Language Barrier

Learning a whole new language can be pretty intimidating and challenging. For some people learning a new language is not a choice, some times it can be a means for survival. Moving to a whole new country is frightining having to adapt to a new lifestyle and culture not to mention the feeling of being lost and not being able to understand basic information.

My first encounter with a new language was when I moved to the USA at 13 years of age. Although I had my rough and shaky moments with the language, it didn’t take long for me to learn it. However, as I grew older, I took for granted my new founded language and dismissed the challenges that many in the USA have with it, especially with older people. There were many people who had spent decades living in the USA and still were not able to speak English and I could grasp my mind around that.

Until now, living in Egypt for almost 2 years and my Arabic is, I will put into words of one of my students, ” You don’t speak Arabic, you speak broken”. It’s common to think that learning a new language is the only challenge that one might have. But we are totally wrong, here are some of the challenges I’ve faced from having to learn a new language.

  • You are not yourself anymore! You are not able to make a joke, have deep intellectual conversation and express your feelings.
  • You might take certain facial expression, intonation or even some misunderstood meaning offensive. Often times when people asked me to repeat what I have said, I take it personally, as i they are mocking my Arabic, don’t ask me why that is but it happens all the time.
  • It can impact yourself esteem. When, I first started learning Arabic, I was so enthusiastic and proud of myself but as time went by there was an incident, where one person was being aggressive towards me and I was not able to defend myself, leaving me to feel useless in that situation.
  • Not everyone is nice to you during your learning journey. Many people don’t understand that you are not a local and can unintentionally contribute towards your insecurity with the language.
  • You feel isolated and incarcerated. What I mean by isolation is that you might have people around you but you are not able to make a deep connection because you can’t talk about your values, mission and build a common bond.
  • Incarcerated by your thoughts not being able to be express the right way. Sometimes you want to engage in political or philosophical topics but you can’t because your vocabulary in the new language does not allow you to.
  • Some times you just feel plain stupid. Yes, you might carry even a PhD degree but in a new language you might talk like a 3-year-old.
  • If you are in a room and everyone is talking in a foreign language at some point, you will think they are talking about you making you feel uncomfortable all the time
  • It is possible to spent years in a county and not speak the language. I used to think of this as something strange but now it’s happening to me. I try as much as possible to go places where I know someone will speak English or try to avoid situations where I would have to come out of my comfortable zone.

However, these struggles don’t even compare with the enormous amount of blessings and experiences that you will have by moving to whole different country and learning a language completely out of your comfortable zone. If I could give you advice if you are in the same situation as I am, would be to open your mind and try to be as unbiased as possible with a new culture. Don’t compare your culture with another one, just take the new culture for what it is. Try to use as much as you know from the new language in your daily life to build fluency and confidence. You will gain an enormous amount of knowledge that no books or school can provide you with.

I am not writing this post to discourage you from learning a new language or even moving to a new country. The purpose of this post is to first letting you know that if you are struggling with moving to a new country or learning a new languages and do experience some of these feelings then you are not alone. Also, another reason for this post is letting you know how some people might be feeling learning a new language that we might take for granted and how they are coping with having to move to a new country. I certainly didn’t pay much attention to this phenomenon until I myself walked in these shoes.

Let me know if you are leaving in a new country completely different from your norm. If so, do you have some struggles and what are some of them? Are you learning a new language and what is it? Comment bellow if you  have some tips for learning a new language or coping with a new culture.




Ramadan Series-Day 18

I found this article bellow from and had to share it.

How does Ramadan affect Egyptian economy?

Market hype, gigantic TV Series budgets and EGP30 billion spent on food has prompted people to call for cutting down luxuries during the holy month.

Digital and traditional media are busy with calls for cutting down the purchase of luxury goods during Ramadan in an attempt to save foreign currency.

Ramadan is a high season for importing goods especially food commodities. This year merchants reported less imports as they predicted low consumption rates due to lower pound value and rising prices.

It is clear Ramadan has a different nature than the rest of the year, but in what arenas does it affect Egypt’s economy? The answer is fourfold.

1- Business:

In most public and private enterprises the working hours are reduced by (a maximum of) two hours during Ramadan. Managers also reported low productivity rates of employees that reaches between 30-35% besides many companies postponing events and decisions till after the holy month.

Trading in the stock markets typically slows down during Ramadan as the trading hours are usually reduced by one hour.

2- The Market:

Unlike business, the market gets a boost during Ramadan especially the food division.

Ramadan in Egypt is highly characterized by higher consumption of food products leading to higher prices and higher profit margins for merchants. It is true that high consumption can lead to economic growth, however it’s a short term/seasonal growth in this case.

A study by the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) affiliated with the cabinet had stated that the average Egyptian family spending on food is EGP 200 billion per year, 30 billion of these are during Ramadan. Leading to recording 70% more consumption than any other month.

Restaurants and Cafes report an average of 80% increase in their customers, especially these that offer entertainment.

In April CBE assigned $120 million for importing food products to prepare for Ramadan.

3- TV Series and Advertising:

As the Hollywood of the Middle East, Egypt is known for exporting series and the peak of series’ production is none but Ramadan. Critics claimed that this year’s productions exceeded 70 series and shows with a budget that surpassed EGP 2.5 billion.

4- Charity:
Ramadan also represents the peak season for charity organizations as after the whole month it declines again. Banks have already started since May preparing for receiving donations. 57357 Hospital, Magdy Yacoub foundation, Misr Al-Khair, Egypt’s Food Bank and many others are among the most famous charities receiving donations in Ramadan.

Ramadan Series-Day 17

I used to roll my eyes upon hearing my friends telling stories of Ramadan in their home countries. Part of my attitude was due to ignorance, not knowing what Ramadan was like in a Muslim country. The other was triggered by jealously upon hearing stories about family gatherings and traditions that I was not able to create with my non Muslim family.

This is my second Ramadan in Egypt and I must say that my friends were right, celebrating this month in a Muslim country is very different than in the United States. However, there are both cons and pros being in these two countries during the holy month.

Pros of Ramadan in Egypt;

  • The whole country evolves around this month. People are able to go to work a little later and/or come home early to break their fast. Image result for ramadan in egypt
  • The streets are lighten with Ramadan decorations.
  • After breaking the fast, the streets are filled with excitement and movement.
  • Eating many traditional foods and sweets
  • People are more prosperous towards each other. This month is also a great month for giving charity. Therefore, people make a great effort to feeding the poor, giving money to beggars and donate unwanted stuff.
  • There is less chaos during the hours of fasting.
  • Family/friends visiting each other to break the fast together.
  • Three days off to celebrate the end of Ramadan

Image result for ramadan in egypt


Image result for ramadan in egypt

Cons of Ramadan in Egypt:

  • The daily routines get thrown out of the window. People stay up in the late hours at night and wake up super late.
  • The heat is beyond unbearable.
  • People tend to eat a lot and unhealthy during this month defeating the purpose of eliminating excess consumption and building empathy for those who do not have food to eat on a daily basis.
  • There is a stigma for eating in public for the people that exempt from fasting, for example, if you are a pregnant woman, breastfeeding mother, sick, on the menstruation cycle or even a Christian it is very hard to eat in public without judgment.
  • As a woman, you are not able to assist the Friday prayer and the extra prayer at the mosque

Pros of Ramadan in United States:

Image result for ramadan in united states

  • Routine, the fact that it is Ramadan does not change the daily duties and responsibilities that need to be preformed. Although, the country does not change to support the Muslims during this month, actually can have great benefits, such as being organized on what you need to do towards your Islamic practices throughout the day and how one is going to accomplish the goals one sets for himself during this month.
  • Getting invited to friend’s house and enjoying a different culture and traditions while breaking the fast.
  • Going to the mosque and praying the extra prayer as a woman.
  • More changes to demonstrate Islam in a positive away and break the misconceptions seen in the media. Image result for ramadan in united states
  • No judgment if a Muslim is walking down the street holding a cup of coffee.

Cons of Ramadan in the United States:

  • No understanding from your job if you all the sudden are less productive and tired at work.
  • Breaking the fast during break time which sometimes consist of a 30 minute break, where we have to eat, drink and pray.
  • Life doesn’t stop in this month so if one is not organized, one can loose many opportunities for extra good deeds, charity and prayers.
  • No payed holiday for celebrating the end of Ramadan unless one uses his own vacation or personal time.
  • Not hearing the call for prayer and enjoying the Quran being recited in the streets.
Disclaimer:These are my personal experiences in both of the countries during Ramadan. It isn’t by any means a whole representation each of these countries.

P.S: I would love to hear what Ramadan is like where you live. Comment down bellow, where you are currently living and what are your Ramadan traditions.