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

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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

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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!

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”?

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!

Mickey in Jordan | Ep 2: هدا جبل عمان – That’s Jabal Amman

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On my fourth day in Jordan, Sohaib brought me to the Amman Citadel, known in Arabic as what sounds like Jebal al-qaulla (Note: when I write these blog posts, I’ll use my own homegrown spelling style to transliterate the Arabic words into what I feel like they sound like in English… don’t count on these being any kind of standard), which literally translates to Mountain of the Citadel. The Citadel is, as you might guess, a high up castle in Amman. It features the ruins of many old civilizations, including the Nabateans, the Romans, the Byzantines, and then the early Muslims. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Amman. On this day, Sohaib and I could only spend a few minutes before the weather took a harsh turn, but we managed to film an episode for you!

(If Sohaib looks familiar, it’s because he’s Mohammed’s brother!)

1:02 – CITADEL. What a cool word in English. Not a word I hear enough. Until now, I always thought it just meant the top of something, like it were synonymous with “summit”. I blame the 1988 young adult novel Banner in the Sky on this. In that book the kid wanted to climb the Citadel, which apparently was the name of a mountain. I thought “citadel” meant the top of any mountain.

1:07 – And so you, fair Lernen to Talk Show viewers, hear your first instance of adjective gender endings in Arabic. That’s right, just like in German and Spanish and pretty much every other non-English language, words have gender in Arabic. Feminine Arabic words have a tendency to end with the letter ة, which tends to make a sound like “ah” (even though technically the letter is more like a “T”, but that’s another story). Anyway, you’re supposed to add that letter to the end of any adjective you’re using to describe a feminine noun, which usually also end in ة. Here I said “al qalla jemeel”, and I should have said “al qalla jemeela”, because “al qalla” is a feminine word: القلعة. Note: This word will pop up again in Episode 14…

1:12 – A classic case of me just saying one of the few words I actually know in order to keep the conversation going.

1:39 – It’s been about 100 days in Jordan now, and I’ve still managed to avoid meat!

2:02 – In English it’s called the Amman Citadel, but Jordanian’s don’t need to bother specifying it as being of Amman, which is why you don’t hear the word “Amman” when it’s referenced in Arabic.

2:22 – It’s funny to hear now how I used to pronounce the word لا, meaning “no” (and sounding like “la”). I used to say it more as “law”, which is wrong. It’s actually pronounced more like “lah”. It’ll be interesting to see in future episodes where I finally get this right.

2:24 – This is me trying to say that the Citadel is old.

2:40 – I’m trying to talk about my age here as it’s talked about in English and German… but I soon learn that in Arabic you need to have the appropriate verb to talk about how old you are! It’s a word that sounds like “umree”… Sort of like in Spanish. You won’t be understood in Spanish if you say literally “I am twenty-nine”. You need to say “I have twenty-nine years.” The thing you say in Arabic translates literally to something like “The age of me is twenty-nine.”

3:09 – And if you’re talking about the age of something else, something feminine in this case, the word you use sounds like “umruha”.

3:23 – I got too worked up about this Arabic only rule early on. What’s wrong with a little English now and then?

3:53 – It’s gonna take a really long time before I get this right.

4:40 – I really love the way Sohaib speaks English.

Annalaura in Belgium | Ep 13: Un petit de boxing – A little boxing

Two women switching from being super feminine („nous sommes femme“ and „j´ador tus earrings“) to being super cool pretending to be professional in„men-sports“ boxing!

Somehow it shows our nature – Heidis´ and mine – we can be both super gentle and girly and in another moment very cool and joking around with vocabulary which is not very sweet 🙂

The topic of gold (my hair is golden and her earings too!) I like in our conversation because it gives the impression that we have kind of a clue what we wanna focus on ;).

Watching that episode I can feel that it was quite long time being in Germany without speaking and listening to any french word. In other words – I can see and feel my brain working and fighting for the correct words. Nevertheless it was fun at felt nice to make a video around my home place!


Mickey in Jordan | Ep 1: نحن في الاردن – We are in Jordan

I had fun making the Lernen to Talk Show in Germany. So I’m doing it again, this time in Jordan. I hope you like it. Here’s Episode 1.

Note: This time around, subtitles are displayed via YouTube, so click “CC” for the subtitles. Click the little gear icon to switch between English or Arabic subtitles.

0:11 – This was filmed about 30 minutes after I landed in Jordan.

0:31 – “alhamdulillah” – you’re gonna hear this word a whole heck of a lot this season. It means “praise be to God”, but it’s used in all sorts of situations. Here it pretty much means the same thing as “I’m doing well”, but I like keeping the direct translation there because I think it says a lot about the culture here.

0:35 – I’m shocked that he understood what I was trying to say here.

0:45 – What little Arabic I go on to display in this video is the remnants of what I had learned in the summer of 2008, when I spent 6 weeks in Amman taking an Arabic class and an Islamic history class at Princess Sumaya University for Technology. Sadly I didn’t make any Lernen to Talk Show videos back then… I hadn’t had the idea yet! The only YouTube record of my time then was this video of me badly interpreting a Badly Drawn Boy song… which, incidentally, also features the voice of Mohammed, my guest in this episode, at the very end!

1:01 – By now I’ve displayed pretty much all the Arabic I knew coming into this.

1:09 – Mohammed literally just said nahnu”, and I repat “nahna” back to him. I’d like to think this is more on account of the fact that I just got finished with a 16 hour journey from Chicago.

1:25 – Here I’m trying to distinguish between using the article “al” before words… “Jordan” has a “the” in front of it in Arabic, but Amman doesn’t…

1:31 – …and when said after certain prepositions, like “fee”, a contraction is made. Which is why Mohammed says what sounds like “fill”, which, when separated, would be “fee” + “al”.

1:44 – As the old talk show host saying goes, “ask what you know!” Right?

1:51 – Qusai nailed it. I was trying to say “I’m happy”.

2:19 – Just like in Spanish, you gotta add a plural ending to adjectives you’re using to describe more than one person at once. In Arabic, that ending sounds like “-oon” (at least in this case).

2:35 – I gotta agree with them here.

2:52 – Qusai is trying to keep things in “formal” Arabic here, by correcting my use of the word bukra to instead use ghedden to say “tomorrow”. What he doesn’t realize is that in my head bukra meant “after”… but of course I was wrong. Bukra means “tomorrow” in Jordanian Arabic.

2:57 – To my American ear, the letter غ in Arabic sounds kind of like the rolled “R”… In fact it’s supposed to be pronounced totally differently, coming more from the back of the roof of your mouth, not from a fluttering of the tongue. Mohammed was hearing my mistake, even though I wasn’t. That’s what’s going on here.

3:05 – Annnnd we’re already using the future tense.

4:20 – Masalaama, is how it should be pronounced… I’m embarrassed about how long I went on saying this way.

I hope you like watching this new season as much as I like making it!

Keep lernen,


Annalaura in Belgium – Episode 12: Oh, des gaufres! – “Oh, the waffles!”

Talking french seems quite comfortable in this video. Maybe it is because of the one and only subject: sweets! 🙂 Talking about food is so much fun!

We only talk about ice-cream and waffles! What a work 😉

It is true that I had a disgusting experience with ´des gaufres´ – the waffles in Brussels. What a pitty, because Brussels is famous for their gaufre!

Adil and my plan for the future: One day eat good! waffles.

I love to talk with Adil it is always a lot of pleasure for both of us and we feel more and more connected and familiar with each other!

This day was a day full of light and I can see it in our faces.

Thanks Adillllllllllllll!