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Posted by on 5 March 2009


No hay amor
Como este amor;
No hay amante
Como mi amante.
Ojalá que este amor y amante
Se queden conmigo
Mas allá de la muerte.

(There’s no love
Like my love;
There’s no lover
Like my lover.
I pray to God that this love and lover
Stay with me
Even beyond forever.)

This was a poem that I wrote when I was a starry-eyed sophomore studying the Spanish language at the Ateneo de Manila University. After two semesters of thrice-weekly Spanish classes, my Spanish became good enough for me to debate in Spanish and write essays in Spanish.

Sadly, my once fluent Spanish is now slowly languishing away. Nowadays, the only Spanish that I get are the mini Spanish language lessons from ‘Dora, The Explorer’ (a favourite of the twins) and the occasional Spanish songs on the radio, such as Jennifer Lopez’ duet with Marc Anthony ‘No Me Ames‘. The only time I managed to put my Spanish to good use was when I had the opportunity to translate an entire quality manual from Spanish to English for the office.

And while my Spanish languishes away, my Malay continues to improve very rapidly. It has come to the stage where I’m often mistaken for a Malaysian. A Sabahan, to be more exact.

Now, Malaysia, as you may or may not know, is a predominantly Muslim country and the Malay language itself is peppered with many Arabic words. Thus, secara tak langsung (in an indirect manner), it turns out I’ve been learning a bit of Arabic along the way, as well. The days of the week, for example, follow closely the Arabic names (Isnin, Selasa, Rabu, Khamis, Jumaat, Sabtu, Ahad vis-a-vis the Arabic Ithnayn, Thulatha, Arbi’a, Khamees, Jumu’ah, Sabtu, Ahad). Then there are words like arnab for ‘rabbit’, which turn out to be exactly the same as in Arabic. It’s also common for Malays to exclaim Arabic phrases like ‘Alhamdulillah‘ (‘Praise be to God’) or ‘InsyaAllah’ (‘God-willing’ or ‘if God wills’).

Which brings me back to ‘Ojalá’. I’ve always wondered about this word because it sounds so similar to ‘Oh Allah’.

[Note to Malay readers: The letter ‘J’ is pronounced as ‘H’ in Spanish, hence, ‘ojalá’ is pronounced as o-ha-la. In the same way, the proper way of pronouncing the Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal’s first name is ‘ho-seh’ instead of ‘jo-seh’.

Note to non-Malay readers: Malays pronounce the letter ‘J’ as ‘j’, e.g. the Malay word for road ‘jalan’ is pronounced exactly as it’s spelled — ‘ja-lan’, hence, the need for the special explanation above.]

That’s when it hit me. Of course! Spain used to be under Muslim rule. So it’s only logical for some Arabic terms to have found their way into the Spanish language. In fact, it turns out, some 4,000 Spanish words  have actually been derived from the Arabic language, such as azucar (sugar), algodon (cotton), and cuzcuz (couscous).

Going back to the subject of ‘ojalá’, what I find so interesting about it as how it’s used to express a great desire for something, and can be used to mean ‘may it be that’, ‘I wish that’, ‘May God grant that’… almost like ‘InsyaAllah’.

As in my poem above:-
Ojalá que este amor y amante se queden conmigo mas allá de la muerte.

Which can be translated literally into:
How I wish that this love and this lover stay with me even beyond death.

Some sources say ‘ojalá que’ is derived from the Arabic ‘InsyaAllah‘ (God-willing); some say it’s from ‘Law-sha Allah‘ (if God wills). I don’t know enough Arabic to tell the difference because both sound very similar to me.

A site called Dechile.Net, however, begs to disagree, arguing that  ‘ojalá que’ is not derived from either ‘InsyaAllah‘ or ‘Law-sha Allah’ because, it argues, you can’t use ‘ojalá‘ in the same place as ‘if God wants’.

La palabra “ojalá” no viene del árabe إن شاء الله (in sha’a Allah) “si Dios quiere”, como tantas veces se repite, sino del árabe لو شاء الله (law sha’a Allah) “si Dios quisiera”. La prueba está en que no se puede colocar “ojalá” en los mismos lugares que “si Dios quiere”.

The site gives an example: if someone tells his mother “see you tomorrow, if God wants”, his mother will sleep happy. But if the same person says “see you tomorrow,  ojalá“, his mother will not stop crying, thinking of the possible difficulties that may stop her from seeing her son the next day.

Por ejemplo, si uno va a acostarse y le dice a su madre: “hasta mañana, si Dios quiere”, su madre duerme feliz. Pero como le diga: “hasta mañana, ojalá”, su madre no pegará ojo llorando de pensar que su hijo va a tener serias dificultades para llegar al día de mañana.

It then gives a very technical explanation on the difference of meaning brought about by the particular tense used in each instance, which I’ve copied and pasted from this link:-

En árabe la partícula إن (in) se emplea para una condición real, que en español expresamos con el verbo en tiempo presente, “si Dios quiere”. Y la partícula لو (law) se emplea para la condición irreal, tanto si es posible como si es imposible, que en español expresamos con el verbo en imperfecto de subjuntivo cuando es posible, “si Dios quisiera”, o en pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo cuando es imposible, “si Dios hubiese querido”.

Por eso la frase árabe que origina nuestro “ojalá” es la expresión de un deseo que por el momento no es real, aunque no se descarta la posibilidad: “ojalá” = “si Dios quisiera”. La otra condicional, la real, se emplea para el futuro cierto: “mañana pasaré a verte (si Dios quiere)”; ésta, la irreal, se emplea para el futuro incierto: “Cómo me gustaría poder pasar a verte (si Dios quisiera)”.

La fórmula se pronunciaba en el dialecto árabe andalusí “lawsha’alláh”, luego “lawshallá”, luego “loshalá”, y el castellano antiguo la tomó con aféresis de la l- inicial, “oxalá”, que dió lugar al español “ojalá”.

Whatever the case, it is obvious that ojala finds its roots in the Arabic language, as explained succintly in “La Invasión Árabe. Los Árabes Y El Elemento Árabe En Español” (The Arab Invasion: The Arabs & The Arabic Element in Spanish). A word of warning: the text is, again, entirely in Spanish.

Photo taken at Keukenhof, April 2008. And sadly, that particular amor and amante didn’t last haha ;)

8 Responses to ¡Ojalá!

  1. francescainfrance

    ang galing naman, you speak all those languages? arabic malay spanish and english, dagdag na tagalog.

    Sus, kikita ka when in europe, lol

  2. Josiet

    I wouldn’t have thought that some Spanish words have been derived from Arabic language.

    Thank you for sharing this interesting information =)

  3. Mimi

    francescainfrance: oo nga, sometimes i think i’m in the wrong line of work. i should be doing something related to languages instead haha! ;)

    josiet: ya, i didn’t realise that either until i started doing a bit of research on the word ‘ojala’.

    and that makes tagalog a complete mishmash of so many words — arabic (eg. azucar = asukal), english, spanish (eg. la mesa = mesa), javanese, and malay!

  4. sheng

    I love the poem you wrote. It touches the heart.

  5. Mimi

    glad you like the poem, sheng :)

  6. okekiu

    Hеllo friends, its fantastic piece ⲟf writing rеgarding tutoringand fᥙlly
    explained, кeep it սp alll the time.

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