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!
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!
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!
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!
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”?
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!
In Episode 14, Lidia chats with an old classmate she knew in Cape Town. It’s a little hard to see them, but it’s not at all hard to hear how much her Amharic has improved!