cảm ơn

A language is more than just words, its an entire culture.

Sleep deprived, queued up for immigrations, holding a cup of iced espresso and filling out my form… *clang*… someone dropped their metal water bottle and it rolled to my feet.
I pick it up in my daze and look for its owner. In under a minute a middle-aged woman walks up to me and asks for her bottle. Even before I knew what was happening, she had bowed down with the most genuine of smiles and whispered “cảm ơn“.

It was a day later that I got to know that she had said Thank You!

It wasn’t something new to hear from someone or a stranger for that matter. Like, on offering my seat to an elderly gentleman on the bus, on sharing my pineapple plate while hiking up a hill under the sun, helping with the directions to a place I’d just visited, allowing a toddler to mess with the travel tag on my bag or just hiring a taxi service to go from one town to the next.
But somehow, the expression felt far more humbling and heartfelt this time.

My trip to Vietnam gave me a perspective that I’d taken for granted for all these years. Its not about the words that we speak, its about the way we speak them that makes the difference.
To say something as simple and common as ‘thank you’ but with a smile, some respect and a little bow- it hit a home run every single time!

Some facts about Vietnamese that could interest you:

  • It has five dialects- Northern, North-Central, Mid-Central, South-Central and Southern Vietnamese. They are mutually intelligible
  • It has three different accents and the tone can change the meaning of a word
  • Modified Latin script is used to write Vietnamese
  • An estimated 90 million people speak it, making it a great foreign language option to study


“Praise be to Allah/ Lord”

It was after a regular work evening, while I was scrolling through my phone and getting my social media fill for the day, that I entered into a conversation with an old time acquaintance turned friend.
I had responded to her comment on one of my posts with “I’m not sure if its the right Urdu word, but all I can say is ‘Inshallah'”. And she ever so humbly replied with “Its an Arabic word, love.”
And thus began the germination of an idea that I had been considering for my Birth-month (if there is such a thing to celebrate). I’m dedicating the next four Weekly Words, starting now, to gratitude in different world languages.

Pronounced as “Al-HAM-doo-Li-lah” , it is an Arabic word which when broken to simpler elements looks something like this-
Al meaning the
Hamd meaning praise
Illah; which is understood as Al+Ilah i.e. The+Deity/Lord

There are four common contexts in which Alhamdulillah is known to be used:
1. As a secular expression, like ‘Thank God’ used in English
2. In Prayer, while thanking the Creator
3. As a term of acceptance, in times of trial and difficulties placed upon us
4. As an expression of gratitude to the God
*when I say God, I’m referring to the form of energy or higher power that you believe in

Originated in the Arabian Peninsula, Arabic is one of the six most spoken languages in the world. In fact, Arabic literally means ‘nomadic’, which makes sense as it was first spoken by the nomadic tribes in the northwestern frontier of the Peninsula.

Some amazing facts about Arabic are:
1. It is the official language in 26 countries
2. Arabic words are written from right to left, numbers from left to right
3. Unknowingly we all know a little bit of Arabic; few English words that come from Arabic are algebra, alchemy, cotton, mummy (the ones in Egypt, not the one at Home), carat (for gold), sugar and lemon

NOTE: Art work credits to Afreen Khundmiri who has been doing some amazing work through her art. She is an Atlanta based Arabic Calligraphy artist, who through her art supports and funds medical treatment for the underprivileged. Do check her out and show some love on instagram and follow her Blog on http://afreenkhundmiri.blogspot.com/?m=1

This was the Weekly Word!
Like, Comment and Share your views on the choice of word and its content.
If you wish to recommend or share a word that you'd like me to explore based on my perspective, then please do send it in through the comments, email or on instagram.
*You can now follow THW on Instagram @thehazywhisperer for regular updates*

Until next week!!