/ˈlaNGɡwij/ . noun
the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.

During my experience of moving to the U.S. I started experiencing how complex language is.
More specifically how my own brain deals with language. Growing up speaking both English and Arabic interchangeably with ease, I have grown used to how I move from one language to another with so much ease that I wasn't conscious of the process as it was happening. The beauty of these two languages in particular is that my brain can read from right to left (arabic) and from left to right (english). sounds cool no? scientists say bilingual kids are smarter and that's my only solace when my brain is confused and overwhelmed dealing with language.
Contemplating language I also remembered how during my teenage years my friends and I used franco-arabic (using English letters to communicate Arabic words) to text each other so I also grew used to using this chatting hybrid system of both languages. As I grew older I started typing more in Arabic, using it for chatting even! When it was time to buy a new macbook for college I wanted an English+Arabic keyboard on mine. I wanted to keep using both languages in their original form when I needed to. I found it important to have this option.
When I was in the U.S., with everyone around me speaking primarily English, I realized that with my friends who speak Arabic and English back home I can use both languages freely and know I will be understood fully but in the U.S. my brain was constantly going through an internal (and eternal) process of translation. I feel it more profoundly when I see something and think about it in Arabic but have to say it in english. Most of the words that came to mind in Arabic were not daily things I use, but rather food and things in nature. I relate to things in nature in my mother tongue. Moreover, sometimes I encounter a disorienting but funny glitch; I would remember a word in English and not remember it in Arabic or vice-versa. Sometimes, I don't remember the name of a thing either languages and my system just freezes.

This project started as a result of a recurring event that I first didn't register as a 'thing' and then realized how illustrative it was of my experience with language. The default shortcut on the macbooks to switch between both arabic<>english keyboards was cmd+space (changed with the latest software update for some reason). I would have to switch endlessly between both when I'm chatting with a friend in Arabic, while working on a school paper in English. Most times, I use the shortcut and everything works just fine, but sometimes I would forget to switch, maybe hit the wrong keys or the system itself glitches. I would continue using the wrong keyboard and things would look something like this 'During the Renaissance, the artist was ش وثقث خزسثقدثق' and it would take me a split of a second to realize what happened, smile, backspace, cmd+space and write it again. I then started realizing that my brain also experiences thing glitch thing. My brain is also endlessly doing a mental cmd+space to switch between both languages.
Back to Top