Whither Arabic?

on December 10, 2009 in Misc


How much Arabic can I expect to learn in one year?  Or at this point eight months and counting down?

Robert, my sweetie reader, THANK YOU for asking a question I should have had the sense to ask myself when I launched my crackpot scheme a few months ago.  After I whined in my latest blog entry about not having enough time or money or energy to fulfill all the elements of my Layla transformation efficiently, you asked a perceptive question, to whit:  Could Layla learn a language in a year?

The simple answer is…

If it’s Arabic, hell no.

After all, we ain’t talking Spanish here.  Arabic is no relatively easy Romance language that even I could become fluent in after two or three months of immersion.  (And yes, I met someone who did just that by attending a dirt-cheap language school in the mountains of Guatemala.)  We’re talking about a Semitic tongue.  We’re talking about a different alphabet, a vocabulary that bears no resemblance to English, plurals of nouns that seem so random they truly double the vocabulary, and worst of all, there’s the great evil called DECLENSION.

Those crazies out there who’ve studied Latin know what I’m talking about.  (Robert my poor dear!  Once studying and failing at Latin is something else we have in common!)  In English there’s only a little bit of declension, in Latin there’s way too much of it, and in Arabic there’s just enough to make it a hairy beast of a challenge.  Anyway, if you want to know about this evil grammatical phenomenon look it up in Wikipedia.  Also, review that painfully funny scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian with John Cleese as the Roman Centurion bullying the lowly Hebrew Graham Chapman by making him work on his Latin declension.

But I digress.

The fact is, I won’t be able to enter any kind of language immersion program during my one-year plan.  I also have to tackle a whole list of Layla challenges that are already keeping me freaky busy.  Then there’s my full-time job, without which none of this would be possible.  So here’s my decision about Arabic….

I’m going to learn a few hundred words.  I’ll tackle only some very basic grammar, at least enough to put together simple sentences.  (Can I ride the camel?  There’s a scorpion in my boot.)  And I’ll memorize the polite phrases that will make me less of a cloddish ferengi.  My personal hope is that I can eventually use what Arabic I’ve learned while scuba diving in the Red Sea and traveling/living with Bedouin in the Sinai Desert.  A few weeks ago I found on the Internet a travel service that arranges for just such a holiday.  Luxuries are minimal and toughing it out is a necessity.  But I really, really want to do it.

So that’s my Arabic goal.  It’s about the same that Layla would shoot for.  And right about now I would sign off this entry with a few apt Arabic words like goodbye and goodnight and it is God’s will, but I can’t figure out how to do Arabic script on my keyboard so to heck with it.

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