October 7, 2009 | Arabic

Back to Bay Ridge

I enjoy a boisterous English class in Bay Ridge.

Today I went to Brooklyn to teach my weekly class at the Arab American Association. At first no one was there, and I was just sitting by myself in my small, not overwhelmingly clean classroom, with chairs in need of remediation—but then the two Egyptian sisters showed up. The older one said to me, “You look really beautiful today,” and the younger, who is only 17, agreed. It was very sweet. I think I might have blushed.

5th Avenue, Bay Ridge

Eventually two more students showed up. We laughed a lot today. Will, another instructor who was teaching a class in the adjacent room, had to come and shut the door because we were too loud.

I taught them expressions such as “It’s unanimous” and “We’re on a roll.” Later, I got out a short list of Arabic questions I had accumulated, and they helped me out. The two younger girls in particular I think are sometimes “correcting” my pronunciation for things that are really dialect differences, so I have to take some of the advice I am getting with a grain of salt.

But in any case they were all very helpful with problem letters such as ayn versus ghayn, plus the h versus kh sounds in sabah el kheer, which means “good morning.” They seemed to find it, or perhaps me, amusing. When they would speak to each other in Arabic, a habit I try to discourage (though I would love to just sit there and speak Arabic all class long), I would sometimes call out an English translation, and they would laugh.

One of the students is applying to college. She called it “joining” college, which I found charming. She asked me after class, in a way that moved me, whether you were supposed to apply to college online. I said I didn’t know if all colleges were that way, that it might be the case, but that it had been a long time for me and I wasn’t sure.

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