Becoming Filipino in One Month

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One of the primary ideas driving me in life is the idea of mindhacking.

Mindhacking is the term i like to use for probing the pathways and currents of cognition, learning, perception, awareness, emotions, and so forth, and to find the tricks, methods, and principles which allow for the most effective and efficient navigation, manipulation, and evolution of these aspects of consciousness. Travel is a very effective method for both uncovering the nature of the mind as well as for exploiting new pathways to growth and change within it.

So as this year will be a year of predominantly travel (which you can read more about in my prior post here), it will give me a chance to put my money where my mouth is. I will begin with the Middle East in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with family, but afterwards I’m on to the Philippines for a month to stay with an old friend in the heart of Manila and to attempt to hack my mind into thinking, speaking, and acting as a native Filipino to the fullest extent one month will allow for.

But of course this trip will require funds; funds which i have few of. Thus i humbly ask the internet and the blogosphere to help in any way you can. I will post about the developments of the travels extensively and will attempt to vlog as well. The insights into language and culture will be paramount, but my observations of my own consciousness throughout the new experiences and experiments will feature prominently as well.

So please check out my Trevolta for the trip and donate! Any amount is appreciated, and $15 or more will get you a copy of my ebook on language learning upon its completion this spring!

2014: Year of Travel, Languages, and Pushing the Limits of Learning

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This year i will be greatly expanding my creative and scholarly works and attempting to push the limits of my mind and being. 2013 proved to be an excellent year for my seeds of productivity to take root. I have grown exponentially into myself, and am ready for that to extend beyond myself and into the world. This year will be a grand experiment of the limits of my will to learn, grow, and create, and it is my intention to document through written word and video alike the developments and progressions as they come.

I will be attempting to every day meditate, exercise, and to once again sleep polyphasically (I’ll be starting with an Everyman cycle with 4.5 hr core nap and two 20-min power naps). In addition to these general lifestyle changes my intended to-do list is pretty extensive.

I hope to:

-Record an album of my own solo-music

-Record an album with my old band Nightwalk

-To finish the final 40+ credits i need for my BA through self-study alone and to take the GRE

-To write an ebook on language learning

-To organize all of my writings over the years in such a way that i can begin to compile books and more developed theses to pursue research of

-To learn how to cook fairly well a wide variety of American and international foods

-To get my Spanish, French, Esperanto, German, and Arabic up to C1-level in the European Framework of Reference for Languages or 4 in the FBI Language Proficiency Scale (in other words, functionally fluent, though not to mastery); To become conversationally capable (B2 in CEFR; 2+ in FBI) in Tibetan, Portuguese, Tagalog, and Ojibwe; And to become at least slightly less so conversational (B1 and 2 respectively) in Quechua, Aymara, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, and Sranantongo.

-Travel to the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) to study the Qur’an, Arabic calligraphy, cooking, music, and culture while visiting with my family;

-Travel to the Philippines to visit an old childhood friend of mine and to learn Tagalog;

-While visiting my family’s cottage in Canada to spend time on the nearby Ojibwe Island reserve and learn about their culture and language extensively;

-To travel with my best friend to his home country of Colombia, and to then travel through the continent of South America through hostels and couchsurfing, paying particular emphasis on spending time with indigenous cultures (especially Quechua and Aymara, with the hope of helping to preserve their culture), and paying our way through busking, internet entrepreneurship, and odds-and-ends jobs for extra cash, food, lodging, and travel.

-To document and record in some detail through video and written word my travels, music, and studies throughout the year, in order to track my progress for myself and to inspire others.

Perhaps a tad ambitious, but i firmly believe in the awesome capacity of the human mind. If i achieve a fraction of these, it will be a most successful year.

If you wish to support these endeavors of mine, please subscribe and check in regularly to learn of my progress. Soon i’ll be posting a trevolta (croud-funding travel site) link for the trip to the Philippines and in May i’ll be posting the trevolta for my South America trip.

Thank you for your support and readership!

-J. Ibrahim Abuhamada

The Grammatical and Stylistic Similarities between Spanish* and Arabic: A Brief Comparative Grammar

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Many people are familiar with the fact that the Arabs controlled or maintained a cultural presence in Spain for about 900 years (If not, i recommend you give this wiki page about it a quick look-over). It should be of no surprise then to learn of the Arabic influence on the developing Iberian tongue. This of course has been well documented of the Spanish lexicon, and it has been estimated that about 8% of the Spanish vocabulary is of Arabic origin — no small amount when considering that’s about one in every twelve words. These words include such important daily terms as:

  • Sp. hasta: until, even, to, through. From Ar. ḥatta (حتى)
  • Sp. azul: blue. From Ar. Azraq (ازرق)
  • Sp. loco: crazy. From Ar. lawqa “fool.”
  • Sp. ¡ole! (or olé): The most famous expression of approval, support or encouragement, possibly comes from Ar. wa-llah (و الله): by Allah (God)!
  • Sp. cero: zero. From Ar. sifr (صفر)
  • Sp. café: coffee. From Ar. qahwa (قهوة)
  • Sp. tarea: task. From Ar. ṭaríḥa root(طرح), “to throw”.

Here’s a full list of Spanish vocabulary with an Arabic origin.

The familiar vocabulary words will be a welcome sight for any Spanish speaker attempting to learn Arabic or vice versa, but there are many similarities of stylistics and grammar that will be notable as well. Oddly enough, counter-intuitively, these are all almost entirely coincidental and have essentially nothing to do with influence of Arabic on Spanish. These are the 10 most notable similarities i’ve found, so far (some of which are actually common in other languages, too):

  1. Surprisingly similar definite articles: Sp. “el/la”, Ar. “al”.
  2. Similar flexible syntax of VSO (verb-subject-object) and SVO (sub.-verb.-obj) in various contexts. Summarized in this excerpt from the wikipedia on the subject: “Both the Spanish and Greek language resemble Semitic languages such as Arabic in allowing for both VSO and SVO structures: e.g. “Jesús vino el jueves” / Vino Jesús el jueves, “Tu madre dice que no vayas”/”dice tu madre que no vayas”. In Spanish, the only restriction on the VSO form is for the object to require a definite or indefinite article in the sentence.”
  3. The word for “there is/are” is a single word which is treated less like a verb or noun, and more like a preposition of sorts, and is unrelated to the demonstrative pronouns. The usage and connotation is exactly the same: “hay” in Spanish and “fī” in many colloquial variants of Arabic.
  4. The conjunction “or” is expressed with “o/u” in Spanish and “aw” in Arabic, which in normal speech is pronounced very similarly.
  5. An arbitrary gender system for nouns and adjectives, with the feminine marked by a suffixed “a” sound, in Arabic called the “taa marbuta” (ة).
  6. Suffixed direct and indirect object pronouns. Ex.: “Tell me it” Sp. Dímelo, Ar. Qul-li-ha : the exact same morpho-semantic units, with simply different sounds making them up.
  7. A comparative-superlative adjective system which depends on a combination of context, word order, and the definite article to convey one or the other. Ex.: Sp. Fátima es la más alta. Ar. Fatima hiya aṭwal فاطمة هي أطول (gloss: Fatima she[-is] taller[-one].)
  8. The use of adjectives as nouns. Arabic actually views nouns and adjectives as effectively the same thing, because an adjective literally would translate as a noun + adjective, so “beautiful” (jamīl جميل) would literally be “beautiful-one”. Spanish appears to have a similar view of adjectives. Ex.: Sp. La joven; aquel viejo; este ciego; los altos están allí; etc.
  9. Common omission of the subject pronoun of a sentence due to the precision of verb conjugations–the use of pronouns being mainly for emphasis or formality.
  10. N-final plural verb conjugations. Ex.: Sp. Ellos/ellas/ustedes hacen; Ar. They (m.) do: yafʿulūn يَفْعُلُونَ; You (m. pl.) do: tafʿulūn تَفْعُلُونَ; they two (dual 3rd person): yafʿulān يَفْعُلاَنِ. (And of course these conjugation patterns apply to all the verbs of the languages).

Wikipedia mentions this as a non-coincidental influence of Arabic on Spanish grammar:
The suffix í: Arabic has a very common type of adjective, known as the nisba or relationship adjective, which is formed by adding the suffix -ī (masc.) or ية -iyya (fem.) to a noun. This has given Spanish the suffix -í (both masc. and fem.), creating adjectives from nouns which indicate relationship or belonging. Examples are Marbellí, Ceutí, Maghrebí, Zaragocí, Andalusí or Alfonsí.

I hope that this information with all prove useful to anyone studying Arabic or Spanish with a knowledge of the other language! Starting at the common ground, i find, tends to be the fastest, most effective way to learn a new language.

– J. Ibrahim Abuhamada

*I’m not certain, due to my ignorance of the language in depth, but i would assume most, if not all of these similarities apply to Portuguese as well.