Talking to myself, Part Deux


I’m getting the hang of practicing my derija using A Basic Course in Moroccan Arabic, despite the poor sound quality. I’ve never tried something like this before, not even with Al Kitab when my grade should have theoretically depended on it. In the past I’ve been somewhat of a lazy language learner. Four years of German in high school, a year of Spanish, two years of Arabic…and so far I still can’t say that I’ve learned another language to fluency.

Originally I planned to jump back into studying fus’ha, maybe take a city college class. At the very least, before the winter semester started I was going to go the flashcard route. I was armed with more motivation to learn than ever, but I knew it would be slow going.

Then I realized that I could instead focus on Moroccan arabic. There are communities of derija speakers online, a handful of Moroccans in Chicago, and so far at least one other American derija learner I can work with here in Chicago. Now, for once, I can retain vocabulary more easily. When I listen to the ABCIMA mp3s the rhythm and cadence of the phrases sound familiar and, as I repeat basic sentences such as, “Did you hit the thief?” I fantasize about the impressive derija skills I’ll have a couple of years from now.

The guy who reads off the words and phrases I’m supposed to repeat speaks so fast that sometimes I think I hear him mocking me and anyone else who tries to keep up with him. You know how you can hear a smile in someone’s voice? I picture this man, Mohammed Abu-Talib, in front of the microphone, tag-teaming with Richard S. Harrell. He’s bored of repeating the same phrases. They sound inane to him: Is that new blue car yours? Yes, I am a little bit sick. To me, they’re tongue-twisting feats of memorization and throat acrobatics. Sometimes one of them will mess up. Sidi Abu-Talib doesn’t flinch, but Mr. Harrell will hesitate at the next sentence. He’s realized that he messed up the order, said ‘this morning’ instead of ‘yesterday.’ And I’m excited that I caught it first.

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Filed under Arabic, derija

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