Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Arabic class and my diploma!

Today marks the conclusion of Arabic class!! I can’t believe the day has arrived. Not counting personal study time, we have spent 88 hours wracking our brains, sounding out Arabic symbols, listening to this foreign “it’s Greek to me” language, getting frustrated, trying again, learning how to conjugate nouns and verbs, realizing every other noun and verb tends to be irregular, thinking about present perfect vs. future vs. future continuous vs. past vs. present simple vs. present subjective, trying to remember what indefinite adjectives, definite articles, and pronominal suffixes are and when and how to use them. Whew. Yesterday we had our final exam lasting three hours—one hour with each teacher. It was intense, but, hey, it was great because we knew what was coming after class—a celebration at Chili’s on the Nile! After being drilled we gorged ourselves with big, greasy, fatty cheeseburgers, French fries, and devilish brownie and ice cream desserts. It was heaven on earth.
Today in class we received our Arabic diplomas (yes, a really nice certificate!) and our grades. I passed at the 73 percentile. The last time I did that poorly…well, let’s not get into that. The point is that I passed! Ibrahim, one of the teachers, told me that at the beginning of our course he was afraid I wouldn’t be good, but in the end he’s been very happy with me and I did well. I nearly laughed out loud—in my mind I did horribly! In fact, another teacher, Ashraf, told me I’m a troublemaker. That really makes me want to laugh. Mom and Dad, I’m “that kid”! You know, the one who holds the class back and tends to mess up and just laughs all class period and can be distracting and tends to go off in his own world for awhile. Yes, that one. Despite all this, I can honestly say I am so thankful for the experience. I learned so much about humility this month. I have such a different perspective of teaching and what it means to be a student. I know this experience is invaluable in so many ways---when I teach in the future I’ll know what it’s like to feel dumb, to become so overwhelmed and frustrated you don’t even want to open the book to study, to desire more encouragement and support from the teacher while also not wanting her/him to expect too much out of you so you won’t be a greater disappointment!
Despite the struggles, I really enjoyed Arabic class. I loved the teachers and my classmates. As we studied we would imitate our teachers for comic relief. For instance, Ibrahim often says (after one of us butchers the language), “What?! What language is zis? No, no, zis is not the way! Zis is the way!” We also laugh at each other and ourselves and it became such a bonding experience. One of our favorite stories involves Jennifer, who was trying to sound out a sentence in class. It’s ridiculous how long this can take, because the Arabic language does not use symbols for short vowels (only for long vowels) so unless you are fully aware of the word you are trying to say it’s nearly impossible to know if you want to say “ah” or “oo” or “eh” in between consonants, if at all. Not to mention that some of the long vowels can also serve as consonants. On top of all that, the Arabic language stresses different syllables, requires you to use different parts of your throat to speak the three different “h” sounds (for instance), and you must roll your “r’s.” Anyhow, Jennifer was sounding out the word for “taxi” which in Arabic is “taxi.” Yes! These are the words we love, of course, because we already know them! So, here’s Jennifer: “T…ta….ta….taaaa…si…ta-si…taaa-seee…taaaaaasi….TAXI!” Light bulb on. Okay, maybe you have to be there, but trust me it’s funny.
And know what’s so amazing? We really have learned a lot. Even though I’ve been behind since Day One and never caught up, I still learned. This evening we took 20-minute taxi drive home. Stephen and the taxi driver spoke in Arabic the entire time, and I understood about 90% of what was being said! I could even add to the conversation. Not only was I very excited, it really motives me to want to learn more!


  • At 10/05/2005, Blogger Hurtig's said…

    So you a trouble maker, outspoken, distruptive, you have a very observant teacher. By the way congrats on finishing, I would have blown a cork trying to learn that. It snowed here today, but it is melting off. So we celebrated with surloin steaks on the bbq and back acorn squash with butter and brown sugar. We are going to Calgary this weekend for a bonspeil, one of our exchange students mother is the coach of the Swiss national womens team so we are really going to see her. I just wanted to hear the skip yell "Hard". We don't know any curling cheers but we do have a couple of Swiss flags to wave. Probably get thrown out. Take care of yourself and do not become one of the "ugly Americans", later, Steve

  • At 10/05/2005, Blogger Hurtig's said…

    Back acorn squash tastes alot better if it is baked instead of back. :)

  • At 10/05/2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, I'm inpressed Sevy! I took three years of Chinese and I still can hardly talk to the taxi drivers. Oh, and I'm not at all surprised that you are the trouble maker! :) Cami


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