Thursday, 10 April 2014

My Arabic holiday

Well, it's in fact a break from lessons and that dreadful angst about remembering vocab. Thank God we never have tests. Children deserve medals for doing all that, particularly if they find it hard work.

I'm having a wonderful time reading and watching what I want to:

Poetry documentaries from the Al Jazeera English website. I can pause them and copy out what I read on the screen.

Latest issue of Banipal, includes pieces by Stephen Watts as it happens. I saw him and chatted briefly last week at a poetry event. He translates Arabic poetry.

Started an online course called The Emergence of the Modern Middle East,  it's from the University of Tel Aviv, but in English. I am doing the absolute minimum for it. They have a great discussion thread called 'What's on your Middle East book shelf?'

Skimming quickly through Adonis' Arabic Poetics book again, surprisingly relevant to the Emergence course.

Had some late night Amazon buys, so I am waiting impatiently for poems by Al-Massri, an autobiographical novel based in Israel/Palestine plus whatever else I felt I needed...

My one task is to count how many words I know! I am measuring this by doing index cards for everything. There are 2 stacks, the ones I know and the ones I am hazy about. The other element to this is sitting on the sofa checking that I do know the ones in the 'I know these' bundle. I have a feeling I need to spend an awful lot of time doing this.

Given how much time I spend avoiding doing vocab, it might be easier to just do it!


  1. Now I don't bother to separate cards into 'know' and 'don't know'. I just idly read the arabic on one side and if I can't remember what it means I have a look on the other side.

    I make no effort at all, just chunter through a couple or 20 whenever I feel like it.

    Once all of my cards have gone through this simple unstressy process I will move the done pile back to the undone spot and repeat. If I am lucky I will know a word the next time around because it turned up in a news or blog sentence I worked on.

  2. Now I have dumped the whole idea of learning vocab and am reading instead with a parallel text.

  3. I recognise words as I hear them on BBC Arabic or other radio stations, or when watching short films, videos from the war in Syria.

    Often I won't remember what they mean but will know that they are familiar. They all fly past me, but I recognise them.

    Even better, sometimes I hear a word and think, huh, what accent is that? They have just put a 'u' sound instead of 'i', what's that all about? nusf instead of nisf.

    Or palasteen instead of falasteen, huh??? I mean there is no 'p' in Arabic. ya'ani....limaada??

  4. I am doing what works for me - reading the first paragraph of articles about the war in Syria, tweets, facebook updates and comments, YouTube comments - mostly I don't look up the words I don't know because my 2 dictionaries are in the other room - I like sensing the flow of the Arabic written by different people - some people's Arabic is so clear and correct, I like that - media articles are a bit different, stating the numbers killed and wounded and by whom and in which area of which city - if the English is there I compare the English and the Arabic as I go along that's useful - I recognise a lot of words, but don't know what they mean

    I don't get lost as I switch from reading the English to the Arabic, back and forth, my eyes jump to the exact place I was reading before - in the past I had no chance of finding where I was

    I can read quite a few words without reading them, I mean I see the beginning of a word like American and the rest is simply confirmation of what I was expecting, that's relaxing

    I'm a lot better at spotting foreign words in Arabic now, they just look different. I even understood Dan Brown pretty much straight off. An Arabic word which looks odd is probably a foreign name. The context points towards that too.

    I'm not shocked by a verb ending in و instead of وا. That is a familiar colloquial quirk. Oh, I can spot typos sometimes and don't get confused because I can tell from the context what word is intended.

    I'm having a go at transcribing Arabic speech from a YouTube video. Since I chose an older lady speaking in Beiruti accent, I gave myself more of a challenge than I intended, but I wanted to know what she was really saying. I could tell the English subtitles weren't the whole story :)

    There's an older fighter speaking to On The Ground News in a video with English subtitles. His Arabic sounds quite classical and thoughtful, so I want to look at sections of that one, comparing the English with the actual spoken Arabic.

    So all in all I'm doing pretty well without a tutor or classes. Sending off small pieces of work to be corrected is just right for the moment.

    My last classes were 2 evenings last August. Hmm, I still need to absorb and practice what we did then, The story of every student's life. 'Not' and hollow verbs I think.

    It's nice to be able to write about how I am doing to myself on here, and in English too. I can see my own progress.


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