Beginning to Listen

For the past few days I have reviewed my previous Arabic books to study the colloquial form of Arabic provided. Up until now, my Arabic classes have focused on the Modern Standard Arabic portion of the books, yet the Egyptian and Jordanian dialects of Arabic have been written alongside the formal Arabic this entire time. Of the three books we used, I’m only up to the second chapter of the second book, so that leaves eighteen more chapters for this second book and another few chapters we covered in the third book. A very long road ahead. As my goal is to test into the highest level of Arabic I can (yet this test only focuses on Standard Arabic, so obviously by practicing the Jordanian dialect instead of focusing solely on Standard Arabic my ultimate goal reaches beyond that) I definitely need a lot more practice. Today was the first day that I really started using the listening practice for the Jordanian dialect. I’m proud to say that by the second and third times through, I understood most of what they were saying! Getting used to how they say words will certainly be a challenge, but after staring at and writing the Jordanian version of certain words for the past few days, it felt very liberating to hear those words as they were intended and to see the circumstances, which included body language and emotion, in which they were used. I have much practice to do, but I also have made great strides in these last few days, so I expect these last two weeks to be very productive.

After a little practice

I’ve been using the glorious internet to start networking with people in the Middle East and practice Arabic, as well as make local friends of course. I have only just begun practicing colloquial Arabic, but I believe I have found some pretty helpful Arab friends. One of the most helpful of these is an Arab from Israel (who referred to the country as Israel in case you were wondering). I am working on the basics of the dialect, so I have learned the question words in the Levantine dialect, which would include the dialects spoken in Israel, Jordan, and Syria, among others. To show the stark contrast between formal Arabic and the vernacular of Jordan, I’ll give a few examples:

(note that the pronunciation of the vowels of Arabic, in general, is as follows: a = “ah”, e = “eh”, i = “e”, u = “oo” as in “oops”, and o = “oh”)

What= مَا (maa) in Modern Standard Arabic, شُو (shuu) in the vernacular

When = مَتَى (mataa) in Standard, إِيمْتَا (iimtaa) in colloquial

How = َكَيْف (kayfa) in Standard, ْكِيف (kiif) in colloquial

Who = ْمُن (man) in Standard, ْمِين (miin) in colloquial

Notice tْhat these words look similar to each other in almost all of these cases. While Modern Standard Arabic does vary greatly from the dialects of the various Arab countries, it still shares much in common with the local spoken. But enough about the language minutia. I’m extremely excited to go abroad for what really will be my first time. I do not count a few hours in Canada as an “abroad” experience. In terms of adjustment, I’m sure it will be similar to my experience with college. I have missed my family, but I had never felt homesick; it was an easy transition. This experience, however, may provide a new challenge in that I will be leaving not just my family, but my entire country behind. The gap in standard of living probably won’t help the transition either. But I’m confident I can make the most of my travels and I hope practicing colloquial Arabic will help me do just that.

Preparing for Jordan

من الضروري أن أدرس كثيرا لأفهم الناس جيدا في الأردن . حتى الأن درست العربية الفصحى فقط و لكن العرب ففي الأردن مثلا يتكلمون العربية العامية.

Preparing for Jordan will be somewhat difficult. For the past two years I have been studying Arabic at Notre Dame, but I have only studied Modern Standard Arabic, the academic language used in the Middle East. Even in countries like Iraq, where the majority of people are not native Arabic speakers, speakers of this formal Arabic can be found. I can introduce myself, saying أنا إسمي براندن مور , “My name is Brandon Moore,” and I can speak to them and converse about relatively basic things, but the problem comes when they respond. Most Arabs that learned formal Arabic in school only used it then, and quickly forgot it once they stopped using it. Because of the similarity to colloquial Arabic, they can understand it, but they will almost certainly respond in either colloquial Arabic, something I have yet to study, or they will respond in English. I’m not travelling to Jordan to study English. And therein lies my first obstacle: to study colloquial Arabic before departing for Jordan so I can make my cultural transition as smooth as possible.