October 31, 2009 | Arabic

Arabic Concludes

On the last day of Arabic studies, I reflect on what I did and did not accomplish.

Although I could have allowed myself to become a lame-duck language learner on the final day of my two-month Russian and Arabic stints, I have so far been good about continuing through to the very end.

Today I woke up, got my coffee, then did three Pimsleur lessons while stretching and running—28, 29, and—the very last lesson of Level III!—30.

No slacking off. Pimsleur requested I translate the phrase “for one night or two nights,” which in Arabic makes for a lot of l’s. Check out my transliterated version: Lahlele ulla lahleltein?


Dahesh Bookstore

I went back to Dahesh bookstore, where I hoped to try out my Arabic, but when I got there, my pal Mike the manager was sick. His friends had just brought him lunch and were tending to him. I talked to the friends for a few minutes, since they were curious about my Arabic studies, but not in Arabic, because I didn’t want to impose in any way on Mike, who really seemed quite ill, by putting on a demonstration and thereby requiring him—since he is a very polite man—to be complimentary.

The friends were curious about my efforts of the past two months. One commented that it was quite a trend for Americans to learn Arabic. Unfortunately, the only things I said in Arabic while there were marhaba (hello) when I arrived and maa-salami (good-bye) when I left.

On my way home, I prepared for my next language by buying Italian flashcards, a dictionary, and two grammar books at Barnes & Noble. The total: 40-something dollars.

Barnes & Noble, Lincoln Triangle

This evening as my “exit exam,” I took a bunch of Arabic quizzes online. It was not easy. I tried the test at, but the text was so small I couldn’t read it. I switched from Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox and seemed to have better luck changing the font size in that browser. However, then it became hard to read because of font resolution problems. Even beyond that, the language did not correspond to the vocabulary I had learned, because I learned dialect and this was (presumably) standard Arabic. On top of everything else, I really didn’t focus much on learning to read. I finally gave up on that one.

I did okay on some other Arabic quizzes, scoring about 75 to 80 percent, but they were really so easy—at least where I was able recognize the dialect, that is. In other cases, the differences between dialect and standard Arabic continued to be pretty overwhelming. For example, I am guessing, really guessing, that madhaa is the transliteration for “what”; I, on the other hand, had learned the word shu for “what.” Madhaa versus shu—not much in common there. The verbs looked different; everything looked different.

Here are some of the quizzes I took:

The last one on the list was about colors and did not go well for me. I realized I had learned only two colors in Arabic—red and green—and those I learned only because Pimsleur taught me how to order both red tea and green tea.

Okay, that’s it for Arabic. I hope I did okay. I could stop by the drugstore tomorrow and see how I do, except once again, they speak Egyptian Arabic. And I don’t.


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