Well, I’ve been working hard and practicing a lot on my Arabic. I can read all the letters for the most part, but I still really only know a few words. My conversational Arabic is bad, but it is cool to be able to read the newspaper out loud. I need to get an Arabic speaking friend to sit down and read some kiddie books with me.

We have a TV (gasp, for the first time in years) and most of the channels are in Arabic. The channels that are in English almost always are subtitled in Arabic. This is fun, especially because words that are transliterated are usually set off in parenthesis. Arabic is cool because it is totally phonetic. I’m watching “Adams Family Values” and one of the groups is the Chippewas and in Arabic that is spelled “Tshipawaz.”

The other major insight really made me rethink how I imagine the difference between vowels and consonants. There are only a couple vowels that are written out in Arabic, for the most part only the consonants are written out. One of the vowels that is written out is the “oooo” sound, interestingly, it is also the Arabic equivalent of W. This really confused me for a while, it was the only letter in Arabic that seemed to have two different sounds. (As a native English speaker, we’re totally used to a letter having more than one sound, just think about S, J, H, vowels. . . ) But after a while, I realized that W is actually a vowel and W and “ooo” really are the same letter. This is extra shocking because, with a last name that starts with W, I’ve always considered myself a nice, sturdy consonant name. I never though I would be one of those more flexible letters.

If you think about words that have Ws in them, you can, even in English, frequently substitute “ooo” and get the same word.

Word = Ooord

Dawn = Daooon

Chow = Chaooo

It also works similarly the other way. The word “Oiseau” (bird) in French is pronounced “Wazoh.” The word “once” should really be written “Wonse.”

This was totally shocking to me, but it amazingly makes sense. Oh, how the world suddenly changes with one small and seemingly insignificant realization.