Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mafi Mushkila

So I bring an arabic language book with me every day to my studentship at a local hospital. There, I have a variety of instructors who speak varying amounts of english to me, and during downtimes in the afternoon are more than willing to help me learn a few words here and there. Usually this degenerates into unintelligible babbling and laughter, but I must say having people laugh at you when you mispronounce things makes for good motivation to learn.

Do you want to learn some arabic?
Of course.

Here is how you say "Of course" -- "Tab-awn"
And here is how you say "tired" -- "Tab-awn"

My 'teachers' (i.e. the people sitting next to me that I was distracting from their work) were emphatically insisting that there is a variation in how you pronounce the words, but I just couldn't hear it! This must be similar to the whole "th - d" phenomenon in French. One of my colleagues also tried to demonstrate the difference between a hard "H" and a soft "h" and patiently repeated "ha - Ha - ha -Ha" to me...and well...it was a valiant effort. At the end of the 10 minutes, I felt like I did the last time someone tried to explain the difference between 4x4 and all-wheel-drive to me.

In my language book it gives you sample conversations and one of them was about food. I was reading the arabic parts and had someone else read the english parts until we got to couscous, at which point he was laughing too hard to continue and ran off to call his friend on the phone to talk about couscous. Later when I asked another person what it meant, she giggled, pulled me into an alcove and then suddenly poked me in the crotch; it wasn't a direct hit, but still, I was not expecting that. She of course became hysterical too when she saw the violated expression on my face. Who knew??? Couscous...I'll never see it the same way again.

No comments: