Three things I have learned while learning Arabic – again
I have studied Arabic in books, learned from a teacher, and learned from a tutor. Now I have the pleasure of learning Arabic during the language exchange sessions that I am coordinating between 10 English speaking women and 10 Arabic speaking women. Bilingual co-facilitator Farah kindly spends some time with me while the partners are meeting, and I spend an additional few minutes each week reviewing. Here are three things I have learned while learning Arabic – again:
1. How to read
In the past, I felt dyslexic while trying to read Arabic, or like a child that memorizes what’s on a page and is able to fake literacy for a while. In the language exchange sessions, we are introducing only three or four letters from the Arabic alphabet at a time, and we are using these great letter worksheets from Education.com. I find that going slowly really helps me overcome the challenges that naturally come with reading Arabic, such as the absence of most vowels, and the fact that a letter looks different depending on where it is in the word.
2. Egyptian Arabic
Thanks to Farah, I am learning some Egyptian Arabic, which I feel is like the Mexican dialect of Spanish – extremely distinctive in its slang, and extremely recognizable because of its dominance across other countries in songs, TV, and films. I’ve learned new words such as bes (but/stop), wakeda (like that/and such), ‘aiza (want), and ‘asheyn (because). When I tell Farah words from Moroccan Arabic, like wakha (ok), bzef (a lot/very), heet (because), and keefanteena? (how are you?), she either reasons out how they make sense, or shrugs her shoulders because they are totally unrecognizable.
3. Political chants
Again, thanks to Farah, I have learned some political chants that were popular during the Arab Spring. Language is always political!
The main difference I feel in this round with Arabic is a sense of familiarity and ease. Maybe it is just the layering up of some sediment in this language, which is how I have felt learning Turkish in iterations with time between, but I think it is also the format of learning within the parameters of a language exchange program, and therefore amidst other learners and in a spirit of trying and having fun.