Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Why are you learning Arabic?

I get asked this every week. Every time I give a different answer. Why do people ask? No one asks me why I have streaks in my hair, go dancing, ignore my garden, have a thing about poetry. Or maybe I have answers for all those questions, but just don't have one for this.

It irks me because if only it were going in a lot faster I would be more cheerful about it, but it is unpredictable and frustrating. I cannot remember not knowing languages and hate being such a beginner.

At least I enjoy the sensation of knowing a bit, but lots going above my head. In fact I get hugely antsy and anxious if I have to learn 100% of something. I am much happier with having a big sky above me of words I don't know. So listening to the radio and recognising words as they fly past is great, I can't pause it or do any more than think huh, I know that one, but what does it mean? I know the fog will clear, but I don't know when.

I was annoyed when I went on the Tube in London recently and didn't spot one single Arabic word to try and sound out. How can the Tube be so completely English? The streets are different and the British Museum even had a great guide book in Arabic.

I asked for the Arabic guide book in the Ashmolean in Oxford and was looked at as if I had two heads. So no joy there.

Last night I was out at a restaurant and produced a 3 word phrase every 15 minutes to the person sitting opposite me. Really I should have had a notebook with me so that we could have written down each new phrase and I could have written down English words he didn't get. Try saying The Mosaic Rooms in a restaurant full of chatter to someone who isn't expecting that name!

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