Marjorelle gardenMy holiday in Spain and Morocco promised to be exciting, from a linguistic point of view. I was looking forward to practicing my Spanish, which, despite exceptionally resolute resolutions, I hadn’t had time to work on much, and I was going to spend a week in a country where French was used alongside Arabic and Berber.
It started going downhill in the taxi from the airport. I planned to say to the taxi driver “There’s a lot of water everywhere; it must have been raining a lot”, but instead I managed to confuse llorar with llover and said something like “There’s a lot of water everywhere; you must have been crying a lot”. Nevermind. I ploughed on and thoroughly enjoyed using my third language, however badly. Another highlight was being served goat when I thought I had ordered lamb. It was still delicious.
Berber girlThen we crossed over to Morocco and found ourselves in a country which was at the same time very foreign, but strangely familiar from a linguistic point of view. The Moroccans we came across in Tangiers, Fes, Rabat and Marrakech seemed to effortlessly switch between Arabic, French, Spanish and English. I loved spotting so many Arabic words that have crossed into French and English, sometimes directly, through loanwords coming from immigrant populations, particularly in France, and sometimes via Spanish, which was under Muslim rule from 711 to the end of the 16th century. Amongst the familiar words I came across, baraka, which means luck (avoir la baraka = to be lucky), souk (market), of course (mettre le souk = to make a mess) and many more. Wikipedia gives comprehensive lists of English words and of French words of Arabic origin.
Jamaa al Fna square, Marrakech