So I'm on the phone with the Lebanese Consulate and we're chatting in English about visas. The person on the other end of the line seems extremely impatient and annoyed as I ask what I think are entirely reasonable questions. The call has an overall grumpy quality until I say "shukran" (thank you) and then the whole tone changes. The woman issues an amused chuckle, a reaction no doubt to my Arabic pronunciation, and becomes friendly.
At several points during Fulbright orientation, presenters suggested that a little bit of Arabic works wonders and that native speakers tend to have a lot of respect for Americas who at least try to speak the language. True enough. Plus, if my non-native pronunciation can provide a little comic relief in a bureaucratic setting, than I'm glad to be of service. Fulbrighters are supposed to be ambassadors, after all. If you think my "thank you" is something, you should hear my "Can I have a falafel sandwich please?*"
*oreedoo falafel, minfudluck