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!

thumbnail

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!

ميكي

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!
-Gaby

Season Premiere! Gaby lernt Alemán!

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!

Mickey in Jordan | Ep 18: هذا بيت الفن جميل جدا – This house of art is very beautiful.

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 4.25.29 PM

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!

Mickey in Jordan | Ep 24: شارع ابو نؤاس – Abu Nawas Street

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 1.53.32 PM

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!

IMG_1436
Abu Nawar Street / شارع ابو نؤاس

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”?

IMG_1433
Al Masgouf / السمك المسكوف

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!