Dialects Matter

Beidha (Little Petra), Jordan

A classmate of mine, Chris Shad, and I were talking to the woman who made the fabulous shrak bread for our Bedu barbecue in Beidha. (Shrak is a white bread, often two feet or more across, and paper thin, baked over a thin, domed metal surface propped over a wood fire, and it’s my favorite kind of Jordanian bread.) I, of course, know all the right things to say to village women, and she had plenty to say in return about how wonderful a job Chris did when he tried his hand at making shrak with her.

Chris, however, had a bewildered look on his face. Finally he asked me, “Do you understand a thing she’s saying?”

I laughed, and told him the absolute truth. “I understand her better than almost everyone I’ve spoken to in Amman!”

When I translated the exchange for her, the woman smiled and nodded and said to Chris, “You come and live in my house and make bread for me for a year, and you’ll be a pro, and you’ll understand me, too!”

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