So here we are, almost fifteen months in Cairo. And fourteen of those months I’ve been dutifully taking my Arabic classes.
So why aren’t I fluent already? Maybe because my impatience is as equally high as my inherent laziness, which inhibits my studying, but then frustrates me. Hey, you try living in this head.
Despite my non-fluent status, I persevere. I have even bumped up my twice-weekly classes to five days a week for the month of July. I really just need to be pushed, and I know that. I really want to be fluent, I just don’t want to put all the work in to becoming fluent (flashbacks to the French Horn incident of 4th grade and the gymnastics attempt in 6th grade are blinding).
I know what I need to do – study grammar and vocabulary. On the occasions that I do spend time daily reviewing word lists, I admit that I can see a difference. So why don’t I continue? Probably the same reason I can’t remember to take a daily vitamin for more than 10 days in a row: squirrel-like attention span.
Regardless of my inert studying abilities, I find Arabic to be a fascinating language. While there are always exceptions to rules and patterns, Arabic does have a lot of logic and efficiency that I am drawn to. I’m also realizing how difficult, wordy, verbose, long-winded, rambling and loquacious English is. (Don’t you hate garrulous folk?)
For instance, in English we would say, “I will see you tomorrow.” Five words. Whereas in Arabic it’s, “Hashoofik bokra.” Two words. The efficiency is in the verb combination.
I see – ashoof
I will see – hashoof
I will see you – hashoofik
It’s all about the prefixes and suffixes. Very clever.
And root words are key too. From the root “ktb” you get maktab (desk), kitaab (book), maktaba (library/office/bookcase), yiktib (to write), etc. Again, clever.
We are currently doing a grammar review, which is good considering I haven’t discussed participles (is that half a pinch in cooking?) or modals (I’m assuming no relation to a Henry Ford invention) in 15+ years. In yesterday’s class Suheir, my teacher, had me conjugating verbs, speed-style. She’d leap back and forth between past and present, different verbs, different subjects. It felt like mental whack-a-verb. Class typically lasts 45-90 minutes and at the 60-minute mark I felt my brain deflate. I was like a wind-up toy stuck in a corner slowing down. Luckily Suheir has great patience and good sense of humor.
My goal is to get out of Egypt with a really strong start in Arabic (or be fluent). While I’m not so childish as to sleep with my workbook under my pillow (primarily since it never worked for high school Chemistry), I do hold out hope for a USB-like device that will enable a quick upload so we can forget all this silly studying and get back to collecting nuts for the winter. Now where did I store that last one?