My family and I, along with a couple of other students from the school, went on a daytrip to the town of Jerash yesterday. We had a great day tramping around the Roman ruins, bookended by a couple of eventful bus trips, and also featuring a massive, massive feed of shawarma after we worked up some colossal appetites. This gave me a great story to try to tell in Arabic this morning when our teacher asked us what we did on the weekend. My classmate also had an interesting weekend so our stories and the associated vocab discussion made for an engaging start to the week. In the vocab quiz that followed, our teacher started to shift her focus from just the perfect form of verbs to the imperfect and verbal noun forms which meant a (welcome) headspace shift. I’d started to become comfortable in only remembering past tense forms and this has shook me up at just the right time.
Today’s grammar lesson was about the three forms of “because” in Arabic: broadly “in order to”, “because of” and “because”. It was really good to sit down and formalise the exact rules of use for these because while I have a decent sense of when each one feels right to use, I still get it wrong from time to time. We then started our first topic of the week which was clothes shopping. Big dump of vocab, some dialogue exercises from the text book, and then my classmate and I did a bunch of role plays. I feel less anxious about all of this new vocab than I used to because I’ve now seen how the vocab I learned a few weeks ago is starting to cement itself in my head after weeks of solid flashcard work.
This morning’s quiz was a great mix of words, role plays and “why/because” questions, all doing a great job to reinforce topics from the past few weeks. I enjoyed learning that “mathematics” (riyaadiyaat) shares the same root as “sport” (riyaadah) because they both involve exercise — one for the brain and one for the body. After the quiz we jumped straight into a big grammar lesson on relative pronouns. This was almost entirely new ground for me because beyond the masculine and feminine singulars I had no idea about these. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to map them to their demonstrative equivalents so I’m not finding them too difficult to recall. I just need to practise using them over and over again to make the whole process less laborious.
After the break my classmate had to leave for an appointment elsewhere so it was just me for two hours. My teacher took the opportunity to really apply the pressure and push me with exercises drawing on content from my first month. She was relentless; deliberately giving me little time to think and no time to recover between questions or challenges. But it worked and by the end of the lesson I felt a real sense of accomplishment.
Over the past month and a half I’ve regularly dreamed about Arabic but last night I really *dreamt* about Arabic. In the dream I found myself in a (stupid, typically dream-like) situation where I had to explain myself but the person asked me to do it in Arabic. When I woke up I vividly recalled my thought processes in the dream as I tried to construct sentences using the vocab and grammar from my classes. It’s quite satisfying to know that this intense waking focus on learning the language continues in the off-hours in my subconscious.
After the vocab quiz we spent most of today’s lesson working through the rules for agreeing numbers with their counted noun. I’ve written about this before and today it was as beast as ever. The rules all make sense but they’re so convoluted that I wonder if I’ll ever be able to apply them smoothly in practice. It was kinda cool watching our teacher, who is usually quite straight and serious, have a friendly little chuckle as my classmate and I facepalmed our way through the explanation of the rules. “It’s easy!” she would keep saying to us as a corner of her mouth turned upwards.
Today’s cool discovery during the vocab quiz was that “clothes hanger” (a’allaaqah) and “relationship” (a’alaaqah) share the same root. I also had cause to ask for the word for “bigot” which generated some mirth because our teacher thought I was saying “piget” because that’s what my French classmate calls baby goats which we had learned the word for recently. I guess you needed to be there. Anyway, there is no direct translation for bigoted in Arabic so our teacher suggested hasaaseeyah mufreetah which is “extremely sensitive”.
Our grammar today was revision on the use of “to” (an) vs. “that” (anna). Most of the time you pair them with verbs in the same way that we do in English (e.g. “want to”, “refuse to”, “think that”. “realise that”) but sometimes they apply in seemingly counter-intuitive ways for an English speaker (e.g. “can to”). We then unpacked the conjugation of irregular verbs with a stressed letter at the end. Compared to some of the other irregular conjugation patterns this one is a piece of piss which is a welcome relief.
We then evolved our shopping focus by covering vocab and dialogues related to the barber shop and hairdresser. Just in time, too! I had a barber visit planned for after class and I was able to use a little vocab to ask for my haircut, although as with most of my experiences going to the barber in the Middle East I basically sat down and let the guy do whatever he was going to do anyway.
Overall, today capped off a great week. My confidence is quite high at the moment and I feel like I broke through some sort of threshold this week. I am aware of how much I’ve progressed in all areas, but especially speaking, and it is a lovely feeling of pride and reward for hard work. I know this will come in waves, and there will be weeks ahead when I feel like I’m stagnating despite hard work, but I’ll just enjoy this feeling for right now.
In class today we focused on quantity words (e.g. “all”, “every”, “most of”, “few of”) and the associated grammar. Thankfully, the use of most of them is intuitive and there are few rules I’ll need to consider consciously. We then focused on one last shopping scenario for the week: the jeweller. I learned that the world for “gold” (dhahab) is from the same root as the verb “go” (dhahaba) because, presumably, in the past you had to go somewhere else to get gold. I also learned that the word for “necklace” (a’iqda) is from the same root as “contract” (a’aqada) because they both involve tying something to something else.
Our weekly presentation was postponed to Sunday next week because my classmate is doing even more intensive study than me — six hours a day — and she was swamped with revision for her other class ahead of a test this afternoon.
Here are my flashcard stats for the week (I cracked the millennium).