Friday, May 14, 2004

Eman: Why Do U Speak Tunisian?

This is a question I’ve been asked over and over again. Almost everyone poses it to me. Tunisians ask why I speak their dialect rather than mine. Non-Tunisians ask about the reasons for me to speak Tunisian.
Some look at it as being ashamed of my dialect, or being afraid of identified as a foreigner, or trying to be someone who I’m not.
But the fact is, I speak Tunisian because I am strong. Yes, when I first arrived, I didn’t know the Tunisian dialect that well, therefore I limited using it to certain emergency situations. But after a short while, I got to know it better and now I speak it fluently. Most of the people don’t recognize I’m not Tunisian unless from the looks, or if the conversation was long…lol, there there has to be some words that jump out of my mouth pronounced in a weird way ;)
Anyway, I am proud of who I am, and I adore my dialect. But I learned Tunisian and I speak it for many reasons. First I made a little comparison, I was like: if a Tunisian wants to buy something from a shop in Jordan, and he goes on asking in Tunisian, it’ll either result in total shock for the Jordanian, or a misunderstanding. So if that Tunisian wants to live in Jordan, get a cab, go to university, buy stuff… etc, he has to know Jordanian to avoid complications and misunderstandings.
Another reason is, by learning Tunisian, I get to understand what people say to me, what they say about me, in short, even if it’s not me who’s speaking, I’ll get to understand everything in the conversation. On the other hand, and as it is the case in all parts of the world, foreigners get lied to, people think they’re tourists for example, and go on cheating in the prices of stuff. Therefore, and although many people recognize I’m not Tunisian from my looks and the tone of my voice, but still speaking to them in their dialect shows them that I’ve been living here for a while and therefore I know what’s write from wrong and they wont have the courage to fool me.
Another reason is that I want my kids to speak their dad’s dialect… as well as mine ;) And I can’t get them to speak it if I myself don’t!
Last but not least, there are people who are not that open to other cultures and have no idea what our dialect means, therefore it’s nonsense to go on speaking a dialect they wont understand.
But what really gets me laughing, is the reaction of people to the truth. When I speak my dialect they go like: “no you’re Tunisian now, you should know how to speak our dialect”. And when I speak Tunisian they go like: “why? Do you think we’re too stupid to understand your dialect? It’s all Arabic!” And some just love hearing my dialect!!
Anyway, it’s not people’s who choose, it’s me, therefore I made my own rules concerning when I should speak the Tunisian dialect, and when should I speak mine.
So basically now I speak my dialect with my husband, among in-laws, friends, and people I know would understand my dialect because of their position that involves them with other cultures and other dialects. But when I’m in a taxi, or in a store downtown, or at work, or on the phone, I use the Tunisian dialect to avoid being unclear, and so that I wont have to tell my life story to anyone from the street: I’m from.., originally … but I live here coz…. I just cut it short, say what I want, get it, and that’s it.
That’s why I speak Tunisian, and I am proud of myself for being able to manage in society in the right way, protecting myself, getting my rights, and offending no one :)