I came across a nice blog today that I hadn’t seen before, called ‘Inanities’, by a Cairo-based half-Egyptian half-British writer and journalist (I guess that’s what she is) named Sarah Carr. She has an amusing and insightful essay on being a “half breed” in Egypt and how Egyptians view her and half-Egyptians more generally. I like what she says but have to part company with her on one point. She laments (or seems to) that Egyptians don’t consider her a “real” Egyptian and for all sorts of reasons, one of them being that she speaks Arabic only “semi-brokenly and with an accent”… I’m sorry but speaking the national language—and whatever the nation—at least fluently (if not natively) is a precondition for being considered a member of the national community. And even for nations that have a universal conception of citizenship and nationality (e.g. America, France). If I were, say, to meet an American citizen who only spoke rudimentary English, I would ask that person how on earth s/he became an American and, that as far as I was concerned, s/he wasn’t really one. Juridically maybe, but not really.
So my advice to Sarah is to get cracking on her Arabic. Both standard and colloquial.