NBPM #17: Arabic Lessons

As-salamu Alaykum  (Peace be upon you), NaBloPoMo day 17, and all my blog readers!  Thank you for taking this 30-day journey with me. Today was a bit monumental for me for several reasons: 1. A year ago today, I started working at my school. Although I’m no longer a teacher there, I’m the one behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly. 2. A year ago today, I was fighting off spontaneous tears throughout the day. (It was a wonderful first day at the school!)  I was heartbroken – part of me still is, but I’m moving on. 3. Today, I wrote my first Arabic conversation. I’m taking baby steps.

Learning another language is so humbling; it puts me in my students’ shoes, the ones they wear after they’ve just arrived in Canada.  I can relate to their pauses, their smiles, their blank stares, their nervous laughter, because I have been doing the same thing for the past 6 weeks. When they skip school, or are late for class, I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that they are lazy students.  Learning another language can be exhausting and discouraging — sometimes, you need to take a break.  For many of my students, they’re also adjusting to a different culture and/or living on their own for the first time.  I get it; I understand their need to sleep in, speak their own language with friends, and just take some time ‘away’ from English. I took some time away from Arabic, as my class was cancelled last week, and the children at the Sunday Arabic school had a fieldtrip. However, I am back at it — making progress, slowly, but surely.

I have to be honest; I’m not the most diligent student. I don’t study much, but I do my homework and seek ways to practice my Arabic outside of class.  At school, I greet my students with MarHabaa, thank them with Shokran, and bid them farewell with Ma’a Salaama. On Saturdays, I volunteer with a woman from Saudi Arabia, and she checks my homework and helps me with pronunciation. Her brother is a speech therapist, so I think she has some special insight. On Sundays, I greet the children at the Arabic school, and during their break time, they help me with my writing. I know I’m making progress; last week, when I was volunteering, one of the senior residents gave me a chocolate wafer.  I think his family must have sent them from Vietnam. There was French, Vietnamese, and Arabic writing on the small wrapper. I could read the word halal (lawful or permissible). And my manager received a gift from Jordan recently – a small bottle filled with a colourful desert scene and his name in Arabic inside. I could read it, and I knew he had the wrong bottle on his desk!

I love these little language victories! My weekend assignment for myself is to organize all my worksheets, and make some flashcards.  My teacher’s homework for me is to write a conversation in Arabic script. With a little help from my friends, I will manage to get it done, inshallah.

Tonight, I will leave you with a picture of my conversation in class. It is a dialogue between two strangers, Zayeena and Sameer, one is from Libya and the other is from Syria. Zayeena has a sister named Samyra, and Sameer has a father named Jameel, and a mother named Jameela.






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