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Righties Writing Right To Left (Hebrew, Arabic...)

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As a right hander, happy to accept whatever advantage it gives me in handwriting or the rest of life, there is something that I've idly wondered about for the past year or two. It came up again recently when I viewed an Israeli movie, Suicide, in Hebrew with subtitles.


In scripts where one writes from right to left (Hebrew and Arabic occur to me), is it actually an advantage to be left handed? In the movie, a detective takes notes on a case on a legal pad, using a wood pencil. At one point he mentions, apparently casually, how much easier he finds the pencil to use than a pen. He is of course writing right to left, but he is using his right hand.


I'm not thinking of the slow, deliberate writing of calligraphy, perhaps using a dip pen or even a brush, but the rapid, everyday, "good enough" writing involved in taking notes or writing a note to somebody. I have no intention of studying either Hebrew or Arabic at this point; I'm just curious.

Edited by ISW_Kaputnik

"So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."


- Benjamin Franklin

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I have only the anecdotal evidence of my own experience. I wasn't using FPs when I was actually working in Arabic, but I have written some Arabic with FPs in more recent years. It never occurred to me that "this might be easier if I were left-handed. Maybe it's my weird grip, but I don't have any trouble with smearing.

Until you ink a pen, it is merely a pretty stick. --UK Mike


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I have been a little curious about the question, myself. And do right handed Hebrew and Arabic writers split into groups of "normal" and "over writers?"


Years ago, I trained myself to write backward, a la Da Vinci. I can write left handed in a pinch, but I didn't try it with this. I never tried to "overwrite," and the strangest part of the exercise was the feeling of pushing the pen rather than (mostly) pulling it across the paper.


If I can get him to respond (he's not the world's greatest communicator), I'll see what my brother's experience is. He spent many years in the Middle East (still does a bit), and he is fluent in about 19 Arabic dialects, and reads/writes the major forms.

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Just got an email from my frater. This is his commentary:


When I was learning to write backwards, I did attempt Arabic left-handed but was in the end more comfortable in the right, even going right to left. Can’t do it with a fountain pen (which frankly lends itself to the flowing script) because it smears since I don’t grip in an overhand fashion. So pencil or ballpoint works for me.


I think, yes, being a lefty would be actually an advantage for a Hebrew or Arabic writer – of course, those folks who came to it from western script and who have already adopted the overhand grip are likely to swear.


A lot of my friends from the region hold their pens more like calligraphy brushes which I suppose also answers the problem, though it must be tiring if you’re going to write a lot.

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Being naturally left-handed I know that I found it easy to write (and read) backwards when I was first learning to write. I also naturally, as a five year old, formed my letters backwards to what my right-handed mother did. It was instinctive. My language skills do not include either Hebrew or Arabic, but from the perspective of being left-handed I can easily imagine that a right-handed person would face the same issues I do writing left to right. So, yes, I believe being left-handed would be an advantage for an Arabic or Hebrew writer.

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