The pride of multilinguism

THOSE WHO KNOW NOTHING OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES KNOW NOTHING OF THEIR OWN. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ever since I came to this Arabic speaking country, there’s been a nagging desire to learn more Arabic. But it is difficult for numerous reasons. It’s a complex language with little in common with the languages I already know. (English and Spanish.) It has a different alphabet with hard to distinguish scribbles. They don’t always show vowels in the writing. And the spoken language varies insanely, and not just by country, but by area within the country and by religion and by family. Each Arabic speaker has various influences on their way of speaking, but they can somehow figure out where others’ variations come from. They can also say each word in various ways, so you have to learn like ten Arabic words for each English word to be able to communicate with everyone. And only classic Arabic is taught in the classes you can take, which is totally useless and laughed at by all native speakers.

One time a student was appalled when he heard how long I’d been here. “You’ve been here more than two years and you haven’t learned Arabic, Miss?”

“Yes child. Now, please stop looking at me with such horror.”

But he was right. And then he mentioned Pimsleur to me. And how amazing it is. He has perfect English pronunciation because of it. So I bought it and tried it out. And he was right, it is amazing. I shared it with my friend, who now takes great pleasure in freaking out her boyfriend by her sudden and perfect Arabic phrasing and pronunciation. She’s been actively taking classes for years, but only after Pimsleur did her boyfriend agree to practice with her because he believed she could learn it. (I’d love to tell you now that this is a paid ad, but alas, nobody pays me for any of my ramblings. Which is a damn shame.)

I have done 3 lessons. More than a month ago. But one of these days, I will get on that bike again and ride it off into the sunset of language learning.

Because knowing another language is awesome. Last night my roommate and I spoke Spanish for roughly two seconds, and it was amazing that nobody else in the room understood us. We felt like queens. We were queens. O reinas, si le gusta.

Y que divertido es cuando volar en una lingua diferente sin noticia o razon o acentos…. como pone acentos? …No se y no me importa! Voy a volar sin parar para gramatica!

Khallas. Which means “enough of that” in Arabic, for those not in the know. I’m not going to translate the Spanish because if you speak English, you could have easily learned Spanish by now. But the Arabic…. le sigh.

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5 Responses to The pride of multilinguism

  1. pollyheath says:

    Not going to lie, I basically learn languages so I can have a secret code. There’s not much more satisfying than being able to talk trash with impunity!

    • mmarinaa says:

      Word!

      Also eavesdropping. Once I was on a subway and this woman was telling her friend a fantastic story in Spanish. And when she got to a punchline part, I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud. Because it was hilarious. And they both looked at me with such shock, hehe. One of the highlights of my life in NYC.

  2. Aussa Lorens says:

    Yeah, I’m impressed. I am dismal– dismal! at learning new languages. 5 months in China– a few of which were in complete isolation– and I leaned like 12 things. Mostly I just pointed, smiled, and ran.

  3. Kristine says:

    There’s really no excuse for me not to learn Spanish, especially when I lived just 10 minutes from the border of Mexico growing up… But then again, where I grew up, it was pretty segregated. I didn’t realize it until I had moved to Houston, tbh. I’ve never heard of Pimsleur, but I’m interested if it would help me learn a language quickly.

  4. Manda says:

    Speaking of hard languages to learn, I’d LOVE to learn Russian. I have no practical use for it in my life but I’ve always been fascinated by Russian history and language as a kid.

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