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!


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