Using بصير in Colloquial Arabic
Greetings from Amman, Jordan, and welcome back to another episode of Tips for Learning Levantine Arabic.
In the last episode, we discussed the meanings and functions of بكون. In this episode we will do the same for بصير. Then, in a coming episode, we will chat a little bit about some of the reasons why Arabic learners have a difficult time choosing between these two words, particularly for one of the meanings we will discuss at length today.
I like to keep these episodes brief so that the concepts we introduce can be revisited as Arabic learners become increasingly familiar with the language. Secondly, although I have been learning colloquial Arabic for 15 years now, I know that getting our minds around new concepts and uses for language can be overwhelming. So, let’s take them in bite size quantities.
Since we will be weaving back and forth between Arabic and English, you may have to listen to episodes like this one multiple times.
Rome was not built in a day, and neither will your complete understanding of the Arabic dialect you are learning happen overnight. I see this as one of the primary ways learners get in the way of the natural learning process. They often believe that learning Arabic can be done in a brief period, when in fact we need to keep looping back to concepts, even easy ones, to let our brains process how Arabic is used.
I’ve spent a lot of time working out how to present this podcast episode, because, as with many grammatical aspects of Arabic variants, there can be differences in how people speak. At the Shababeek language center we focus on giving Arabic learners a strong command of the spoken Levantine dialect so that speech becomes more intuitive and instinctive over time as we learn patterns to how we apply our speech.
That’s why our program is largely aural. Listening (a lot) to how language is used helps us begin to see and imitate patterns that are common in communication.
That said, and this is really crucial to grasp in every language variant, even and perhaps especially English, there are plenty of deviations from the standard or prestigious language.
Sometimes these deviations are thought of as incorrect.
However, I would challenge language learners to remember that wherever you have come from, there is a proper way to say or especially to write your language, and then there is another way that people communicate daily using shortcuts and omitting or abbreviating parts of speech that in a classroom setting in school they may be corrected for.
In our Arabic language center, we aim to help learners adopt best practices in terms of speaking like locals. But it is important to remember that, wherever you go, there will be groups of people who believe that their Arabic variant is the ideal one and will encourage you to speak as they do.
Bedouins may want you to use their expressions and pronunciations in order to avoid sounding pompous like city folk. Teachers will want you to learn مدني or lean towards the prestigious standard in order to imitate the “educated forms of speech.”
When it comes to adopting a dialect variant to use, it’s to your discretion to select a variant you wish to imitate. Perhaps that’s different depending on your present company. However, I caution learners to think in terms of right or wrong when it comes to spoken colloquial Arabic (or in any language really). You will continually be surprised at variations from generally accepted patterns, and you will always find someone who disagrees with the “correct” way to say something.
3 Ways to Use بصير
Generally speaking, there are three ways you can think about when to use بصير.
1. Requesting Permission or Giving Advice
One could think of this as, “could I,” “is it possible?” “can I?” “may I?” “is it permitted or allowed?”
The answer is often something like تفضل, or من عيوني.