Learning Arabic has not been the easiest for me. The major problem is that I don’t have to rely on using it. Day to day activities are conducted in English here. Almost all of the workforce is from another country making the common language English. Whenever I use Arabic it is at school and with my coworkers – and I am horribly failing. I have learned a lot since being here but I am still unable to have conversations. My biggest goal for next year is to learn more Arabic. Thankfully a lot of the teachers at school know that I am trying to learn and so encourage me to use Arabic often (and they are very forgiving when I make a mistake!).
When I first started learning Arabic I focused on the script first and – maybe because I am such a visual person – I love learning Arabic scrip! It’s not as helpful but it is just as appreciated by my students. I can use the dictionary and put words on the board the help translate – the girls are always encouraging me and always forgiving. I can often sound out Arabic and sometimes, if I know the word, figure it out. One day I was asked to distribute the exams with their girls’ names on the front – in Arabic only – and I was able to figure out about 60% of them! I know I have a long way to go but its a start.
So now my story . . .
I finally decided to make the girls a study worksheet for their final exams with the key vocabulary words. I used the dictionary and my basic knowledge of Arabic script to write the translations. Once finished I asked one of my dear coworkers to check my handwriting and make sure I did the translations correctly. She said that all but two were right and proceeded to show me how to fix the two that were missing sounds. After my handwriting was checked and approved, I sent the worksheet off to be copied for all the students to see:
When the day came to distribute my masterpiece, I walked around the room giving each table their copies. The girls started whispering and finally one girl asked “Miss, who did this Arabic?” Ugh oh, I thought, what mistake did I make? I said “Oh no is it hard to read?” “Oh no Miss, we can read it.” Ugh oh, “Well then was is the problem?” “Um, Miss, we just thought that maybe one of the Kindergarteners wrote this.” Hahaha – well I just laughed out loud right then and there, “No, I am the one who wrote it!” The girls are too kind and quickly said “Oh Miss, it is very good, you did such a great job”. Well I just kept laughing, what can I do? I said to the girls “Thanks for being kind I have much to learn. And right now my Arabic is like a Kindergartener! Maybe next year I can move to grade 1!” They seemed to think that was pretty funny. So, there you have it – after just under a year in an Arabic speaking country I am only at a kindergartener’s level!! Pretty sad. Hahaha, oh well, that only means that I have just so much more to learn : )
There are just too many times I have messed up to get upset about it now. I remember once trying to say “thank you very much” to one of my coworkers and instead said “thank you for the island” hahahah we had a good laugh about that one. I think the funniest mishap happened in Tanzania after I got a letter from my family. In Swahili my host family wanted to know what it was about and instead of saying “my brother just got a license to drive a car and I am so happy for him etc.”, I said “my brother just got a lisence to have diarrhea – he’s been practicing for a while now and I am so happy for him”! hahahah!!! So, any great language stories from you? I know my mom has a few : ) I’d love to hear them, just drop me a comment!!