In the last two weeks, I have been making some great progress with my Arabic studies…
…And by that, I mean I have started realizing just how many mistakes I have made.
While that may sound relatively crude, I consider it to be a nice reflection on the amount of progress I have made thus far. This semester has been vastly different from any other from my college experience (and probably the entirety of my academic career) thus far. In comparison to previous courses I have taken, including my French classes in high school, these Arabic classes have had a more profound impact. This is not because of actual classwork of any kind, but rather because I have been immersed in my study topic at an unprecedented level.
At the beginning of the semester, I came to Morocco with only a handful of Arabic words, largely ones that I had taught myself, and what French vocabulary I could recall from high school. I was excited and ready to learn the language that I find so important. The Arabic language and the Moroccan, “Darija,” dialect would not be easy to learn. When considering I had never studied it formally, nor was I fluent in any language besides English (in fact, I am the only member of my class to not be included in either of those categories), the feat became especially intimidating. But in the most recent fortnight, I had experienced an unusual turn of events: one that started exceedingly unfortunate, but actually turned out to be an excellent learning experience: I got sick.
At some point during my trip to Zawiya Ahansal last month, I contracted Bronchitis. Coughing up a storm, I talked myself into seeing a doctor who prescribed me a few medications and bed rest. I then spent the next three days in bed, much to my dismay. Because of this affliction, I was not able to attend a highly-anticipated field trip to a women’s rights organization headquarters in Rabat. Needless to say, I was quite distraught that I was ill.
As it turned out, while my chest was healing, my Arabic knowledge was expanding. Spending a few days cooped up in the house did me good. In addition to offering me some quiet time to review my notes, being ill gave me the opportunity to learn some vocabulary that I probably wouldn’t have covered in any Arabic class. If I had not been prescribed my antibiotic, I may not had learned the word for medicine (“Dwa”). If I had not had coughed a fit deep into the night, I probably would not have had my host-brother, Amin, get me out of bed to give me a spoonful of honey to soothe my throat allowing me to learn the word for it (“EsSell”). And if I had not been making frequent trips to the bathroom for more tissues, odds are I would not had learned to say to my host mother “No, I did not vomit.” (“La, anna ma’tQeyet’sh”)
I do not think I have ever had an educational opportunity quite so immersive before coming to Morocco. Trying to learn Arabic is a significant challenge, of course. But it does not feel intimidating anymore. It takes a lot of patience, trial-and-error, and notes, but it’s fun. If I was given the opportunity to stay for another semester in Morocco to further immerse myself in an Arabic-speaking life, I would probably accept it. When I compare my Arabic-learning experience to my French-learning one in high school, I can say with confidence that immersion can be the factor that separates victory and failure in acquiring a language. Everything is an opportunity to become bilingual- from taking a cab, to ordering at McDonald’s, and, yes, getting sick.
Here are some photos from the last night:
Next week my education will be put to the test. I cannot believe it has finally come, but I have my final exams. The moment I hit the “submit” button below, I am jumping into my studies. Once again, I don’t feel intimidated. I think living with my host family and exploring Rabat have strengthened my Arabic vocabulary enough that I will do quite well.
After this, I’ll be off on Fall break. I’m planning on visiting the Vatican.
I look forward to reporting it all to you next time!