in the planning stages.

AS: The Philippines competed at the 1916 East Asian Games as a sovereign country despite being a U.S. colony. Scotland participates as a sovereign nation in the FIFA World Cup – but with Great Britain at the Olympic Games. Taiwan participates as a sovereign nation at the Olympic Games as Chinese Taipei. On the other hand, the lack of Olympic sovereignty, despite being a cultural nation, can be seen in places like Catalonia, in Spain, which has petitioned to be recognized as an Olympic nation since the early twentieth century. These examples only portray how the Olympic Movement, rather than an apolitical movement focused on entertainment, makes very political decisions by allowing some countries to participate and denying recognition to others.

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Sotomayor, Antonio. (2016) The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

GN: In your opinion, what are Puerto Rico’s chances of becoming a U.S. state or otherwise altering its political status in any way?

AS: Under the current socio-political, economic, and cultural conditions in the United States, I highly doubt that Puerto Rico will become a state of the Union. As for altering its status in any way, we’ll have to keep paying attention.

GN: There has been much in the news lately about Puerto Rico’s economic situation. Can you explain a bit about this?

AS: This is a very complicated issue and given that I’m not an economist, I might be misrepresenting the issue. But in very general terms, Puerto Ricans have had a complicated relationship with the U.S. and have grown increasingly dependent on U.S. markets. This occurred as early as 1898 when the U.S. took possession of the island after the Spanish-American War by transforming the growing local economy to fit U.S. capitalistic market interests. Local capital was destroyed in order to create dependency on U.S. goods and capital. This did not only happen through one-sided U.S. intervention; local capitalists who benefited from the new relations were also involved. Reforms during the mid-twentieth century only brought in further investment by providing tax incentives, a practice that continued until the 1970s. After new free trade agreements allowed U.S. businesses to relocate to cheaper markets, Puerto Rico slowly lost its edge and Congress eliminated the provisions for the tax incentives during a ten-year process, from 1996-2006. The remaining companies that left in 2006, coupled with the Great Recession of 2008,  created a “down-spiral of death” in the economy. Again, I’m oversimplifying the process. I would recommend that those interested in these issues read Judge Juan Torruella’s recent speech at the John Jay School of Law for a brilliant summary of the crisis.

GN: You open your book with a description of the thrill you felt while watching the live broadcast of Puerto Rico’s basketball team as they defeated the U.S. “Dream Team,” 92 points to 73, at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. What are some other important events in Puerto Rican athletic history?

AS: My book is not really a chronicle of great games or great events in Puerto Rican sport history. As a U.S. colony, I think  the greatest event in Puerto Rico’s Olympic history is having an Olympic delegation in the first place, a process negotiated with the most powerful empire the world has known. This story of Olympic agency and will is Puerto Rico’s greatest achievement.

GN: Finally, if our readers ever travel to Puerto Rico, what are some must-do, sports-related activities they should add to their itinerary?

AS: They should attend a professional baseball game during the winter season. The Professional Baseball League of Puerto Rico was established in 1938 and was, along with the one in Cuba, a training ground for some Hall of Fame major leaguers like Willie Mays, Josh Gibson, Perucho Cepeda, and Puerto Rico’s national hero, Roberto Clemente. The league champions participate at the famous Caribbean Series of professional baseball. They should also attend a basketball game of Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional league, the island’s most popular sport along with baseball. At these games, the visitor will experience Caribbean sports, which are full of passion, music, and talent. As for sightseeing, they should visit the Parque Sixto Escobar, an art-deco stadium from 1935, named after Puerto Rico’s first boxing hero. The stadium is next to the popular Escambrón Beach. You can also visit the Casa Olímpica de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico’s Olympic Headquarters. Occupying the original YMCA building, the facility is great for hosting events and has an Olympic gym open to the public. A must-visit is Puerto Rico’s Albergue Olímpico in Salinas. There are athletic facilities to practice many sports and recreational activities. There are also children’s parks and pools, and you can visit Puerto Rico’s Olympic Museum.

Sustainability Around the World

With last week’s observance of Earth Day and the celebration of Arbor Day this Friday, April 29th in the United States, we’ve decided to look a little more closely at the efforts of the world’s most sustainable countries. The Yale Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks countries’ performances on two high-priority environmental issues: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems. The 3 countries that rank highest in EPI score in 2016 are, in order, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. This blog post will celebrate the sustainable progress of these countries and examine what they’re doing to promote the health of the earth and its inhabitants.

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Northern Lights, photo taken from Dave Grubb on Flickr Creative Commons

Finland

According to ThisisFINLAND, produced by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 32% of the total energy use in Finland is renewable energy. The Carbon Neutral Municipalities (Canemu) Project, launched in 2008, brings together five Finnish municipalities committed to cutting their emissions by an ambitious 80% by the year 2030. By switching heating schemes to fossil-free biofuels like woodchips, recycling waste, and thinking creatively about other solutions, the Canemu Project has already made immense progress. Finland’s dedication to sustainability is backed by their commitment to promoting education regarding environmental protection. Environment Online (ENO) is a Finnish interdisciplinary and virtual school that intends to get teachers and students around the world to discuss sustainability and act together. ENO has spread to 5,000 schools around the globe and gets students to learn by doing. Not only does ENO intend to plant 100 million regionally indigenous trees around the world by 2017, but the school also works toward goals of bringing peace to the world through sustainable education and action.

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Fjaðrárgljúfur, photo taken from Andrés Nieto Porras on Flickr Creative Commons

Iceland

Iceland’s dependence on fisheries and exports of seafood make sustainable harvesting of marine resources both an economic and environmental concern. Iceland implements a quota system in fisheries, advocates for an end to pollution of the oceans on a global scale, and takes an active role against persistent organic pollutants. The Icelandic Soil Conservation Service has been thinking sustainably and taking steps to fight soil erosion in the country’s large wilderness areas since 1907. Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is already one of the greenest cities in the world. But it is aiming to take its status a step further by being entirely free of fossil fuels by 2050. The city has a long history of using geothermal energy and has saved an estimated 110m tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere between the years 1944 to 2006. While this success is largely due to the development of the city atop a volcanic region, Reykjavik’s commitment to sustainable living is admirable and something to keep an eye on in the coming years.

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Stockholm, photo taken from Tommie Hansen from Flickr Creative Commons

Sweden

The Swedish Institute stresses that sustainability is a way of life for most Swedes. This lifestyle is demonstrated by several initiatives across many Swedish cities. Sweden made a huge step toward sustainability in the early 1990s when the country switched from oil to district heating, the use of a centralized boiler to provide heat for a number of buildings. The central plant uses clean forms of fuel and also makes use of recycled heat from industries that might otherwise go to waste. Växjö, Sweden was the first city in the world to set a fossil-free goal back in 1996, hoping to reach it by 2030. Växjö encourages urban gardening and cycling, and its public transportation runs on biogas and other forms of renewable energy. Urban farming in allotment gardens is a hobby of Swedes across the country and urban beekeeping has been on the rise. “Passive houses,” which are low-energy buildings that power themselves through the use of energy from people’s body heat, have been popping up in a number of Swedish communities. Stockholm’s Central Station contains a geothermal system that captures body heat from over 250,000 daily commuters. The heat is channeled into water, which is then pumped into the nearby Kungsbrohuset office building to provide heat. The building cools itself with water from nearby Klara Lake.

To learn more about sustainable development around the world, check out the World Sustainable Development Web Archive, hosted by the International & Area Studies Library. Please comment below and let us know of other innovative, sustainable initiatives around the world that you find interesting. And be sure to like our Facebook page for more posts like these!

Honduras Water Project: Part 2

This blog post is a follow-up to a post from last semester about the Honduras Water Project. This course, which provides students the chance to see how learning can have real life applications, is an extremely unique opportunity for students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

UIUC flyer for the Honduras Water Project Course

A University of Illinois flyer for the Honduras Water Project course

The two-semester long course is supported by the College of Engineering and included a research trip to Cerro Verde, Honduras over winter break. A small group of students was accompanied by professors Ann-Perry Witmer and Keilin Jahnke in visiting the small community site. While there we conducted surveys, both technical and social, and also included a health education workshop to work in correlation with our studies from the fall semester and also to aid in our efforts for this spring semester as well.

During our 10 days there, we lived in the community with the local people and stayed in a regional home, living on dirt floors without a shower for 10 days. Through this experience, we were able to see just a small amount of what life is like in the community. We built friendships and mutual respect during our time in Cerro Verde, and we left with new friendships and a greater drive to complete this project of developing a reliable water distribution system. Students representing each of the four divided teams– social, political, water, and structures– carried out various tasks during the trip to collect needed information for the water distribution system, and also to conduct health education workshops in the community.

The UIUC students, faculty, and our friends from our partner NGO, ADEC. photo credit: Jesse Han

The University of Illinois students, faculty, and our friends from our partnering nongovernmental organization, Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC) [Water and Community Development] Photo Credit: Jesse Han

The social team was responsible for conducting household surveys at each of the 46 houses in Cerro Verde. Prior to arriving to Honduras, we created a survey for basic demographic information, household water usage, and overall community health. We interviewed community members from every household in the community. Not only did this provide us with vital information to aid in the construction of the system, but it also allowed us to create relationships with everyone in the community. By the end of the trip, we could not only remember people’s names, but we could also tell you where they lived, how many children they had, and how accessible water was for them.

The Social team conducting household surveys in the community. photo credit: Keilin Jahnke

Two members of the Social team, Wendy Vergara and Ashley Adams, conducting household surveys in the community.
Photo Credit: Keilin Jahnke

The social team also conducted a health education workshop with the help of Oneida Lara Garcia, one of the water quality specialists for our partnering nongovernmental organization, Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC) (Water and Community Development). The workshop was originally intended for children, but was expanded when nearly the entire community came to participate.

When asked about the importance of educational workshops in collaboration with international projects, Wendy Vergara, a sophomore in natural resources and environmental science said,

“It’s easy to overlook some of the resources we have in America. When it comes to early education, we don’t second guess it. Not something you think about because it’s required. It’s a resource that is given and provided to nearly everyone in the States. So when you visit a community like Cerro Verde, who only has one school room for all the children, you start to see the opportunities you have that they don’t. These school rooms are very limited in supplies and staff. The community doesn’t have their own teacher, but instead a teacher from a nearby community volunteers their time. This teacher tries to teach all grades at once, and you can feel how difficult that can be. Educational workshops further develop community members’ skills, and allow for information to be communicated to both children and adults. They provide visual knowledge essential to the community such as chlorinating water. Especially due to minimal literacy rates, some people may misuse products or go by word of mouth, which poses a threat to their health. Workshops can help decrease miscommunication and promote a safe space for them to ask questions.”

 

Children and community members gathered for the health education workshop. photo credit: Jesse Han

Children and community members gathered for the health education workshop.
Photo Credit: Jesse Han

The structures team had the opportunity to do the most hiking out of all the teams, although all of us got good exercise climbing through the mountainous area. They surveyed all the points in the community that could be included in the water distribution system. After finishing, two architecture students were able to create a more accurate map of all the houses on site. The Patronato, or, community leaders, requested a copy to post in their community building as well.

Kelsey Schreiber, a senior in general engineering, when discussing the the biggest challenge for the structures team said,

“The most difficult task. . . was ensuring that all of the homes being serviced were properly accounted for and surveyed. Between finding remote homes, distinguishing between current and future plots, and getting the correct homeowner names, we were never quite sure if we had all the correct information. Similarly, climbing the hills every day was brutal but built character.”

 

The nearly finalized schematic of the water distribution system pipelines throughout Cerro Verde.

The nearly finalized schematic of the water distribution system pipelines throughout Cerro Verde.

The water team spent most of its time at the water source which was higher up in the mountains. They performed various tests for flow rate and water quality to help decide which source would be best suited for the system.

When asked what the most interesting thing about the trip to Cerro Verde was, Rahul Koshy, a junior in molecular and cellular biology said,

“We were exposed to people who grew up in a different culture and lived a different lifestyle, but there was definitely an underlying similarity between these and the people I’ve known all my life. I found that it was really easy to relate to the members of Cerro Verde even though they had a very different background than me. This is a small thing to learn, but it has changed the way I view people on the news, people on the streets, people in my life etc.”

 

The water team taking measurements and doing testing at a potential source. photo credit: Jesse Han

The water team taking measurements and doing testing at a potential source.
Photo Credit: Jesse Han

The political team also had an important job, working with the Patronato. It worked to make sure that there was complete transparency between the community, our class, and the NGO. It is imperative for this course, and for international projects, that the community take ownership of the project and that they are involved in every aspect of the planning, design, and implementation. An exciting accomplishment this year was that for the first time in Honduras Water Project’s history that the political team was able to draft and sign a complete agreement with the community and ADEC while still in Honduras.

Samantha Morrow, a senior in earth, society, and environmental sustainability and also global studies, when asked what benefit there is for having a signed agreement has for the project said, 

“The written agreement is extremely important to the project for multiple reasons. Signing this document while we were in Cerro Verde allowed the Patronato and community to have physical evidence of our commitment to this project. This document keeps all parties accountable for their stated responsibilities and will protect the rights of all parties. Without this document the community might lose faith that this project will move forward or believe that we are not committed to the project. Additionally, this document allows us to hold the community accountable to protecting the system and maintaining its sustainability.”

 

The signed agreement between the community of Cerro Verde, the NGO partner ADEC, and UIUC's Honduras Water Project class.

The signed agreement between the community of Cerro Verde, ADEC, and the University of Illinois’ Honduras Water Project class.

The fall semester of our course consisted of preliminary research and also preparations for the trip in January 2016. This semester we have focused on creating the most appropriate system for the community. Our class has been in constant contact with ADEC, as well as the community regarding every step and decision in the design process. 

Keilin Jahnke is a PhD student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and professor for the course. When asked what benefit can come from spending time in the community that one is working with for an international engineering project, she responded saying,

“It can be easy to sit in a classroom thousands of miles away from the community that you are working with and think of nothing else besides the technical components of the project. But actually experiencing the community, living with the people you are working with, gives you the social and cultural context that is vital for the project’s success. No longer are you just working on an engineering project, you are acting as a consultant to real people who have real lives, real intricacies, real needs.”

 

This course, ENG 398/498: Honduras Water Project, is led every year and is open to all students.It not only teaches you new technical knowledge, but it can also provide new perspectives about approaching international work. It has has encouraged me to pursue a master degree in engineering as these efforts blend STEM and interdisciplinary studies, and always promote a holistic approach towards international projects.

To hear more about the final design for the water distribution system for Cerro Verde come to the John Deere Pavilion onTuesday, May 3, 2016 from 4:00- 6:00 p.m. Everyone is welcome! For additional information, visit the Honduras Water Project website and/or contact Professor Ann-Perry Witmer.

Flyer for our Final Presentation May 3, 2016

Flyer for the course’s final presentation May 3, 2016