September 1, 2009 | Arabic

Arabic Launch

I go straight from Russian to Arabic lessons.

As I mentioned previously, I am in our nation’s capital teaching two days of writing and grammar classes for a client here. Today also happens to be Day 1 of Arabic, and it began auspiciously, with a fabulous 3-mile run in the morning around various D.C. landmarks and monuments.

After my writing class ended in the afternoon, I did some of Pimsleur lesson 1 (Level I), Eastern Arabic, on my walk to Whole Foods, where I bought too much food, which I then brought back to my hotel room and ate only part of. I ended up redoing the Pimsleur segment I had already done, then finished lesson 1, and then did 2, but I need to redo both. It’s hard to hear some of what they’re saying, and definitely hard to replicate some of it, particularly “you speak,” which sounds like this: btehki.  But some things are super-easy to pronounce, especially compared to Russian. “Excuse me,” for example, is way easier: AF-wan.

Right away I noticed similarities between Arabic and Russian, which were surprising to me because they are not characteristics of other languages I was familiar with before beginning this project (i.e., Spanish, French, and German). For example: in Arabic as in Russian, there is no “are” in the question “Are you American?” It is “You American?” in both Russian and Arabic.

The simplicity is splendid.

In addition, there are no indefinite articles “a” or “an” in either language. Phew.

Some words in Arabic are very similar to English, or similar to languages I know. For example: English sounds like ingleese, and Canada sounds like, well, Canada. That’s a relief.

I also managed to read up to page 31 in Nicholas Awde and Putros Samano’s book The Arabic Alphabet: How to Read & Write It. I bought this and a couple of other books on Arabic a few years ago, when I thought I would try to learn some Arabic but never quite got around to it.

Now I’m getting around to it.

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