Telling Westerners you’re learning Arabic leads to a number of recurring responses. These range from raised eyebrows and a generic ‘hmm/interesting’ response, to the occasional ‘you’re a journalist so – nod nod wink wink – they do tend to fight a lot don’t they – handy!’
But the most common retort I’ve received since I ventured on this scheme is a general well-meaning but predictable humorous throat-clearing (generally a more thorough throat-clearing than the type I received for years on telling English-speakers that I was studying German). This week I started a course at an institute in Tunis where a number of students – myself and the other English and Italian mother tongue speakers especially – are being forced to grapple with the variety of throat altercations required for correctly pronouncing Arabic once and for all.
So it’s in that light that I post this fantastic guide to which bit of your mouth and throat you should be doing some serious damage to, courtesy of the former hectare of woodland which makes up the mass of photocopied educational material we’ve been given.
Note that little bastard ه which is created right at the bottom of the throat. I would actually contest this guide and suggest it needs to come from the bloody stomach. But I’ll get there, insha’allah, even if the neighbours think I’m killing the local dogs as I practice it.