copy Excellent Adventures in Egypt

Enter here to share Joni's adventures living and working in Cairo courtesy of the U.S. Fulbright cultural exchange program. Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization. - Mahatma Ghandi

10/08/2004

Mona & Arabic class

This charming lady is one of the reasons why I’m so busy these days. Her name is Mona and she's my Arabic teacher. I decided that I really did need to enroll in an intensive Arabic course if I were to have any hope of picking up the language so I took the plunge three weeks ago. I am a Taliba (student) from 9-11, 4 days a week, in attendance with 11 other students who are all young enough to be my children. They come from all over the world: Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, Italy, Britain and the US are all represented in my class, with folks from Indonesia, Russia, Japan and just about anywhere else you can think of enrolled in the other 15 classes. The venue for this miniature United Nations is the International Language Institute located in Mohandiseen (west side of Cairo). Posted by Hello Mona is a gifted comedienne (picture Lily Tomlin in higab) who talks with us almost exclusively in Arabic, acting out new words and concepts with an amazing repertoire of sounds and pantomime drawn from her TV cartoon addiction. I'm taking 'amaya (colloquial Egyptian dialect) from her. Most of the folks in my class are trying to unlearn fusHa (modern standard Arabic) - these really are almost two different languages. I'm definitely starting to get the feel of the language - I should be able to take up serious eavesdropping on other people’s conversations in another couple of weeks. It has been very interesting for me to try to function as a virtual illiterate in this society, especially since I'm used to having a high degree of competence in verbal and written communication. As my competence in understanding, speaking, and reading Arabic increases, my confidence grows by orders of magnitude. Being virtually illiterate has given me some empathy for how isolating true illiteracy must be.

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