The one thing I wish I can tell every Lebanese student – Especially AUB and LAU students

If you don’t know me, I am a dietitian, Lactation Consultant, writer/blogger/influencer whatever we’re calling ourselves nowadays. I have an absolute love for spreading awareness especially about things I feel are missing knowledge or misconceptions and this translated into hundreds of articles on tens of magazines all over the world. I have been asked to write as an expert for Mom Magazine, Buzzfeed, SheKnows Media, Erma Bombeck, nutrition journals and tens more including Gulfnews and Sayidaty magazine. This is not to show off, this is to show you that I do this on a daily basis, I know my material and I am research obsessed and also my educational background has given me an extremely strong english, writing and research background. Please don’t dig for grammatical errors in this post after reading this :p I need an editor because I barely proofread.

After a few years of writing I started working as a dietitian in a clinic in Dubai Health Care City and my love for spreading awareness got a huge platform. HUGE as in millions. I got my first TV interview, then second, then third and it kept rolling. The channels went from small to bigger. After being on the major regional TV channels in the region the latest being MBC and Al-Arabiya almost weekly, I can tell you I have many tips but if you take anything from this article it’s this. Even if you don’t have to have an interview in your life, take it.

Learn your arabic, and love it.

So the first interview was Al-Ghad TV, it’s a small channel with lovely presenters and a lovely focus on topics. The Ghad interview was 15 minutes which is long in terms of interviews. I prepared for it 3 hours. 5 minutes were spent on the content, but 2 hours and 55 minutes of googling arabic terms. I was surprised at my inability to prepare 10 minutes worth of material in my native language, a language I speak every day in an arabic country!

The topic was about nutrition during the pregnancy and until 2 years of age. So I wanted to talk about how good nutrition helps with healthy labor and delivery. I obviously couldn’t find the words and googled them.

Mirna Sabbagh,Nutritionist and Dietitian and IBCLC in Dubai and Lebanon

Can you imagine that? التغذية السليمة خلال فترة الحمل تساعد على العمل و الإنجاز

If you’re wondering what the correct answer is, it’s الولادة والمخاض which I didn’t find out from my classes or google translate, but from my mom!

Every once and a while google translate gets it half correctly, get this.

Mirna Sabbagh,Nutritionist and Dietitian and IBCLC in Dubai and Lebanon

                         Imagine I say that! I need full complete good sentences!

Having to look for the terms and the stress of learning them for the first time without sounding like a robot, added to the stress of going on your first interview in less than 24 hours (yes, TV channels do that, they call you last minute, especially if you’re a newbie or  a replacement) was catastrophic. I didn’t get to enjoy the experience and focused so much on searching and so little on content.

Mirna Sabbagh,Nutritionist and Dietitian and IBCLC in Dubai and Lebanon

Not to mention wondering what to wear and should we really avoid stripes, and do I really have to avoid yellow?

That being said, it went well, except that I had a hoarse voice because Karim (my son) and I were playing obnoxiously, which is another thing I learned about interviews. If you get into that world, take care of your voice.

Going forward the topics got more and more complex but I felt I was getting a bit more comfortable with the TV experience but not so much with my arabic notice below the  س inplace of ث like (غسيان بدل غثيان) and ز instead of ذ like تغذية which Hello is my major! Who doesn’t know how to properly pronunciate their own university major? Most nutrition graduates in Lebanon I bet. Not to mention some words which I completely forget. Check it out below, this was my second interview.

 

Then one day I was asked to do a daily recorded segment for Dubai TV during Ramadan. It took me 2 weeks to write the 30 segments. When it came to shooting, I re-recorded each segment around 10 times. The producer was frustrated, the director was frustrated, and I was going to cry. I wanted to scream I am a dietitian and not a presenter. The reason it was so bad is because I had been doing previous interviews in a sort of chatting manner so I didn’t have to memorize the words and I could easily replace words I didn’t know with english and the presenter would correct it. However, with the recorded segment I couldn’t. Want to guess how long each segment was?

Mirna Sabbagh,Nutritionist and Dietitian and IBCLC in Dubai and Lebanon

Do I look angry? I was. Can you guess how long was this segment that was giving me such a hard time? A daily segment giving someone a hard time, guess anywhere between 1 second to 60 minutes.

30 seconds.

30 seconds I swear and it was the most stressful thing I’ve had to do. How sad is this?

That was a breaking point for me, I was so upset. I was upset to have graduated from AUB  which is considered a top university in the region with 2 degrees, in Lebanon,  I am Lebanese and I couldn’t do an arabic interiew.

Overtime things got better, I still make mistakes but I am overall much more comfortable. However, this should not be our reality.

I still suffer tremendously with new topics and also with writing. The writing I won’t even begin to tell you about it.  Just yesterday a translator friend of mine told me that the FDA is إدارة الغذاء والدواء الأميركية
not الأغذية والعقاقير which I had posted on my Facebook page thanks to google translate. It didn’t sound right anyway 3aqarir.

Mirna Sabbagh,Nutritionist and Dietitian and IBCLC in Dubai and Lebanon

I then asked her is CDC not مركز السيطرة على الأمراض and she said its not. Its لمراكز الأميركية لمكافحة الأمراض والوقاية منها. Thank God because the first one sounded like Raid the insect killer spray

I have since decided to no longer depend on Google but only use Yamli. If I want to get any sentence done within 2 hours.

Arabic channels will choose you over the thousands of other dietitians in the region especially the Gulf because you speak the language, and there you are mistaking the pronunciation of some letters and saying totally wrong words. Many companies will also choose you to work for them because you speak arabic expecting you to be able to not only read but write arabic in a way that represents a professional at your level, and hopefully drafting a 100 word e-mail won’t take you 3 days and a half.

When the one thing that will make us stand out as arabic speaking professionals is something we are not so comfortable with, that is a waste of resources and sad for our educational system and for our society. We speak in English and write in english and talk to our children in English and think everyone else does the same, but guess what? We are the minority of the minority.

research

What is the point of getting top notch education if we can’t share it properly with people? Have you noticed the lack of scientific evidence based arabic publications or magazines or blogs? Everything we read in arabic on social media is so behind and most of the time inaccurate.

I am not not lecturing you, I still speak in english with my siblings and unfortunately most of the time with my son, and when I am upset with someone or nervous I will speak in english but I will and I am working on it. This is why I am writing this to you, so it’s not too late.

To all the students in Lebanon or the arabic world who want to one day get exposure or excel in their jobs learn your arabic and love it. Especially if you’re lebanese, because our Lebanese slang is not proper arabic at all and we have a real pronunciation issue and many words we use are totally alien to the millions of arabic speakers.

Mirna Sabbagh,Nutritionist and Dietitian and IBCLC in Dubai and Lebanon

I don’t think I spoke a single word of arabic while at AUB except when getting food from Abu Naji which is technically outside the campus.

I know AUB is now giving a few assignements in arabic and is having a session on Media, but this is definitely not enough. Next blog post, I will tell you all about my experience with my poor arabic with my patients and what I have learned.

شكراً لحسن متابعتكم – I learned that from the daily news.

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