Born and raised in Kuwait, one is very grateful for the ability to converse with a multitude of people from different parts of the globe on a daily basis: different regions, different customs, different dialects and different mindsets.
To me, Kuwait has always been a country of samples; you get to sample the entire world by having associates, acquaintances, colleagues and friends from every corner of the globe. You meet people from the Arab World, the Indian Sub-Continent, the Far East, Europe, the Americas and Canada as well as other regions of the Gulf. All from the comfort of our own little desert oasis.
Given the multitude of cultures available, it is notable that certain phrases and words that mean one thing in one area can mean something different entirely, if not the opposite, elsewhere in the world.
For example, the one commonality between all Arab countries is the fact that they speak Arabic. Initially, I was under the impression that the only difference was merely the accent and dialect. I was also under the false impression that all Indians spoke one language, and that much like Arabic, all languages spoken in India merely differed in accents and dialects.
I was severely mistaken on both accounts. As the difference between languages spoken in different parts of India is as vast as the difference between Arabic and Spanish.
I digress. The difference between the spoken Arabic in every other Arab country is astounding. I am reminded of the time I was attempting to obtain my driver’s license in Kuwait (specifically, attempt number 3 out of 5) where the officer came up to me and barked an order which I heard as “battel the car” (spoken in Arabic, this merely denotes the word spoken). In my understanding, that first word means stop or turn off, as the car was already turned off, I merely replied “yes”. The officer began to raise his voice, visibly angered, “I said battel the car!” he ordered! I replied, agitated, “it is! See, it’s not working!”
Upon failing me for the 3rd time, I was slow to discover that in Kuwait, the word “battel” (emphasis on the T) actually meant START!
The Kuwaiti word for rice is “aesh” (not to be confused with the Arabic word for ‘what’ which is aish). Where I come from, aesh is bread. Imagine the shock of being in a restaurant and ordering a platter of kebabs and requesting bread only to find it arriving with rice (this has not happened to me or anyone that I know for that matter, although it is a possibility).
In Lebanon, the word “aa’yet” means to call out, or shout, for someone. In other parts of the world, it means to cry, as in tears.
Kuwait, a country that draws expats from every known corner of the Arab World and binds them together in the workplace, in activities, friendships etc makes it very easy for miscommunication to occur. At times it is rather comical, and at others, it is most unfortunate (key in my 3rd flunk at the DMV).
Despite all these apparent differences in cultures and dialects, bridges are built and deep seeded friendships are struck between people from different parts of the world. And to me, that is what makes Kuwait special; I have yet to travel to the UK or USA, however the very English I use to communicate on a daily basis and to write in, commended by a few I have encountered, is 110% the product of Kuwait (and of course, the English Schools I attended).
It has been stated by scientists that those who speak at least two languages are better at multitasking and can offset dementia by at least 5 years, as opposed to their unilingual counterparts.
Invest the time to learn a second language. You will thank yourself later.