Mickey lernt Arabic: Episode 13 –  الطبيعة الخلابة – The Great Outdoors

A few days after talking to Rawan, I went out to Jabal Amman to spend Friday evening with an old friend. As mentioned in the video, Tala was the very first Jordanian person I ever met. The year was 2007. I was a junior in college and I had just gotten back to campus in Urbana after spending a semester abroad in Chile. In order to fulfill some kind of scholarship requirement, I signed up to represent my new alma mater La Universidad del Bío-Bío at an international fair the College of Engineering was hosting. I chatted with any students who were interested in going to a Spanish-speaking country, and I tried to convince them that Chile was the way to go. Any students interested in an Arabic-speaking country were better served by the student standing next to me, who had recently arrived in Urbana for her own study abroad experience. She was from Jordan, and she was representing the newly minted study abroad relationship between the University of Illinois and the Princess Sumaya University for Technology. I was excited to meet someone who was in the same position I had just been in, being eager to pay forward some of the hospitality I had received in Concepción. It was exciting to learn about Jordan from Tala, and to imagine maybe someday visiting.

Almost a decade later, Tala picked me up from Rawan Cake on شارع الجامعة / sharya al-jaamia (University Street) (no relation to Rawan), and we drove to Jabal Amman to meet up with her friend Shehab, with whom she had studied in New York City after finishing undergrad. At some point in the evening, someone suggested going hiking the next day, and plans were forged for a trip out of the city and into the desert. I didn’t know what to expect – but it sounded fun! Hopefully this video gives you an idea of the otherworldly landscape to be found out near the Dead Sea. We had a great hike, even if it was scorching hot out. Also, I had left my phone and my camera in the car, but luckily another hiker in our group agreed to film the video! I remember it feeling awkward to try and convince him to film the video, but that’s the life of a Lernen to Talk Show host. I’m so grateful to Tala and to Shehab for joining me for this episode. It brings back great memories.

0:52 – Came out pretty bad out of the gate here. After seven weeks in Jordan, I still hadn’t quite mastered the phrase “how are you?” in Arabic. Granted, there are a bazillion ways to ask that question. I was trying to say it specifically to two people at once. I was close, saying كيف حالكم أنتما؟ / Keif halukum entuma? which would translate to “how are you all you both?” The correct way to say it would have been simply the two words كيف حالكما؟ / Keif halukuma? Spoiler alert: I do get this correct in a future episode. Watch out for it!

1:02 – A flight from Dubai to Amman takes about 3.5 hours, FYI.

1:05 – Notice my subtle directorial touch.

1:23 – This was way too ambitious a sentence for me at the time. Luckily Tala new what I was getting at.

1:43 – As I always say, you gotta gender your demonyms. Arabic is like Spanish in this way. Whoa, lots of stuff in this video is somehow connected to Spanish.

1:56 – The word وادي / wadi is commonly left as “Wadi” in English when it appears in a name, but it literally translates to “valley.” It’s kind of like the word Loch for lakes in Scotland.

2:00 – Another Spanish connection.

2:10 – Note the amazing directional quality of the iPhone microphone. Listen to that water fall!

2:26 – This phrase billim helli / بلم حلي is something my friend Sohaib taught me as a response whenever someone says “welcome” ( ahlan wa sahlan / أهلا و سهلا ), but I’ve never been sure of what it actually means. Sohaib just told me that people will love it if I say it, and so far it’s never failed to make people smile. After I said it to Sohaib’s dad, he thought it was so hilarious that an American would know that word that any time I was around he would say أهلا و سهلا just so he could hear me say بلم حلي. It cracked him up every time. I decided to translate it as “delighted” just because that would be a kind of fun thing to hear a foreigner say in English who otherwise didn’t know much English.

2:44 – I guess I was worried about the noise from the waterfall!

3:20 – Tala feels my pain.

3:35 – This is definitely one of those “oh”s where I have zero idea what the person is saying to me.

3:39 – This is my favorite moment of the episode. There are Arabic words for every month of the year, but colloquially people usually just refer to the months by their number, or by the English word. In fact, the Arabic word for “April” is so uncommonly used that Shehab double checks with Tala how to say it, and then says نيسان, which is pronounced Nissan, hence the classic hands on the steering wheel gesture. I, for one, support a return to the Arabic words for months of the year!

3:52 – I’m very proud of the laugh I got out of Tala here. I was trying to point out how the word نيسان / nissan (April) sounds a lot like the word نساء / nissa’, which means “women.”

4:20 – For those keeping score, here’s another mispronunciation of ma salama from yours truly.

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