Saturday, June 11, 2011

Study, study, study and study...

Seeing as how in about two hours, when people ask when I leave, I'll say "tomorrow," I think I have every reason to be giddy and slightly freaking out. I'm all packed, very happy to be back in a small suitcase, all my paperwork filled out and in my carry-on. Everything is set and done.

Except for that one thing. The Arabic.

Studying a language for a trip like this is, at least for me, very different from studying anything else for school. In school, sure, I can memorize the names of phyla of fungi for my freshman honors biology class, or the ideas of prominent philosophers for my sophomore AP history class, but I know that once the year is over, I'm not worried about remembering any of it. In the case of cramming as much Arabic into my head in the next two days as I can, it's a different story.

Flipping through my note cards, copying sentences to practice handwriting, it starts to dawn on me what I'm going to be saying over and over once I get there. I'm studying not just to study, but to use. In fact, every word I learn in Arabic is one less word that I'll have to say in English once I'm there, and that's more motivation than any test could ever be.

أنا أسفه، أنا مش فاهمة. The strange thing is, I have no idea whether that's right or not. I got it off the Peace Corps website, so I hope it's right, but maybe it's not. In this respect though, there's the strange idea that I'll know if it's right soon enough, when I say it to the first person who says something I don't understand. Hopefully they'll correct me if it's wrong. This might be the first time I've ever really looked forward to getting into a situation where I can say, "Ana asfeh; ana mish fahema," or "I'm sorry; I don't understand."

أنا إسمي ديانا. أنا عندي واحد أخ، اسم تيم. أمي اسم بيتي. ابي اسم جوناثان. I'm sure my host family will want to hear about my family at home. I've got a photo album packed, of friends and family, and life here in the states, and I'm looking forward to breaking out the album and seeing how well I can explain who is who in Arabic. Hopefully they'll correct me as I go. "Ana asmee Diana. Ana a3ndee wahed akh, asm Tim. Ummee asm Betty. Abee asm Jonathan. "My name is Diana. I have one brother, named Tim. My mom is named Betty. My dad is named Jonathan."

There's more I can say, but the challenge of studying a language in such a short amount of time leads to the problem of trying to guess what might be most useful. I've chosen to be able to say things like "I'm a student," and "I've got class," instead of my colors. Numbers, though? I should probably work on those. That might come in handy.

And then there's the magic phrase - "Where's the bathroom?" It's the one that everyone thinks I should know, and they're probably right. And yet I still need to learn that one too. I'll figure it out.

I love the challenge of learning a language, especially with a chance to use it right before me. With just hours until I leave, I'm so excited. Well, I guess it's time for me to spend some more quality time with my stack of note cards.

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