Big news everyone! A new Lernen to Talk Show debuts… right now! Meet Gaby, your newest LTTS host, and watch along with her journey learning German. She’s from México, so subtitles for this series will always be available en Español and in English. And now, a message from Gaby:
So this exercise is something very new for me, I actually never experienced something like this. Although the conversation is only 4 to 5 minutes long, it is very challenging in a way because you are exposed to make mistakes on camera! However, even though it is in our nature to be ashamed of mistakes, with this exercise there is certain relieve that it is okey to make them and embrace them because at the end, you will be learning the language partly because you are brave enough to accept and overcome your mistakes. I encourage people to join and commit to Lernen to Talk Show since only positive things will come out of this!
During my twelfth week in Jordan, I woke up on Saturday, grabbed my camera, and hopped in a taxi and went downtown. I had some breakfast, read a few pages of Infinite Jest, and walked in the sunshine up the stairs to Paris Circle, on the hunt for a coffee shop with Internet. I was supposed to meet a friend from Germany who happened to be in Amman, and my phone was acting up. The only hope I had was to stay put somewhere and hope that Layla got my email indicating where I was.
While waiting, I made friends with Areen, who a few hours later walked with me to the Amman National Gallery to film an episode of the Lernen to Talk Show! Her friend Yazan had a piece in an exhibition, and we manage to see it before getting kicked out. Enjoy, and see below for my analysis!
(P.S. I did manage to see Layla and Simon!)
0:27 – I’m nervous to mispronounce her name because apparently extending the first A in “Areen” turns it into another word meaning “naked”. Correctly pronounced, her name translates to “lion’s den”. Pretty awesome, right?
1:14 – Areen’s English is amazing. She learned it from Hannah Montana.
2:12 – I never did get the imperative form down for we. I wanted to say, “let’s walk!”
3:40 – Those long vowel sounds throw me off a lot. If there’s an alif, you need to really sit on it for it to make sense.
3:53 – The words for “half” and “same” are quite close. Half = نصف = “nissf” and Same = نفسه = “nefs”. I’m proud I caught myself here!
4:08 – Okay so this is super confusing. The name of this piece in Arabic is تناظر (tenawther), which means “symmetry”. But the name of the piece given in English on the label was Palindrome. So of course I assumed تناظر meant “palindrome”. This is why I go on to say that باب is an example of a تناظر, even though it isn’t. باب means “door”, and it’s pronounced “bab”. So the word باب is in fact a palindrome, but it’s not a تناظر, even though the way it is written has تناظر, if we wanna get technical about it. This leaves me with one question… Why did the artist change the name of the piece in English? Is there even a word for “palindrome” in Arabic?
5:24 – I say أسود, but I meant أبيض, I swear!
What? Episode 24? Where are Episodes 3-23? Well, dear viewer, they’re coming. I promise! But for now, as my time in Jordan draws to a close, I wanted to share a more up-to-date example of where my Arabic is currently. This episode was filmed just two days ago, on May 10th. Yousif and I talk in the garden of the Amman Jesuit Center, where I had paid his English class a visit. We talk a little about Iraq, and Yousif’s favorite place in Baghdad.
It’s amazing for me to look back and see the first episodes and this episode side by side. Even though I’ve experienced learning a new language before, it’s still so difficult to really feel the improvement while I’m here. We humans tend to want so much from ourselves without pausing to appreciate what we’ve accomplished. As I get ready to leave Jordan for now, I’m pausing to appreciate the progress I’ve made and, more importantly, the wonderful people like Yousif who I have met along the way. Thank you!
0:34 – Did you know Amman used to be called Philadelphia?
0:45 – I should really just stick to using the English name for the show!
1:03 – I just couldn’t get it right! Thanks for trying to correct me Yousif, but there just wasn’t hope. I mean, استطات ?? Come on, that’s way too many “t” sounds for one word!
1:30 – I’m really mixing up my traditional Arabic and Jordanian dialect Arabic here. What sounds like “fee” means “there are” or “there is” in Jordanian dialect, but kanna, which denotes past tense, would be pronounced kann in Jordanian dialect. This is pretty much my standard approach to Arabic… just using whatever comes into my head and hoping it makes sense.
1:38 – I should have added “al-” to both the words makan and mufuddel. Instead I omitted the one before mufuddel, hence the extra “the” in the subtitle, there to indicate the clunkiness with which I spoke.
1:51 – What do you think of my expert “river” mime?
2:02 – The Tigris! Part of me assumed that thing dried up with the Mesopotamians.
2:18 – It’s amazing what words you can NOT know after 108 days of learning.
2:58 – I am very proud of that sentence right there. Small victories, people!
3:41 – I totally thought he was naming a specific kind of fish, not saying “grilled”. Hence my next question… “is the fish big”?
4:00 – How odd is it that the same word, “fish”, in English, means an animal, and also means the means by which we catch that animal? “They fish in the river.” What a weird word.
4:18 – Yep, thats’ my “I’m not sure what you’re talking about right now” face.
4:50 – I don’t know why I called it “al-Baghdad” here… the name of the city is just Baghdad, not the Baghdad!
In Episode 14, Lidia chats with an old classmate she knew in Cape Town. It’s a little hard to see them, but it’s not at all hard to hear how much her Amharic has improved!
On my fourth day in Jordan, Sohaib brought me to the Amman Citadel, known in Arabic as what sounds like Jebal al-qaulla (Note: when I write these blog posts, I’ll use my own homegrown spelling style to transliterate the Arabic words into what I feel like they sound like in English… don’t count on these being any kind of standard), which literally translates to Mountain of the Citadel. The Citadel is, as you might guess, a high up castle in Amman. It features the ruins of many old civilizations, including the Nabateans, the Romans, the Byzantines, and then the early Muslims. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Amman. On this day, Sohaib and I could only spend a few minutes before the weather took a harsh turn, but we managed to film an episode for you!
(If Sohaib looks familiar, it’s because he’s Mohammed’s brother!)
1:02 – CITADEL. What a cool word in English. Not a word I hear enough. Until now, I always thought it just meant the top of something, like it were synonymous with “summit”. I blame the 1988 young adult novel Banner in the Sky on this. In that book the kid wanted to climb the Citadel, which apparently was the name of a mountain. I thought “citadel” meant the top of any mountain.
1:07 – And so you, fair Lernen to Talk Show viewers, hear your first instance of adjective gender endings in Arabic. That’s right, just like in German and Spanish and pretty much every other non-English language, words have gender in Arabic. Feminine Arabic words have a tendency to end with the letter ة, which tends to make a sound like “ah” (even though technically the letter is more like a “T”, but that’s another story). Anyway, you’re supposed to add that letter to the end of any adjective you’re using to describe a feminine noun, which usually also end in ة. Here I said “al qalla jemeel”, and I should have said “al qalla jemeela”, because “al qalla” is a feminine word: القلعة. Note: This word will pop up again in Episode 14…
1:12 – A classic case of me just saying one of the few words I actually know in order to keep the conversation going.
2:02 – In English it’s called the Amman Citadel, but Jordanian’s don’t need to bother specifying it as being of Amman, which is why you don’t hear the word “Amman” when it’s referenced in Arabic.
2:22 – It’s funny to hear now how I used to pronounce the word لا, meaning “no” (and sounding like “la”). I used to say it more as “law”, which is wrong. It’s actually pronounced more like “lah”. It’ll be interesting to see in future episodes where I finally get this right.
2:24 – This is me trying to say that the Citadel is old.
2:40 – I’m trying to talk about my age here as it’s talked about in English and German… but I soon learn that in Arabic you need to have the appropriate verb to talk about how old you are! It’s a word that sounds like “umree”… Sort of like in Spanish. You won’t be understood in Spanish if you say literally “I am twenty-nine”. You need to say “I have twenty-nine years.” The thing you say in Arabic translates literally to something like “The age of me is twenty-nine.”
3:09 – And if you’re talking about the age of something else, something feminine in this case, the word you use sounds like “umruha”.
3:23 – I got too worked up about this Arabic only rule early on. What’s wrong with a little English now and then?
3:53 – It’s gonna take a really long time before I get this right.
4:40 – I really love the way Sohaib speaks English.