This was a long and stressful week — everything was leading up to the comprehensive end-of-month exam on Thursday — but in the end, and on balance, my anxiety about the test was offset more than adequately by some nice wins on the learning front and another week of feeling a satisfying sense of achievement.
Today’s vocab quiz was epic, running for nearly 90 minutes and shapeshifting on the way from just a vocab quiz into a grammar quiz and a this quiz and a that quiz. It was, as always, fast-paced and stressful, but having got through a solid hour-and-a-half grilling without disgracing myself, I reminded myself to celebrate what I’ve achieved over the past seven weeks.
The rest of the lesson covered a few exercises from the text book on various grammar topics, and then we had a vocab dump of all the colours (masculine and feminine) and associated words. This is good because until today I really only knew white, black, green and brown. My teacher and classmate enjoyed making fun of me because I can’t differentiate between blue, aqua, purple, violet and every other made up shade of the primary colours.
My fun language discoveries today were that the word for “ticket” (tadhkara) is from the same root as “mention” (dhakara), and that the word for “sales” (tanzeelaat) is from the word for “go down” (nazala). And my so-bleedingly-obvious-I-can’t-believe-I-didn’t-realise-it-before discovery for the day is that my two perennial mix-up words, bus and party, are from the same root meaning “many people together”. Derr.
Today we spent most of the lesson learning the rules for turning present tense verbs into imperatives, and then conjugating them with the five second-person pronouns. Compared to some of the other grammar rules I’ve had to learn which are more exception than rule, this one was pretty easy. It’s still another bunch of tables I need to memorise and convert into practice, though.
We then moved onto a new unit in the book based on a trip to the travel agent. Another dump of vocab and some more dialogues, role plays and exercises. I have no idea how it came up in discussion, but I loved finding out that “moustache” (shaarab) is from the root for “drink” (sharaba).
Shit got real today as we started learning about how to apply and interpret the case markings for nouns. As a native English speaker with no other languages under my belt, I am completely lost when it comes to cases. By contrast, my classmate who is a native French speaker, and who also speaks German, just said “pfft, bring it on.” The rules themselves, in isolation, are not terribly difficult, but I really struggled to understand what exactly we were doing to these words and sentences and *why*. It doesn’t help at all that the only place you see short vowel case markings in written Arabic is in the Quran and in my textbook, and the only time you hear them spoken is in transnational Arabic language news broadcasts. Otherwise, they are completely ignored by normal people communicating in Arabic which makes learning them seem totally academic. But I accept that I still need to learn what they are and how to use them.
Okay, so maybe that’s all bit overdramatic. I do understand that the noun case markings can be useful in complicated sentences when things like subject and object aren’t immediately obvious. That’s the nominative and accusative cases sorted. So what the fuck is going on with the genitive case? Ugh. Deep breath.
I spent last night revising cases and then we spent a good chunk of today going over them again. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the rules, although every time I start to get too confident our teacher throws a sentence at us that completely stumps me. Undeniably part of the problem is my own deficient ‘80s/‘90s Australian school grammar education, so I guess it’s good that learning Arabic is helping me learn English more better, too.
We then did some more work on the travel agent scenario and I started feeling sad about the impeding departure of my classmate who is going home to France straight after school tomorrow. She’s been a fantastic learning partner for the past four weeks and I’ll very much miss stumbling through role plays with her. We were going to grab a falafel tonight but both of us were too nervous about tomorrow’s test so we decided to swot away instead.
All students had to take their tests at 9am today no matter their usual class time. That included my wife whose class normally starts at 1pm after I’m finished so we can do a handover of our daughter. So this morning our daughter sat in a classroom with Penina and played iPad games and drew on the whiteboard and ate the endless gifts of chocolate she gets from the centre staff who dote on her endlessly.
My classmate and I were joined in our classroom by five students of a few of the other teachers. Everyone’s test is written by their own teacher and tailored to the individual class. By the two hour mark, everyone else had finished their test and left the classroom, leaving only my classmate and I. When our teacher came in at the 2 hour, 20 minute mark to check that everything was okay we pointed out that this was a long and hard test paper. She just said, “my good students get a hard test,” and walked out with that subtle little smile she does. And after I spent so much time this week revising cases there was one measly question on the test about them!
We finally finished it, though, and headed straight for the coffee machine. After our teacher had graded the papers we went through them together and I was pleased to find that I had done better than I expected — probably around 80-85% (there was no total mark, just ticks and crosses.) I did heaps better than I thought I would with grammar and fell down, as always, on plurals. I also made a few small and silly errors using negation and demonstrative pronouns. But overall I was very happy with how I went and feel that I’m set up nicely for the run home in the next eight weeks. The only other area my teacher thinks I need to focus on is pronunciation when speaking.
It might be a slightly long weekend now (late start next Sunday after all the new students do their placement tests) but there’s no time off flashcards! Here’s this week’s stats: