Why are there so many dictionaries in the world for one language, the English language? Oxford Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, even the unofficial and humorous Urban Dictionary

If there’s one thing I learnt from this course is that everyone likes to have things their way. For instance, if a word is not defined the way they understand or the way they would define it, they would redefine it and add something to it until the deem it complete. According to this article, there are around 180,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary, if not more now. 9,500 of these words are derived from another word which makes the English language quite redundant. John Fiske, one of the contributing authors of the book Introduction to Communication Studies and sole author of the second edition of said book, argues that you can delete 50% of the words in the English language and you could still be able to use the language perfectly well seeing as the words are repetitive.

The English language is not the only one to have multiple dictionaries; for the French language, you can check out Larousse, Le Dictionnaire and Le Robert.


Our topic in the presentations in pairs was Englishes of Africa. At first, I wasn’t supposed to be in this group because each group was supposed to be a group of pairs, but then I was adopted into it. The topic never really interested me much before especially since I went to high school with a lot of Lebanese people who were born in Africa (Cote d’ivoire, mostly) and migrated back to Lebanon after the civil war erupted there. I used to tutor some of them in English seeing as their base is French and their English wasn’t really strong, and I came out of this experience generalising all African individuals. I didn’t think that some of them might be going through the same internal conflict that I was going through. Which is my first language? Why am I more fluent in another language than my mother tongue? Shouldn’t I pursue a career solely in Arabic literature or am I a sell-out?

My part of the presentation was a Ngugi Wa Thiongo book review, which means that it’s not what the African writer himself wrote but what someone else thinks of his writing. The author of the review is also white and far from having an African English. I’ve always been scared from reviewers especially since I’m friends with a bunch of them. They can be harsh. And they don’t know what the writer is truly going through as he put these words to paper. It’s part of why I’m hesitant in publishing a book. However, the author of this certain book review wasn’t harsh, and they showed actual interest in a topic that wouldn’t typically be considered interesting to white men. I suppose skin colour, nationality, languages and the land we stand on do not define who we are and which country we belong to. We define it.

Over the semester, I opened my eyes and carefully scanned everything around me for signs of multilingualism, broken languages, mistranslations, and humorous code-switching. I put everything I found in this tumblr. It has 26 posts in total. I will be showcasing in this blog entry a few of them.

This one is my favourite of the bunch. Although it’s not really an example of multilingualism, it shows us how English is a complicated language and can be broken into multiple languages by itself. Which brings us to this lovely article our local Raseef22 wrote about English words that are borrowed from Arabic. Unfortunately, some words foreigners were not able to borrow from us like this one that doesn’t have a direct translation in English or any other language I’m aware of. It could be because Arabs, Lebanese people mostly, are used to burying and getting buried by their loved ones? Finally, I really like this one (and I still can’t stop laughing!) mainly because I really love how exotic the word “zoulohfa” sounds even if it’s in my mother tongue. I really wonder how my future daughter would feel about me calling her that.

Multiligualism is everywhere around us that before taking this class I would often not notice that more than one language is used in a sentence. It is also the Lebanese people’s pride and joy as they leave their kids from early ages in front of educational cartoons hoping to nourish their foreign languages, stick them in international schools as soon as they reach the required age and purposely opt to speak to them in multiple languages. Who of us has not ever stumbled upon a mother speaking Libano-French to her kids at the supermarket? The funny thing about Lebanese people is even though they can speak multiple languages, they make mistakes in all of the languages they speak. But hey, at least we know more than just plain old Arabic, right?