Late start today as a bunch of new students sat their placement tests. It was lovely to chill out in the cafe for the first couple of hours and chat to all the new arrivals while we waited for them to be streamed based on their test results. Unfortunately for me, none of the newbies are around my ability level so I’ll be in a private class this month for two hours per day instead of a four hour group class. It’s good and bad: we’re still covering the same amount of content, just faster and even more intensively; but I’m missing out on the extra speaking practise that comes with group learning. I’ll just have to make sure that I use my new spare two hours effectively doing more than just homework. Another of the students who started at the same time as me at a slightly different level will also be in a private class from next week so we’re working on some plans for using those two hours productively.
Once I was in the classroom we spent the two hours doing vocab and grammar revision ahead of jumping back into proper lessons tomorrow. It’s amazing how rusty I feel at the start of each week after just a couple of days off class. It’s a reminder that I will need to work hard to ensure I have daily contact with the language after I finish up here in Amman. It would be a tragedy to do all this hard work just to have it dissolve into thin air due to laziness.
Today we worked on the text of a short story which made a lovely change from pedestrian dialogues in banks, post offices and barber shops. In the story, two small birds are having a chat in a tree. The first bird suggests that it would be nice to have a home and an address instead of having to move from place to place in search of good weather and food. The second bird notes that the tree they’re perched in has lived for many years, has put down deep roots, and would die if it were moved; in contrast, God gave birds wings so they could fly and be free, and that freedom is only denied them if humans jail them in cages. It was a nice little parable which Penina and I enjoyed discussing over dinner tonight. It was also a good signal that my learning focus is going to shift a little this month to slightly deeper levels of language.
One of my homework tasks from yesterday was to explain the moral of the bird story in Arabic. I stumbled through the couple of messages that Penina and I had discussed last night and then I had a good chat about it with my teacher.
We then cracked open a brand new intermediate textbook which was visibly different from the advanced beginner text we’ve been using for the past two months. The font in this book is smaller and many more words are missing the short vowel markings which native Arabic speakers don’t use but are provided for learners as a crutch. The first unit of the book is based in a language school and we spent the lesson discussing vocab and previewing some of the grammatical and language structure concepts we’ll be covering this month. And already the textbook exercises I was set for homework are appreciably more difficult than those from the last book. I’m quite excited for the challenge, and I’m very glad my teacher is really pushing me to the edge of my ability.
I hurt my back really bad yesterday afternoon which I mention only because it completely threw me in class today. I couldn’t sit comfortably and even using my eraser to rub out writing mistakes left me short of breath. As a consequence my brain was all over the place and I couldn’t put together a coherent thought during the vocab quiz, and I even struggled to join letters correctly when writing. Luckily, my teacher noticed and took it a bit easier on me today. We spent the lesson working on more vocab related to the language centre unit and unpacking some really interesting phrases. Towards the end of the lesson I managed to have some great, confidence-building exchanges with my teacher which really highlighted how far my speaking has come along. My sentences are getting more complex and more fluid, and just generally they seem to come together much more easily. A nice end to a sub-optimal day.
My back was a bit better today so I was able to concentrate more in class. We worked through a language centre-based text and a bunch of associated exercises, including a bunch of speaking. I became aware today of how my reading has improved — I am getting a lot better at extracting meaning as I go, at determining the meaning of unknown words and phrases from their context, and at untangling more complicated sentence structures.
Before I handed in last night’s homework at the end of class I had to admit I’d not been able to do a couple of exercises despite spending ages trying to work them out. My teacher gave one of her trademark sneaky corner-mouth smiles and said she wondered how I’d go with those. She gave me the two bits of new info I needed — one exercise involved an unfamiliar word with an irregular conjugation pattern, and the other involved a new exception to the imperative conjugation rules we’d learned last week — and suggested I try them over the weekend.
Anyway, despite the fewer in-class hours this week, but maybe because of the extra study hours, I’m absolutely wrecked as usual. I’m looking forward to a big weekend of sightseeing with the family in between flashcards. This week’s stats: