Friday, September 16, 2011

250 Words or Less

This is extremely strange to be trying to write these essays again. I remember last year, writing one essay over and over again, trying to put the words exactly right, getting it to come across as I had it in my head. I needed it to be heartfelt, and not too sappy, and it needed to be well thought through and intelligent, but not forced and fake. I was trying really hard, but I meant to be trying really hard. I wanted it to come out right.

And now I'm sitting here again, exactly one year later, staring at the same essay, with the same box, on the same website. "What are three reasons you want to study abroad? Explain in less than 250 words." Before, it was hard enough to keep it that short, with everything I wanted to say. But I'm not even sure it's possible to put everything I want to say in that few of words anymore, especially after this summer. How do I put my host family, our late night talks about politics and religion, our attempts at Chicago style pizza 6,000 miles away from the source, and our walks around the neighborhood, how am I supposed to put that in 250 words or less? Then there's the taxi cab drivers, their exasperation with my Arabic some days, and their delight at my effort on others; there's the cab driver who changed my life when he explained to me that you had to be thankful for life and use it, and not just sit there. There's the neighbors who played soccer in the abandoned lot next to my apartment, and there's the little boys who laughed and giggled when we played with them one day. There's the roof of our apartment, a place to go to sit and see the city, to eat and talk, to sing and get married. There's the day three door handles in our apartment came off, and it took ten minutes to explain what our problem was in Arabic. Then there's when we were leaving, getting on the bus to go to the airport, and the men from the apartment ushered us back into the lobby one last time, to get their one last picture, so proud that we had stayed with them, in their building. How I am supposed to put that into 250 words or less? Because that's the reason I want to study abroad.

Jordanian Phrasebook

I knew that I had a hard time finding Jordanian Arabic on the internet before I left, so here's some of the stuff I learned there. This is mostly ammiya phrases, which you can think of like a sort of slang, but more widespread, and accepted in any sort of conversations. It is a spoken language only though, the formal written language, called fussa, is written and used in the media, and not really spoken day to day. Keep in mind that these phrases will probably not be understood by speakers of Arabic outside Jordan and Palestine, as they would have a different dialect.

(Also, if you're in a fussa class somewhere, and you use these in class, tell me what happens. I've gotten a few laughs for saying things like "Esh?!" and "Shu yanni?" in a formal Arabic situation, just because I'm used to speaking ammiya, not fussa).

Finally, spelling doesn't matter. Ammiya is not a written language, only spoken. I'm writing these in Arabic and English just to show the pronunciation. So, save the spelling for fussa, ammiya is speaking.


إيش / شو
(Esh / Shu )
These both mean "what," and they're the words that are the most "Jordanian" compared to other dialects, especially "shu." I had a phone interview one time in Arabic and the man laughed really hard when I said "shu" on accident instead of "ma." ("Ma" means "what" in fussa, which is what the interview was in). As far as usage goes, you use them pretty much the same as you use "what" in English. You can start sentences with both of the words, and also use it as a "what?" what you don't hear something or are surprised.

It literally means "I mean," but the best way to explain it is to definite it as the English "like." People say it as an equivalent of "um" or "like," or to approximate something, and in pretty much every other situation imaginable. Sometimes I swear that people just throw is into sentences,  so you'll probably hear it a lot. But beware of overusing it, just as you would not want to say "like" in every English sentence you speak. Personally, I save it for times when I'm actually not sure, like telling someone when I'll arrive, yanni, if everything works out. See?

شو يعني 
(Shu yanni?)
This combines both words so far, and is a very useful phrase for a language learner. This means  "What does it mean," but is the usual way of "What is the translation?" whether it be from Arabic to English or the other way around.

(Keefak (to a male) / Keefik (to a female) )
"How are you?" That's pretty much it. Not much explanation there.

(Kwayyis (describing something male) / (kwayyisa (describing something female) )
This is a common answer to someone asking how you're doing. Some people I've talked to said it's an "old person word," but I've heard young and old people both using it. It literally translates to "OK" and can be used just the same as "OK" is in English. But a warning, it's two syllables - "kway-yis," not "koos," like the Moroccan dish. That dish doesn't exist in Jordan, so don't ask for it. It's vulgar.

There are SO many more, but that's all I'm going to do for now. Overwhelming lists of words are never good. They scare me, and I don't want to scare anybody. So that's all for now!

Next Time?

I'm currently filling out the application for next year/summer/whatever happens. So I might keep posting on this over the school year, but probably not. I'll definitely start it up again next summer though, so I'll write again then!

This is strange to be back at square one after this summer. Filling out the same application, hoping again. Staring at the same screen of questions, wondering how to fit everything I want to say about why I'd like to go back into a few hundred words or less. I don't think I could ever fit everything into these few white boxes.  It's funny how it's even footing with everyone else applying again, not "I'm a semi-finalist," or "I'm a finalist." Just another applicant, hoping another amazing experience. Insha'allah :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Waiting for Next Year

The website for the scholarship I got to go to Jordan last summer says that applications for this coming summer will be released late this summer. Today is the middle of September, and I'm getting antsy to start filling out the applications and hoping to go again next year! They send programs to Morocco and Jordan, as well as Egypt depending on politics, and I'd love to go again; at least having a couple applications essays would give me something to do to think about it.

I really miss the Middle East, and speaking Arabic, and so many things about it there. Insha'allah I'll be able to return before I'm done with high school.