Shoe Shop

I'd like to share this picture because there's some arabic in it and I can read that stuff now.

Except that I actually can't read this stuff--not the black sign. I absolutely can't tell what it says even though I've been able to recognize and name all the letters for weeks now. I'm actually kind of good at the alphabet. But I can't read the sign because learning the letters and being able to sound things out does not make me literate. Literacy is something else entirely, a distinction I didn't know mattered so much until now.


  1. Interesting. I am not sure I know what you mean. Would you care to tell me more so that I understand?

  2. I did't explain very well. Take two.

    All around town I see signs, and if I'm not hurrying, I stop and try to read them. Sometimes, I can recognize a word after staring at it long enough. ( Like solan--I wasn't taught that word in class, but its exactly the same sounds in english and arabic, so when I see those letters hanging over a hair salon I can figure it out)

    By contrast (and with much greater frequency), there are times when no mater how long I look at a word, no mater how long I puzzle over it, I still can't "read" it, even if I could make a reasonable guess at how to pronounce it. This is because my Arabic vocabulary is very, very small. The chances aren't good that I'll be able to match something written with one of the few words I know.

    Reading requires that you have a referrent in place, a signified on hand that the signifier (that jumble of letters we call a word) calls up. Right now, I'm all signifier and no signified, since I don't know the names of very many things.

  3. Certainly looks like you could comfortably sit out on the sidewalk! Here in Minnesota, we'd need hats, mittens, scarves and winter jackets to sit outside!

  4. When I took Japanese I could recite the alphabet as well as phoneticaly (sp) read whole sentences....and still have no idea what I was reading. So I know exactly what you are talking about :)

  5. Okay, so you can sound out the shapes (are they called letters?) and you can sound out and eventually "say" the word. But this conjures up no referrent image.

    I only have one language. I am not proud of that. Do the girls speak Arabic?

  6. Mahal = Shop
    Abu Rabih = (name)
    Lil Ahtheya = For shoes

    Literal Translation:
    Abu Rabih's Shop For Shoes

    And im guessing you've learnt how to say the Rabih part!

  7. I myself can relate having lived here in Lebanon for the past 17 months. I can read and pronounce most words I see in Arabic but I can not claim literacy because I do not know the meaning or translation of many of these words. So to be literate one must also comprehend what one is reading.