Mickey lernt Arabic: Episode 13 – قلعة الكرك – Kerak Castle

A mural of the castle, painted on the castle

One of the best parts about studying at a language school is that you are constantly meeting new people in the same boat as you. During my time in Jordan I was taking Arabic classes every day at Ali Baba International Center, along with a rotating cast of characters from all over the world. The class sizes were very small, in order to accommodate people’s different levels of Arabic, but we foreigners inevitably all got to know each other during break times. That’s how I met Brenton from Episode 11, for instance. During the week after my trip to Wadi Mukheires, word got around the language school that my fellow American Aaron was renting a car the following weekend in order to go visit Kerak Castle, which is a couple hours south of Amman. I claimed a spot, along with another American, an Australian, and a German, and our crew headed out early Saturday morning to explore the old desert stronghold.

View from the castle

I brought my camera with, thinking that the castle would make a great location for a Lernen to Talk Show episode. Unlike the previous week, I wasn’t with any native Arabic speakers who I could ask to be guests. Instead, I worked up the courage to ask a couple total strangers (with Aaron assisting as an interpreter) to chat with me on camera. I was absolutely thrilled when they said yes, and the result is here for you to see:

Thank you to Aaron for filming!

0:31 – I experimented with weaving in some B-roll to pump up the production value of this episode and give you a better idea of the castle’s grandeur than could be captured in the interview alone.

0:35 – I’m a little embarrassed by the habit I somehow acquired to be saying الحمد لله / alhamdulillah any chance I got.

1:05 – Yasir’s correction is a good example here of how I struggle with the “t” sound that comes with the letter ة at the end of words. To my US-American perspective, it’s a pesky little letter that only in certain situations is pronounced at all. The word for “castle” in Arabic is قلعة / Qalla, which when pronounced on its own has know audible “t” sound at the end. It’s a letter that ends a lot of words, and it’s usually an indicator that the word itself is feminine in grammatical gender. The letter ة is called the تاء مربوطة / ta marbota, meaning “attached T.” This is not to be confused with the letter ت, which is more of a regular ol’ T. I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, but I know that it only gets pronounced when another word follows it. In this case, it’s pronounced because the word الكرك / al-Kerak follows it. I hadn’t figured this out yet, and so I say (incorrectly) “Qalla Kerak“, and Yasser corrects me, saying “Qallat al Kerak” (I incorrectly omitted the “al” as well).

1:16 – Sorry for the pop quiz Yasir, but you were way off! Not that I could understand you in the moment… but this thing’s a solid 900 years old, my man.

1:52 – My prepositions were still way off at this point. I relied way too heavily on the word من / min (“from”). When you’re talking about traveling by car, ب / b- is the way to go.

2:03 – As far as I can tell, the spellings “Kerak” and “Karak” are used pretty interchangeably.

2:28 – They read my mind, that I was looking for the word “capital” – they said العاصمة / al aasima, but then went on to say الكبرى / al kubra, meaning “the largest” – and that’s what I latched onto, thinking it was the word for “capital”.

2:35 – I need to collect all the instances where I say “I understand” when in fact I absolutely did not understand.

3:00 – Clearly I didn’t get the memo from 1:05.

3:10 – When in doubt, just say something stupid.

3:23 – I love the look on Yasir’s face. It’s a look that says, “Oh, I get it, this guy’s a fool and this is a silly video so let’s have fun with it.”

3:43 – That Salem drives a hard bargain.

4:05 – Aaron’s a pro. I should mention here that he also helped me after filming by transcribing the whole conversation!

4:51 – This is me trying to tell everyone to come visit Kerak Castle.

Our expedition crew

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