صفي صعب جدا! ولكني أحبه جدا!

غيرت صفي في يوم الثلاثاء. كنت في المستوى الثالث لكن فضّلت أصعب عربية فغيرت صفي و الآن أنا في المستوى الرابع. في هذا الصف زملائي و أنا نقرأ نصوص صعبة من الجرائد أو  نستمع إلى الأخبار في الأنترنت من مصادر متنوعة و نتكلّم عن مواضيع و قضايا شيقة و  ممتعة. هذا الأسبوع تكلّمنا عن التعليم في الشرق الأوسط و في أمريكا و الأخبار من بلدان كثيرة. إن شاء الله سنتكلّم عن الصلة بين إسرائيل و فليسطين و النساء في الشرق الأوسط و أشياء أخرى و أنا ثائر جدا! أتمنّى أن أصبح أن أستطيع قراءة الجرائد في العربية الفصحى بعد هذا الصيف فأقدر على ممارسة العربية في اليابان عندما أسافر إليه في المستقبل

I changed my class this week on Tuesday. I was in level 3 Arabic here, but I wanted more of a challenge so I requested to be moved up to level 4, and I moved up with no trouble logistically. Practically, however, my new class is really freaking hard! We read semi-authentic to authentic articles in class, then we talk about them. There are a huge number of vocab words I don’t know. I thought I was alone in that at first, but it turns out that quite a few people are in the same situation I am, in that, as foreigners, we have a very small vocabulary at this point. We talked about education in the United States and the Middle East this week, as well as other news around the world. In the future, we’re going to talk about the situation in Israel and Palestine, the state of women in the Middle East, and many other worthy topics. I’m really excited about all of this because I was starting to get impatient regarding my language-learning experiences. I know I have basic skills, but I want to move at a faster pace to become more competent in the language, and this class change was exactly what I needed. This extra push will also help me maintain my language skills when I travel to Japan in the fall, as it gives me the ability to practice Arabic by reading newspapers. I can’t wait to improve my Arabic exponentially this summer.

الناس في الأردن لطفاء و أحبّهم كثيراً The people in Jordan are nice and I like them a lot.

أظن أن هذه التجربة حلوة كثيرا و الآن أستمتع بكل شيء في الأردن. أفكر في أن أحاول أن أقرأ جراءدا مثل الجزيرة ولكني الآن لا أستطيع. أبدأ أقرأ مقابلات في الإنترنات لأن فيها مقابلات بمفردات جديدة لتعلّم العربية سهلا.

I think this experience so far has been very worthwhile. The people here are really nice and I’ve received many favors from them. Once a taxi driver helped me find my way home and didn’t charge me the full price. Another person bought me dinner. I have been able to speak the colloquial Arabic well enough that people start talking back to me a little to fast. This has made me even more acutely aware of my very narrow vocabulary, so I’ve started to build that vocabulary so I can better communicate what I want. I plan to read articles online using a site called foreigncy.org, which helps you read authentic Arabic articles with a step-by-step process. This is probably gonna be hard the first few times, but I think after a while I will get used to it and it will become natural for me to seek out articles in Arabic, which is exactly what I want.

تاكسي! و الشوارع و السيارات Taxis and cars and roads

Wow, taxis are a necessary evil. First things first, taxis find their way by landmarks. Do not tell them street names at all. They will not know any. Even if it is a major street, they don’t pay attention. I’ve heard that part of the reason is that the streets are new and renamed. The bigger reason,  I think, is that they just don’t direct themselves the way we do. So never, ever tell a taxi a street name. They may know it, but it really enables a bad habit that you will need to quit very soon. I suggest that you look very carefully at where you need to go and where you live in order to give directions by landmarks. Use stores, banks, hotels, hospitals, anything that you think will stand out.

You will be amazed by cars here. Really, it’s fascinating. After three days here, I was in awe yesterday at a car that was driving in its lane. The streets here have very little regulation. I think it’s pretty standard to not have lanes marked, and instead to view the street as a place where you can drive pretty much anywhere but the wrong side…except sometimes it’s ok to do that too. U-turns are common and there are even places in the street marked for u-turns. People sometimes stop in the middle of the street to do stuff. People honk horns like it’s the cool thing to do. In America, it’s rare to hear someone honk their horn. Here, it’s weird when someone is not honking their horn. People honk their horns at bad driving, to pedestrians crossing the street to alert them a car is coming, to celebrate, and because they’re bored.

Internet and Phones are troublesome

I arrived in Amman Friday morning, and only now am I getting stable internet connection. Before I had to hurriedly buy a phone plan, then use internet on my phone. That was a bad idea. I quickly ran through 10JD by using internet and texting people too much. Because I put credit on my balance instead of choosing a prepaid plan, the rates were much too expensive and my balance depleted quickly. Now I have about 100GB of internet at my house and whatever internet is left on my phone from getting a plan after learning my lesson.

I totally didn’t expect this problem to occur, but that’s in part because I didn’t really understand how the internet worked. It was kinda magic to me at home, where I could just idly browse the internet without consequence. I didn’t care about how much internet I consumed, and sometimes I simply wasted it by looking up stuff when I was bored. Now, as the locals are, I am acutely aware of the limitations of the internet here.

One thing I regret though is not getting an Android phone or an IPhone for this trip. I hate to say it, but I think IPhones are ideal for travel at the moment, especially if you need to type a foreign language. IPhones have Arabic, a language that, while it has many speakers, seems to be a rare addition to smartphones. I only have the option of downloading really bad apps with my Windows Phone, so I’m starting to miss my Android phone on that note as well. Even with Android apps, however, nothing can compare to a built-in keyboard at the moment, as it really eases the transition between languages.

Also, either buy an unlocked phone, or get yours unlocked in the states before travel. This allows you to use local phone rates (rather than the higher international rates of your own phone company) by buying a sim card from one of the local companies. These are: Umniah, Zain, and Orange. Do not put credit on your sim card! Choose a prepaid plan! Compare the prices yourself and you’ll see the benefit.

Takeaway travel tips: Mind your internet usage! Buy a phone prepaid plan, and research them before you come here! Make sure your phone is unlocked before you come, as you need it to buy a local sim card to get a local company’s plan and pay lower, local rates!