sábado, 30 de octubre de 2010


One of the benefits of learning a new language is that you gain the ability to view the world differenty. I was in my Arabic (Lebanese) class last week, and I learnt some interesting things about family and succession.

The first thing is that everyone has their Dad’s first name as their middle’s name. Like my Dad’ s name is Guillermo, so in Lebanon I am Maria Guillermo Ortiz.

Another thing I thought was interesting was that if you ask someone about their neighbor Joe you wouldn’t say: “Hey, how’s your neighbor Joe doing?”. This is considered disrespectful. You would actually say “Hey’ how your neighbor, Jack’s Dad doing?”, since Joe has a son named Jack.

Also, there are 3 ways of saying “man”: Rajol, Zalame and Rijjel. And one way to say woman: Mara. And a girl and a daughter is the same word: bent. But a boy is sabi and a son is ibn.

Language is a reflection of the culture, and the emphasis on fatherhood, and “sonhood” is very clear in Lebanese Arabic. But what really blew me away was when I learned that women cannot pass their nationality to their kids or spouses in Lebanon. Only men can do that. So if you are born from a Lebanese man or you marry him, you can be Lebanese, but if your Mum is Lebanese and your Dad isn’t, then you are not Lebanese.

One interpretation of this can be political, since this is a way to control religious “proportions” of the population. Lebanon is managed through a very complex system, called a confessional system, where each religious group has control over certain parts of government and decision-making, depending on their numbers. So in this context, not making foreign men Lebanese would make sense.

But some women are opposing this tradition and starting a movement in Lebanon to change it. International Organizations are supporting them. Check out these links to learn more about the issue:




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