Being of Syrian origin and having recently moved to Canada from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where I resided from eighteen years, I developed a certain outlook on language in relation to culture and ones background. Originally, I believed that language was partially dependent on ones upbringing and their environment; however, upon completion of this course and after gaining insight into literature that has paved the way for international writers, I have come to better understand the situation of language in our society, as a means of communication and a form of identity. 
The pieces presented are united by a series of topics revolving around language and its relation to personal identity, considering I speak, understand and communicate in three different languages: English, Arabic and French. Since I am of almost equal proficiency in Arabic and English, I have chosen to disregard French, and focus on understanding my relationship to each, as well as establishing a connection between them, in terms of translation and interpretation. The texts fluctuate, interact and overlap with topics that relate language to identity and sense of belonging specifically in text 5, titled Home. 
Throughout this process of discovery of language I have come to conclude that I might never “belong” or “relate” to one language more that the over, as I am limited in my expression of both. Culture remains dependent of language to some extent, and to quote V.S. Naipaul’s Jasmine, “The English language was mine; the tradition was not.” Unfortunately, I have discovered that the same applied to Arabic.
Text 2: Interaction
By boring yet relevant definition, a relationship is “the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected” (Oxford English Dictionary), so, in order to explain my relationship to a language, I would have to tell you about my complicated past that has influenced my “connection” to the particular language. I could begin by stating whether or not English is my first language, or second, or third, but unfortunately for me – and you - I myself don’t know where I stand as an English speaking individual, and I am hoping that this piece would help clarify my confusion.  
I grew up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where I attended a private, English curriculum school amongst the middle class of the city’s international population. At home, we spoke Arabic. During middle school and high school, Arabic, the country’s national language, was taught as a second language, and English as a first. I also learnt French as a third. I communicated in English everywhere apart from home, and it became my go-to language of interaction and socialization. I graduated high school with both advanced placement and IGSCEs in all three languages: English, Arabic and French. As far as background information and technicalities, this is where I stand culturally and academically, and it is all you need to know to understand my story.  It is important to note that, I am not of equal literacy in all three, however, the love triangle between English, Arabic and myself will forever be unavoidable. We shall disregard French for the time being, my third language in which I will forever be at an intermediate level.
I recollect a specific moment of my childhood, where translation was once a battle between two completely different languages. I was in the locker room at school getting changed for gym class. My friends were almost done, but I was still tugging at my laces. As they scurried through the aisle towards the gym, I called after them to wait for me. Except that I said: “wait me” instead, having directly translated it from what I knew in Arabic. I was teased for what seemed like a lifetime of gym class for speaking with the wrong grammar, and the memory has stuck as the initial tipping point between accepting English as my ‘main’ language. 
Growing up, I began to find it easier to communicate in English with my parents, especially during heated arguments or moments of tension, where expressing my thoughts had to be hasty, and didn’t allow time for forming a sentence in Arabic. English came naturally to me, but not to my parents, and that dragged on a decade and a half of misunderstandings, leading to bigger arguments about speaking Arabic to my parents “out of respect”. I would like to elaborate on the idea of respect that resonated with my parents’ acceptance of English as my first language. As a child, I can recall countless moments where my mother would get frustrated when I would say “Thank you for dinner”. She would shake her head and say, “Jana, why can’t you just say “shoukran”? It’s more pleasant don’t you agree?” (“shoukran” is Arabic for “Thank you”). The same applied to “Please”, “Good morning” and “Good night”. To my mother and father, addressing them in their mother tongue was a sign of respect and consideration. This led me to question the boundaries of language, and the regulations that allowed a person to be familiar with a certain language. Was it their heritage and culture that classified their first and second languages? Or was it their home environment or local education? Or both? What determined the identity of their spoken language?
Growing up in Dubai, people who were middle class usually spoke two languages, one being English. Most schools relied on an English curriculum, but some local schools resorted to Arabic. Those were public schools, and were not a popular choice amongst the average Dubai-ian.  This brought upon the relation between language and class. Those who were not as ‘fortunate’ to be literate in English would classify English-speaking people as of a higher class. I admit, being fluent in English as supposed to another language, I did in fact look down on those who did not speak it, not because of difference in class, but simply because I could not understand how a person would go about their life without being able to understand the language of social media and pop culture all the way down to food and medicine labels. The main language of communication in Dubai was English, regardless of the fact that most of the population spoke Arabic. This ease in communication through English allowed it to be a multicultural destination, attracting people from all over the world. However, it is reflectively Dubai’s multiculturalism that allowed English to be widely used amongst its people. In fact, it was living amongst people of different backgrounds that brought me to the understanding that English is the best means of interaction between cultures. 
Moving to Canada was sort of wake up call as to what first language English speakers thought about international English speaking communities. As people learnt that I had recently moved here, they would be shocked about my fluency in English. Some did not even believe I was Arab. This misconception came down to whether different cultures had different interpretations of English as the international language of communication, or whether some people were simply unaware of the fact that culture could be independent of language.  
My relationship with English comes down to the struggle of whether or not I am a first or second language English speaker. My fluency in English slightly exceeds that of Arabic and significantly that of French, however, does that position me as a first language speaker? My nationality or origin does not support this claim, and I have experienced this first hand, specifically when applying to universities a few years back. The applications had a slot where they ask for your ‘First Language’. I would select English, and then two minutes later I would scroll back up and change it. Before submitting my final applications, I went back a third time and changed it back to English. What defined first language? Proficiency or ethnicity? These are questions that I have yet to answer myself. 
English is my easiest form of self-expression, but the question remains to circulate around whether or not I will ever be taken seriously as a native English speaker, or will I be perceived as a stranger to the culture. This results in a debate of the role of culture in the fluency of languages that a person possesses, and whether a person’s choice of a first language should or should not depend on their passport or their upbringing, or even that of their parents’. Language might also translate into a sense of belonging, where belonging to a certain culture depended on the language(s) you speak. Being unsure of my belonging to a certain culture, nationality or country might explain the confusion and loss I feel when it comes to choosing a first language.

Text 3: Jana – A Monologue 
In middle school, I remember typing my name into Microsoft Word, and the animated Paperclip Assistant would start bouncing up and down in the top right corner of my screen, itching with a correction. I remember looking up my name in the dictionary and coming up with absolutely nothing. And if you were as curious as I was growing up, I can guarantee that you have, at some point in your pre-teenage years, typed your name into the Google search bar with ‘definition’ preceding it, and waited curiously to find out what your name meant, as if its meaning not only defined the word, but defined you as a person. A simple Wikipedia search would bring up the meaning of a name, as well as its alternate meanings, references and origins in multiple languages and among various cultures (not to mention the millions of internet users who oh so generously provide their input on Wikipedia pages everyday). Who would have thought that a four-letter name like ‘Jana’ could have actual significance outside my own culture? Jana is not a common name in the North American and Europe, but would certainly make the top one hundred girl names in the Middle East – I guess that’s not as common either. If I were to look past the definition, I could safely say that I have heard over ten different pronunciations of my name, from Jay-na to Janna to Yana. Some will stress the “n” and some will turn the “j” into a “y”. 
Taking into account its reliability, a Wikipedia search for ‘Jana’ brings up a variety of definitions. The name ‘Jana’ is of Latin origin, as it was an alternate name for the Diana, Goddess of the moon, the hunt and the chastity in Greek mythology. It is the Slavic short for Johanna, the Hindi short for Janarthanan, a Hindu God and the Albanian short for Jehonna. It’s Hebrew, Latin and Irish definitions all revolve around “Gift from God” and “God’s graciousness”. Jana is also a genus of moths.
 I find it interesting to compare these foreign definitions to my own culture’s Arabic meaning; ‘Jana’ (verb) means “to earn” or “to reap”, or simply to harvest the good things in life. Despite these various meanings however, I was named ‘Jana’ because my mother thought it was a “pretty” name for a baby girl. 
Don’t get me wrong. I love my name. I love that it is not at all common; that it has beautiful foreign meanings and that an Urban Dictionary user claims people with this name are beautiful, intelligent and successful. Who wouldn’t want to be beautiful, intelligent and successful? I also love that no one ever seems to pronounce it correctly, let alone spell it. To every Starbucks employee, I will forever be “Janna” or “Jane”. Who am I to complain? ‘Janna’, with the “n” stressed means “heaven” in Arabic. Thankfully, I have recently found a solution for this – when asked for my “name for the cup”, I reply with: Jenny. You probably think that spelling does not matter, but just like the Sarahs who are not Saras (and vice versa), Jana is not Janna. After a praise filled comment on, user3496 continues: “Janna [as opposed to Jana] is the complete opposite of everything above, never spell her name like that.” user3496 gets it. 

Text 4: Proud Father’s Face (Not)  
The Translation of “This is Damascus” (1969)
This is Damascus by Nizar Qabbani 

This is Damascus…and this cup and rest, I love…but some love is a slaughtering.
I am a Damascene …if you slice my body, grape vines and apples will flow
And if you open my veins with your daggers… you would hear, in my blood, the voices of those gone
Heart transplant…heals some that have loved, but what’s it to my heart – if I love – a surgeon
Minarets of the Sham cry when it embraces me for the minarets….like trees… they are souls
Jasmines have rights at our house…and the house cat sleeps where it rests
The coffee mill is part of our childhood, how could I forget? The scent of cardamom is redolent.
This is my “Proud Father’s” place…awaiting those “winning”, beautiful and brilliant faces
Here are my roots…here is my heart…here is my language, so how can I be clearer? Is there clarity in love?
How many Damascus women have sold their gold for my flattery…. for poetry is key
Alas, willow tree, I come apologetically, so will you forgive Haifa…and Waddah?
Fifty years…and my parts are scattered across the ocean…for there is no lantern at the horizon
Shoreless seas toss me around…demons and ghosts chase me
I fight hatred with my poetry and literature until the light comes out…and the flint
Why are Arabs always presented like widows? Isn’t there happiness in our history?
And poetry…what will be left of its authenticity? If it is passed down to a crook…or a flatterer

Translation: Process and Reflection 
This is Damascus (1969), a poem by the infamous Syrian poet and writer Nizar Qabbani (1923 – 1998), illustrates his love for his city, all the way from images from his childhood, to memorable scents. 
I chose this poem because it circulates around the aspect of lost memories due to wars and political standings, which had caused many citizens of Syria to immigrate to other parts of the world at the time. At the time of the French invasion, they left behind their families, their loved ones, their homes and all that is familiar to them; them and me alike. Regardless of not having grown up in Syrian, my parents did, and so did theirs. To me, I considered myself of Syrian origin, but could never be as attached as they are to Syria. I can recall so many moments where they would reminisce about their home country, just as the poet does in this piece. In fact, Qabbani has always been their favorite poet, and This is Damascus is one of the repeatedly recited poems in our household. All things considered, it holds a special place in my heart, sparking a curiosity of whether or not its deep and culturally embedded meaning would come out just as effectively when translated into English. To gain access to it, I resorted to asking my dad to recite it. After explaining my translation goal, my father laughed and claimed that it was impossible to reflect on Qabbani’s words and bring forth their true value in a language other than Arabic. I accepted the challenge. 
Through this translation, I was aiming to reflect on the relatedness of the poem. Being of Syrian origin and having studied Arabic as a second language for as along as I can remember, as well as being familiar with Damascus’ culture, I wished to allow the same truth in the English version as is evident in the original Arabic version. Stylistically, this process was not as difficult, considering the poem is of “contemporary poetic prose”. The Arabic version contained no specific rhythm, but had a single rhyme throughout the poem, where the last word of every line had the same weight. This is slightly typical of Arabic poetry; however, Qabbani’s word choice is simpler than others. This allowed for flexibility in writing, excluding any restrictions for the poet – and myself, when translating. In my process, I left the stylistic edits until the end, and focused on balancing both the literal and figurative meanings of each line, and interpreting them correctly. 
There were multiple times where it was difficult to find exact meanings for words, especially for the word “                      ”, which in this context means “someone from Damascus”. However, poetically speaking, I found the phrase to be glitch, so I decided to replace it with “damascene” which means, “pertaining to relating to Damascus”. Neither options are perfect, but personally, I think the key to effective poetry is realistic length when expressing a single idea. There is a fine line between poetic prose and plain prose. Another example was my struggle with the word  “                       ” which using a dictionary, translates into “machete”. However, in this context it is referring to the small dagger that men used to carry in their belts at the time. In most of these difficult culturally based choice of words, I decided to go with my personal translation, as I believed made more sense. On the other hand, there were a few moments where I thought the meaning was carried on very effectively. “Minarets of the Sham cry when they embrace me…like trees…they are souls”. By Sham, the poet is referring to what was known as the Levant.
Overall, I believe that it is certainly challenging to translate a text from a culturally oriented position, to another that simply has no relation to it. Logically, translation establishes relation, whoever, in the case where meaning is lost because of translation, the relation between the pieces in different languages weakens. The relativity and message of the work gets lost in the literal meaning, and the translation fails to deliver the emotional connection between the poet and his audience.
After polishing my piece, I returned to my father, who was anticipating a failed attempt. He was certainly impressed with my level of understanding of the Arabic language (bonus points for me in the “respect” field). However, he laughed at every line he read in English, and claimed that it made no sense. He might be right. I choose to believe that he is biased in terms of his ultimate attachment to this poem. Also, his English is not that great.

1.    The place where one loves permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.
2.    The family or social unit occupying a permanent residence 
3.    A house or flat considered as a commercial property 

In one lifetime, most people reside in their country of origin or citizenship. Most people have one or two properties under their name, houses, one of which they would call their home. Most people return home after a long day of work. Most children go home after school. Most people come home after a family vacation to Hawaii or a trip across Europe. I think it is clear by now, that my story is not that of most people.
My parents grew up in Lattakia Syria amongst the city’s middle class. After graduating from university with undergrads in engineering, they moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 1994, an up and coming city in the heart of the Arabian Gulf. They left their families, their friends and the only home they knew and relocated to a new country. I was born in 1995, and for the following eighteen years, I grew up in one of the fastest growing and modern cities in the world. I spent my summers in Syria. Mom would start planning our trip ‘home’ from January of every year. She would make flight arrangements, buy gifts for our relatives, go shopping for new summer clothes and make a huge fuss about our plans to visit a new historical location every summer. And I guess it was normal to say that we were “going home” for the summer; every body in Dubai went home for the summer. The majority of the city’s population was international and had emigrated from various parts of the world. To me, I was born in Dubai and going to Syria in the summer was simply an excuse to visit our grandparents and get away from the scorching Arabian heat.  Syria was not my home, but then again neither was Dubai. I only began to question this when my family decided to relocate to Canada in the summer of 2013, after my high school graduation. We now reside Mississauga, Ontario.
It was my first winter in Canada. Residence at York University was getting lonely and my life was bordering unbearable as it came close to the end of 2013. I needed a break from the damp mold-smelling dorm rooms, my annoying roommate, the dirty washrooms, my loud neighbors and the crummy freshman parties. I finally decided to go visit my mom and brother in Mississauga. Or as college students like say, I was “going home for the weekend”. To add to my misery, my friends back in Dubai had just posted pictures of their winter break, lounging on the beach in 20-degree weather. My roommate Marissa caught me lurking the album a few times that week. She finally, asked: “Are you homesick? You should be, they look like they’re having so much fun!”. Her bitchiness is irrelevant to the events of this story, but is certainly necessary in depicting my mood. That night, I called my mom and asked her to pick my up the following Friday afternoon. 
On our way to Mississauga, mom finally broke the silence and asked, “How’s school?”
“Good…finals are coming up next week. The semester is almost over!” I replied
“Are you ready? For your exams I mean…”
“Uhmm”, I mumbled, hesitant to ask for the favor that had been bouncing back and forth in my mind all week.
“Can I go home for winter break?” I blurted out.
“What do you mean? Well obviously you’re coming home…you can’t stay on residence for two weeks.”
“No, wait. Mom, no I mean can I go home? To Dubai” I corrected.
“Jana, we’ve had this conversation before, we live here now. I don’t see the point of you going back to visit.”
“It’s not visiting when it’s your home mom,” I mumbled in between sobs and tears that had suddenly taken over me. 
“How could you call it your home? I understand that you grew up there, but you are not from there Jana. We do not carry their passport.”
“Yeah, well a passport does not define your home mom. We never stopped you from going to Syria every summer now did we?” I screamed, running out of breath. 
“Syria is just as much your home as it is mine.”
“Not true. I don’t even know where my home is anymore. We don’t own a permanent house anywhere anymore. We are here, and dad is going back and forth. When will this end? When will we settle? I don’t know where “home” is anymore and I’m tired of trying to figure it out.” 
When I finally looked up, through my tears, I saw that we were pulling up into the driveway of our house. 
“We’re home!” Mom exclaimed, and flashed me a weak smile. I rolled my eyes and dragged myself into the house, taking in the aroma of a long awaited home-cooked meal.
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