Reflections on Language and Culture: Egypt

peopleIf the connection between language and culture interests any of you, then you may enjoy reading this. I decided to write it down just so I would have it, but then thought that I should share it with everyone too in case any of you may find it interesting as well.

If anyone is interested in the interconnectedness between language and culture, it is readily apparent in Middle Eastern cultures. In the time that I have been here in Egypt, I have come across the usage of two phrases in particular that are used with, what to me is, astonishing frequency. The two phrases which I speak of are insha’Allah and hamdulaley (I have no idea if that is the right transliteration or not, but that is what they sound like to me.) For those that don’t know, the phrase insha’Allah is probably best translated as “God willing” and the phrase hamdulaley is probably along the lines of “praise God.” Both these phrases are used by everybody in Egypt that I’ve met, whether the person is Egyptian or a foreigner, a Muslim or a Christian, probably even the Buddhists and atheists here use the phrases. It is not the fact that the phrases are used, however, which is so unique, but the circumstances to which the phrases are applied.