Read This Guy’s Blog, it’s Good

An American in Yemen who writes the kind of long, thoughtful posts that I would write if I had ever visited an Arab country.
I just added it to my blogroll.

Here’s a small sample:

My motivation, and maybe this is my passion (?), is partially borne of necessity, I think. First is the obvious. If I want to buy the chocolate milk instead of the regular, sure, I can point to it, but it’s much easier when I can speak it. The same goes for my work in the office. I need scissors and I need tape and I need to print something from your color printer, and I want to ask you politely, so I’m going to look up those words, write them down, say them to you, have you fix what I said, and then get my work done. I’ll probably end up doing a lot of pointing and gesturing anyway.

This passion borne of necessity is not just getting stuff done, though. I believe it’s an act of becoming. With my Arabic-speaking friends, I feel like a fraction of a person. All my thoughts, opinions, convictions, ideas, the intangibles that make “me”, are stuck in my head, in another language. Maybe some people like having a cloud of mystery surrounding themselves, but if you know me, you know that I talk, a Lot, so living inside this box of a language barrier is not ideal, not who I am. Thus with every new word I learn, every phrase I own, and I am becoming more “me”. This desire to become whole is a passion in itself, I think, and I’m trying to figure out the best actions to support it.

I make flashcards, and I make lists. I take my $.75 dinner in a local restaurant, and practice what I know with the locals. I study hours a day, writing and re-writing words on the page, hoping the mechanical repetition will trickle up my arm and into my brain. The vocabulary is extensive, and the concepts do not translate. I cannot “take a nap” or “have a blast”. I have to shift my conceptual understanding of the world to fit the language; trying to have the language fit my understanding gets me nowhere.

The Australian next to me in the office listens to Arabic music every day. The word “my love”, as in, “you are my love, my one and only”, drifts from the speakers at a rate of forty per minute. So I have that word down pat. Earlier today he was listening to Osama, for purely educational purposes, of course. One could call my co-worker a passionate learner. He’s been here for a year and a half, and knows his best plan of attack.

I’ve been thinking that way lately, both because of its difficulty and my pace in the classroom. From here on out, I am no longer studying Arabic. I am attacking it.


1 Comment

Filed under arabic, arabist, language

One response to “Read This Guy’s Blog, it’s Good

  1. Roy

    Sorry, those entries are just way too long. I did a quick scan. . . .

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