أيريد أن كرس هذا مشاكة أن الصعوبات الكلام بلغة العربية كل الوقت. بسبب هو سعب جدا. كل الطلاب عندهم مهارات تحدث أحسن من أنا. مهارات تحدثي ليس جيد. أستخدم جوجل المترجم كل الوقت (مثل الآن.) ليس عندي المفردات على كل اليوم. أستطيع أن تكلم عن الأدب أو التريخ أو الأمم المتحدة و لكن لا أستطيع عن ذاهب إلى السوق.
Disclaimer: Sorry Achraf and Samir, I know you said short blog posts in English to tell our families that you are alive and well are fine but this is going to be a bit long. But I promise, since classes start tomorrow this will be the only English-rant post.
I want to take a break from my regularly scheduled Language Pledge (©) to briefly talk about all the things I’ve been feeling since arriving in Morocco and committing to speaking Arabic all the time, in all situations and aspects of my life, until December. Basically put, it’s really hard. The past week has just been a reminder of how behind I feel, despite the two years of hard work I’ve put into learning Arabic. All of the good grades I’ve received, hours I’ve studied, flashcards I’ve made, essays I’ve written, etc. didn’t seem to mean much the second I stepped off the airplane at the Rabat-Sale Airport.
I am fully aware that with time and with the work I know I will put in, my language skills will improve; but at this moment, it is very isolating. The other students in my program (shout out to you guys for being great and also impressing me everyday with your skills) are far ahead of me and can carry on a conversation much better than I can at this point. I am still in the “stare and smile and hope it wasn’t a question” phase. All of the vocabulary I have in my repertoire, even if I had memorized every single word ever given me, still might not have been enough right now. I am not a huge fan of the way Al-Kitaab is organized and so I really need to take the initiative to learn the everyday vocabulary I’ve come to realize I am missing.
Since I do not have the basic conversation skills to socialize in the way I want to and the way I am used (i.e. basic conversation,) I’ve begun to get very frustrated. One of the things that frustrates me the most is knowing that if something someone said to me were written down on paper I would probably know what is, or at least figure it out from context. But when something is spoken to me – and this is a problem I had even when studying Spanish – my brain just shuts off and does a sort of “I know this word but I don’t think I want to let that process so let’s just not try” thing. Not only do I find this frustrating amongst my classmates, but also with my host family. As I’ve said before, I know my host family is talking about me in front of me (this seems to be a shared experience amongst a few other students as well.) Sometimes I have no clue what they are saying, but sometimes I catch on and when I do, I get a bit angry and start saying “I understand you! I understand you!” So I’m making a great impression with my family. My host mom keeps saying that she is my mother and I am her little preschooler, which I know is meant as a gesture of affection, but everytime I hear it I’m really annoyed. I know my host family must think I’m just a dumb American stumbling my way through Arabic so I guess all I can do is work hard and prove them wrong.
I always kind of laughed at those charts they give you about studying abroad (posted below for your convenience) but I have already experienced the ups and downs several people have warned me about. I seem to be in the honeymoon and The Plunge at the same time or maybe in arrival confusion? As in, I love being here, I love my program, but I am struggling and feel frustrated and at times resentful (of my decision to come here? Of everyone around me? I don’t even know.) Like yesterday, I went out to dinner with a big group of people, including all the students from my program and a few Moroccans. One of the Moroccans told me “You do not speak Arabic,” and after spending all day trying to figure out what he was trying to say to me when he mumbled and spoke very softly, I just got super annoyed and said “Okay,” and walked away.
The feelings I’ve had in just my first week here (first week!!) remind me of how difficult/important it is to study abroad, especially when in a non-western, non-English speaking country. I doubt I would be feeling all of this if I were sitting in a flat in London right now. I go on and on about “breaking out of your bubble” often and the reasons for doing so have solidified for me since arriving and committing myself to this program. Again, this is HARD and it would be so easy to just say “I can’t do this, I’m going home.” But what would I get out of that? It takes a lot to not only learn a new language – and a very difficult, very different language at that – but also to learn that language “in context,” i.e. not from the comfort of a classroom in the States but actually in an Arabic-speaking country.
Well, classes start tomorrow and they are all in Arabic!! so right now I am in denial. Also, I will post again after this with pictures that prove that even though I am a bumbling idiot as an Arabic-speaker, I am still having a great time here.