khanna3bur!




'You've been married how long?' asks my husband's relative.
'Two years,' I reply.
She arches a perfectly-shaped eyebrow and says: 'wa lamma al-7ayn maa titkallamiin kuwaytii?' (wa lem-al-hain ma tit-kel-em koo-way-tee)
'Nope,' I reply.

Brits famously don't learn languages. So what happens when you get a Brit who really wants to learn Kuwaiti?
You have to make out as if you don't speak English.
Obviously this is kind of an impossibility if everyone already knows you're, well, fluent in English. This is where role play comes in. It sets the tone of necessity that I've realised is so crucial to learning a language. It can however, lead to absurdity.

'inzayn,' (in-zain) I said to Theyab one day while out on a walk. 'Today I'm only going to speak to you in Kuwaiti.'
'But you're already speaking English,' he points out.
'No, but I just needed to explain. Now I've explained. Only speaking Kuwaiti, starting ... now. 7aalan.' (haa-len)
'inzayn,' he said.
An awkward silence fell. We're now standing at a pedestrian crossing on a busy street. The green man appears and the cars stop. The green man flashes, once, twice, thrice ... and then becomes red again. Theyab and I still standing on the same side of the pavement.
'laysh maa tabiin ta3buriin?' Theyab asks. (leish ma tab-een ta-bor-een)
'ta3buriin?' I repeat uncertainly, not recognising the word.
'ba3bur al-7ayn," he says (bah-ber al-hain) and starts to cross the street, then calls over his shoulder, 'ya aallah!" (yalla)
Finally understanding, I run to catch up with him, crying out my newly-learned word of the day: 'khanna3bur!' (han-naa-ber)