Friday, September 28, 2012

أسف،أنا مش بيتكلم عربي كويس ! I don't speak good Arabic

I feel like this is a phrase that I have to say very frequently. -.-

Even though I've gotten much better at Arabic since I arrived in Egypt, my Arabic is still terrible.
But I'm trying to do my best at learning it, and I have a few particular strategies that I'm using to try to accomplish this goal:

1) Often times, when people around me are speaking, I try to simply "turn off'' my English brain and simply listen to the Arabic words I can understand, to see if I can at least pick up what the topic is. Sometimes it works, and I'm actually able to learn new words.

2) Calligraphy lessons:
Earlier this week, Regina, Melanie, and I started calligraphy lessons with a very skilled calligrapher that lives in a neighborhood very close to us. He showed us how to write our names in an absolutely GORGEOUS STYLE called diwaani, which is extremely artistic and ornate.
Other styles include naskhi, which is usually used in most print, ruq'a, which is used in handwriting in most Arab countries, kufic, a very old type of script that originated in modern-day Iraq, thuluth, another artistic form often used to write Urdu and Ottoman Turkish, and then Farsi, which is used (pretty obviously) to write Persian.
Our teacher claims that by the end of our stays, not only will we be able to write ruq'a like the natives do, but we will be able to write diwaani as well.
I wonder if this will work out. xD

3) MUSIC -
I'm trying to listen to lots of Arabic music. Some of the artists I've come to like are older, like Umm Kulthoom herself. Then there's the more modern, pop-style artists, like Amr Diab, Mohammed Mounir, and, also Ramy Sabry.
One of the pop styles is called shaabi. It's kind of a pop style with crude lyrics, and a lot of autotune and synthesizers. It's fun to dance to, but overall I must admit that I don't like it very much, so I'm going to skip over it in the songs I post later. xD
I also really love Fayruz, but her songs are in Lebanese dialect, and since really want to learn Egyptian Arabic, I'm trying to enjoy her songs in small doses only. :)
I will post some videos of my favorite Arabic songs! I'll skip over "Inta 'omri,'' the Umm Kulthoom song, because I posted it already.

4) My brothers have been giving me "lessons" in Arabic and being extremely helpful whenever I want to know how to say something. Also, my host parents are always telling me new words as well. It's a great and convenient way to bond. :) It's funny, because very often we have to speak a very funny mix of bad Arabic and English, that I have dubbed " 'Arabish, combining the words " 'Araby" and "English." xD

5) Just listening and trying to hear new words. I find that I'm able to understand much better than I can speak.
For example, someone might say a verb conjugation that I understand very easily in a sentence, but, if I had needed to use it in a sentence myself, I would have had no idea how to say it.
Additionally, something that I find is happening quite often is that I can understand it quite well when someone is speaking directly to me, but then they turn around and start talking to another Egyptian and I understand WALA HAGA (NOTHING) anymore. -.-

6) My Lonely Planet Egyptian Arabic phrasebook. It has been ridiculously helpful, and is pretty much a pocket-sized textbook.
I've also used, to a lesser extent, the phrasebook from that series entitled "Middle East," which includes a chapter for: the MSA, Egyptian, Lebanese, Gulf, and Tunisian Arabic dialects, Farsi, Hebrew, and Turkish. I figured it might come in handy if I happened to go to or meet someone from a different Arabic country, because although, like I've said, Egyptian Arabic is very well understood throughout the Arab World, these people who understand it don't always know how to reply.
Also, on a slightly unrelated note, I used the book from the "Culture Smart!" series to educate myself about Egyptian culture.
As well as a Lonely Planet guidebook to look at useful information about possible destinations.

If you're going to travel to a foreign country for any significant amount of time, or even just for a short trip, I would definitely recommend bringing those three things (a Lonely Planet guidebook about the country, an LP phrasebook about its language, and a Culture Smart! book about its culture) with you to guide you along.

OK, back to Arabic learning strategies:
7) I often try to watch scenes from movies that I've seen before from my childhood, dubbed into Arabic. I figure that if I watch something where I know the story well and know more or less what is being said, there's a good chance I'll pick up a new word or two.
One thing I can't get enough of is Arabic Finding Nemo. Dory speaking whale is HILARIOUS in the dub. xD

That's all.
My own life, other than starting the lessons, has been pretty non-eventful.
But today HADY CAME TO ALEX!! :)
We wandered around Alexandria for a few hours with him and several of the volunteers until it was time for another AFS meeting.
It was a good day!!
Khalas. Bye!
This little book has been my savior in the past several weeks. 

This has also helped to a lesser extent. I sometimes have to hide it from myself, because I get distracted and read the Farsi, Hebrew, and Turkish chapters. xD
This, which I got as a Christmas present last year, has been a very valuable resource (thanks Mom and Dad! <3)

This helped a ton. I was, unfortunately, unable to buy one and bring it with me, but our cultural adviser on Egypt at the PDO, Karolina, let me borrow it and absorb as much as I could (thanks for everything if you're reading Karolina!:)) I tried to find one in JFK before our flight, but I couldn't -.- oh well. It probably would have been very overpriced in the airport anyway! xD

my name in diwaani!

Here are videos of some random Arabic songs, plus Dory speaking whale - bil 'Araby, ta'ban! (In Arabic, of course)
Be warned: Even if you do not speak Arabic, you're in for a lot of laughing. xD


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