Mickey lernt Arabic: Episode 11 – Byzantine Ruins

On a sunny Friday morning, I traveled with some friends from Ali Baba (my Arabic school) to the north of Jordan to visit Um Qais and Ajloun, two of the must-see destinations in Jordan. I’d actually been to both before, but it had been nine years prior, and, you know, a lot can change in nine years! I also was excited to film an episode of the Lernen to Talk Show inside an old ruin. My dear friend Brenton was kind enough to appear on the show as a guest, and our conversation makes for one of my favorite episodes in Lernen to Talk Show history. There’s something just so delightfully ridiculous about two Americans trying to explain the ancient environment that surrounds them in crummy Arabic. Brenton’s Arabic is much better than mine at this point, and as far as I could tell at the time, he was speaking fluently. Looking back now, I can tell we both still had a long way to go.

Enjoy! And thank you to Scott for filming!

It would probably take me longer to write a commentary on every mistake I made in this episode than it took the Byzantines to build the city we were in, so I’ll just share some thoughts on a few of my favorite gaffs and glories:

0:42 – Brenton used the word نفس (nufs), which means “same”, when saying that we attend the same school. I immediately repeat the word incorrectly back to him, saying a word that to my ears sounds similar, but to Arabic ears probably sounds not at all similar, “نصف” (nusf), which means “half”. The word نصف flies around a lot in Arabic, because it’s how you would say 50 cents (half a dinar), or half an hour, etc. Even after Brenton corrected me, I still said the same wrong word, but my attempt at sign language for “half” shows I knew what he meant.

1:17 – “jemeel juddan” is something you hear a lot in Arabic, meaning “very beautiful”. It’s one of those things people seem to learn pretty early on.

1:24 – Here’s another case of me automatically swapping consonants. Brenton clearly says what in English would be written as “munather” and I parrot back to him “munareth”. I’m pretty sure there’s a name for this kind of error…

1:32 – Here’s a good sentence! نحن شهدنا المنظر – That means, “We saw the view”.

1:50 – I had been trying to think of the word “building”, and I knew I wasn’t looking for the word “bait”, which means “house”, so as soon as Brenton said a different word, “menzel”, I figured that must mean “building”. Little did I know, that’s just another word for “house”.

2:08 – Here I’m trying to show off my ability to make words plural, which is really complicated in Arabic, and which I am failing miserably at. In Arabic, a noun has a singular form, a dual form, and a plural form. The catch is, the plural form is only used for quantities greater than two and less than eleven. If you’re talking about eleven or more of something, then the word you use goes back to the singular form. I was trying to say “a thousand years”, but what I said is more like “a thousand yearses” or “a thousand year”.

2:35 – “nizeltu” – I was trying to use the word for “visit”, which sounds more like “zara”. Mixed ’em up.

3:05 – I translated “time” as “waqt”, which is means “time” as in “the concept of time”, or “transitory time” – What I meant was “occasion”. The correct word for that is “mara”.

3:14 – Nailed this sentence!

4:37 – “Akbar” is a word that I thought meant “great”, and I wanted to say “Um Qais is great!” But I’m pretty sure that word isn’t usually used that way… I wonder how it comes across here.

4:49 – Basically I was trying to say that not many people know about Um Qais, especially in comparison to the pyramids of Egypt.

4:52 – This is one of my favorite moments in Lernen to Talk Show history. Someday I hope to be able to unpack the irony of this statement.

5:03 – I could not believe I said this correctly.

Gaby lernt alemán: Episode 5 – New game, familiar face

Filmed June 8, 2018 in Cologne (49 days after Episode 1)
Gaby’s commentary:
Este juego me encanta porque hace que la conversación sea un poco más fluida y sin momentos incómodos tratando de encontrar tema de conversación. Creo que es importante encontrar formas divertidas para aprender un idioma ya que el proceso de aprendizaje puede ser super lento. También considero importante no ser tan intraexigente con uno mismo cuando vemos un video de nosotros cometiendo errores. Se trata de una experiencia positiva ya que al final, aprender un idioma es algo positivo.
Gracias por seguir el proceso!

Gaby lernt alemán: Episode 5 – Lina im Regen

Here’s Gaby’s 5th episode! Excuse the sound of the wind and the abrupt ending please! But hey, language learning isn’t always done under the ideal technical circumstances. Sometimes a storm comes and threatens your expensive camera!
Filmed May 29, 2018 in Cologne (39 days after Episode 1)
Gaby’s commentary:
I’m relieved that little by little I feel more confidence and worry less about the mistakes I make. As I said before, sometimes I forget some words that I already know like “nur” but it is a matter of practice.
One thing that I’ve also noticed is that also little by little I understand more. I remember on the first video I couldn’t understand anything even though I could understand everything if I saw the exact same words written.

Mickey lernt Arabic: Episode 5 – Dabke!


This episode has been a long time in coming! Thanks for your patience as the remaining “Mickey in Jordan” episodes are published. I’m happy to finally share this episode in particular with you!

It was filmed February 17, 2017, about three weeks into my stay in Jordan. It was a Friday, and I was feeling wiped out from another week of Arabic classes. My friend Mohammed, who you know from Episode 1, invited me out to what I understood to be a high school graduation party for the brother of a friend of his. I was really not feeling so well, and was worried that I was coming down with a cold. But because I hadn’t shot a new episode in a whole week, I knew I just had to go! Mohammed even said that there would probably be a good chance to get an interview with someone at the party, and that it would make for a good cultural video. And boy was he right! I sat down with Mohammed’s friend Muaawiya to chat about Dabke, the popular Jordanian dance. At the beginning of the video you’ll see the dance itself, and then during the conversation you’ll see me trying to understand Muaawiya’s explanation of how the dance works.

When I watch this video now, I’m very happy with the way I managed to pick out individual words that I could recognize from the long sentences Muaawiya would say. For example:

02:20 – Muaawiya says a long sentence that I definitely couldn’t understand, but was able to kind of recognize the last word he said, “al owel” (الأول), which means “first”. You see two seconds later that I’m able to connect that word with the number “one”. Pretty basic stuff, but I’m proud of myself for being able to pick out a word like that from a long stream of Arabic at that point!

02:33 – Here I recognize the word “thani“, which, similar to “al owel”, means “second”. You can tell by what I try to say afterwards that I’m totally not getting what Muaawiya’s saying, but still it’s fun to see how this real conversation presented tiny moments for me to apply what little Arabic I did know to the present moment.

02:50 – When in doubt, just ask a random question!

03:02 – “jar” (جار) means “neighbor”, which I clearly didn’t know yet. What Muaawiya says is “ana jarhu” (انا جاره), which means “I’m his neighbor”. To make a word possessive, or to say “his”, you just add the sound “hu” to the noun. jar : neighbor :: jarhu : his neighbor. Got it? Good.

03:07 – Big win here! I managed to understand that Muaawiya was telling me he lived in Abu Nseir (a neighborhood of Amman) because he generously used the word “bejaneb” (بجانب) which I learned in class means “next to”. And I know Mohammed lives in Abu Nseir because I also lived in Abu Nseir for my first week in Jordan!

03:11 – Here I translated my mistaken conjugation as “I livinged…” This is because I added an “a-” sound to the beginning of the word where it didn’t need it. In Arabic, the resent tense of a verb conjugated in the first person always starts with a sound like “a”. But here I was trying to speak in the past tense, and in that case the first sound is almost never “a”. I said “askuntu”, when I should have said “sakuntu”. It would be like conjugating a word in English in two tenses at once – like “livinged”. You can see that I was unclear because Muaawiya took it to mean that I still lived there!

03:50 – This was the best I could do to try and ask the name of the person whose party it was!

04:20 – It took thirty seconds, but I finally got his name. Asem (عاصم), which sounds like “awesome”. Awesome party Asem!

04:36 – There’s all you need to know to understand this episode!

Thanks for watching, everybody! And thank you Muaawiya for being my guest!


Gaby lernt alemán: Episode 3

Gaby’s commentary:
So this time I realized that sometimes I press myself to talk too fast (even in spanish or english) and that makes me get nervous and forget the words I am trying to use. Of course I know many basic german words but still, forget them all when I am trying to speak.
So maybe for the next video I’ll try not to press my self and speak in a speed suitable for me even though one sentence may take the whole video!
So thank for watching and the motivation is still on!!

Gaby lernt alemán: Episode 2

Gaby’s episode 2 is available now! Filmed Friday, April 27, 2018 in Cologne.
So this time it was very funny to go over the mistakes I did. For instance, instead of saying I went to the Doctor I said something like “I ate the doctor”. Also, I was trying to say that I was going to a Football game with my boyfriend but instead I said with my girlfriend!!
So I’m just gonna keep on cheering myself up to keep on learning and see what happens!