ON Arabic: the reason for the Season


Arabic is the reason why I am in Egypt.  I am here to study Arabic, to master it and get as much as I can get, because the buck stops here: This is the end of my long lasting love affair with post-secondary education.

With that said, I am sad and a bit scared.  I have 7 months to get my Arabic where it needs to be… where is that exactly?  I need to be able to speak, read, and write like a non-native but completely fluent person.

This never seemed like an easy feat, but somehow at the beginning of this leg of my foreign language journey I felt it was possible.  Now, with 7 or so months to go, and after learning a dialect that was worse than useless to me (as it kind of confused the language acquisition process for Egyptian Arabic) I’m not sure what is going to happen in the end.

It’s taken me 2 months to get used to this place, and now that I am used to things, what have I accomplished?  On the one hand language acquisition is slow after passing he intermediate phase, and that happened years ago (supposedly) but sometimes I feel like it’s superbly, incredibly slow.  So I have to make some changes to jump start this magical ride on the Arabic train:

1. I need to speak in Arabic… like all the time. This is easier said than done as a lot of people seem to feel pretty comfortable just prattling off at me in English.  It’s not a problem, or so I thought. But when I think about past experiences, it really does help to get in the language zone meya meya (100%).  I have to remember that everyone here has different language goals,  and my responsibility are the goals specific to the level I need to reach.   So I am trying really hard to reply to people in Arabic even if they speak to me English.

2.  I need to try and befriend more Egyptians.  This is a feat that is even harder than the first.  Not because I don’t know any, or because Egyptians are not friendly (because they are).  but I am just not one of those uber friendly people (alas it is true) who charm you with their smile and make you feel like you’ve been friends forever.  Friendships develop slowly for me over time, after discovering several shared goals, beliefs, or at least being able to laugh at the differences. The trouble with the people that I know in Egypt is that 1. The vast majority are younger than me, I mean even my instructors are younger than I am!  2.  art, particularly dance here… They are out there, but again establishing these connections take time.  Time, unfortunately is not something I have a lot of.

3. I need to find usefulness in all my classes and assignments.  That, is also a tough feat.  Sometimes I really feel like I could just sit at home, turn in work electronically and get the same results.  But perhaps this is just the thinking of someone in a “Been in Egypt for two months rut?”

4. I have to figure out a way to stop making the same little mistakes.  Well actually, they are not the same mistakes, but they are the same kind of mistakes… most grammar, mostly feminine -masculine or definite-indefinite type of mistakes.  This has been my Achilles heel for too long.  (If anyone has any methodologies besides write more often— as I unfortunately do not have time to write more in Arabic— there is almost too much of that as it is, I think—- I would like hear about it).

Specifically, my modern Standard instructor is convinced that I make mistakes in writing that I never make while speaking. And so, despite all the effort I put into my work, she is convinced that I am just slapping crap together.  Under other circumstances, I would care less about what she thought, but I wonder, do I really do that?  My suspicion is that when speaking little grammatical errors are not as noticeable as opposed to when you have the paper in front of you and can clearly see the mistake.

At any rate, I need to step it up.  The truth is, I am tired of people thinking that just because I speak Arabic quickly, with (apparent) relative ease that this must mean that write it that way too!

InshAllah, Gazelle with find a way to reinforce their misguided assumption 🙂


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