Saturday, December 13, 2008

Arabic dictionary

A reader contacted me recently in connection with the mooted list of Top 1000 Words in Literary and Philosophical Arabic.

Those who have tackled Arabic will know how much time a novice can spend trying out one root after another in an attempt to track down a word. Rob Sides has responded to this annoyance by setting up a searchable Arabic dictionary in Excel, based primarily on Wehr (though other lexicographical contributions are welcome). The dictionary can be seen here; anyone interested in helping to add entries can contact RS here.


nsiqueiros said...

You've lived in Berlin for a few years now, right? On the premise that you are fluent in German, would you say that you think primarily in German? Or do your language based thoughts tend to be directed towards a specific language based on what you are doing at the moment?

Let's say you're having a conversation with two locals in German. Do you think in English and then do a mental translation or does your mind go straight from the pure thought to German? Or is it a mix depending on what you want to say, and if the conversation is more simple and conversational as opposed to a conversation that has more abstract ideas?

Basically, what are your thoughts on thinking in different languages?

Helen DeWitt said...

Even my best friends wouldn't call me fluent in German.

I don't think there is some kind of fundamental activity, "thinking", which occurs in a language; I put together sentences in one language or another, according to requirements. In the absence of external constraints, I put together sentences in English out of habit, in French for pleasure. If talking with Germans, I do my best to put together some sentences in German.