I have finished with all of my midterms and I am flying to Spain to spend fall break with friends. While preparing for this trip, I’ve been thinking a lot about my language progress in Morocco over the past two months.
Before coming to Morocco, I had studied Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) for two years at my home institution Mount Holyoke College and MSA continues to be my target language while living in Morocco. However, people in Morocco also speak lots of other languages aside from MSA, like Moroccan Arabic Dialect (Darija), French, and often a Berber language. In Rabat, Darija is the language that I hear most often spoken on the street and I use my Darija when negotiating with taxi drivers or buying bread. While I came into my study abroad experience wanting to improve my MSA, my priorities have shifted a bit. Learning Darija has become really important to me because it means being able to communicate more fully with the people around me. It has been a challenge to learn two different kinds of Arabic at the same time but, I love being able to see the similarities between the two.
I still have plenty of opportunities to practice my MSA during the day. I generally practice my MSA in class with my language partner and with my host family. My midterms for my classes all happened in the week leading up to Fall Break. While exams are always stressful, preparing for them was a useful way to review and reinforce all of the Arabic that I’ve learned so far.
I speak in Modern Standard Arabic with my language partner, Sanae. She is wonderful! I really look forward to when we get to hang out. We meet up weekly and speak half of the time in English and half of the time in Arabic. We’ve gone to the zoo and taught each other the words for all the different animals. I loved exploring the medina together and walking to the ocean. I have also been to her house for Friday couscous and she has come to mine too. Thinking back on the things we’ve done together I am reminded of the benefits of studying abroad. Living here and learning Arabic in Morocco is so different from learning it from a text book. I’m really grateful to be able to learn vocabulary while drinking tea with Sanae’s family rather than memorizing words out of a book. Here are photos of the ocean from an afternoon that I spent with Sanae.
My host family has helped me so much with my learning. During meal times, we talk together in MSA and I try to incorporate what Darija I learned in class that day. We watch many Turkish soap operas that are dubbed into Darija or into Levantine Arabic dialect and a lot of our conversations revolve around trying to understand all of the plot twists. I find the consistency of everyday conversations really comforting and the repetition is really helpful for me too! Every morning my host mom asks me and my roommate Mariah, Did you sleep well? Then in the afternoon the questions become, how are you? Are you fine? Is everything good? Since I hear those questions every day I am confident in my reply, more confident in my Arabic in general, and I understand Moroccan culture better. One of my favorite language moments happened when I was walking home from class. I saw two friends run into each other on the street and they said all of the variations of how are you? It was such a nice surprise to able to understand an interaction on the street. In that moment, I felt like more of an insider and felt like I was making some concrete progress with my Darija.
Until next time!