Language Torture

I live in the Middle East so it just makes sense that I learn Arabic. I’ve heard that it’s impossibly difficult, but I’m determined to do this. I’m a great student. I love to study. I’ve got this. No problem.

The first order of business is to register. After much contemplation, I choose a summer course before jumping into the university. So I head over to the building for registration. I’m met with several other non-American foreigners all wanting to study Arabic and all wandering around trying to figure out what to do. After some pretty fancy charades, we find the right room. We are handed a document all in Arabic to fill out. This should’ve been my first sign. Again, more charades as we try to figure out what goes where. Then it’s off to the strange little kiosk where they make copies and have official forms. 4 hours later and I’m registered and told when to come back for class.

And so I return. Pencil case full, eyes bright, ready for the challenge. I find a seat with the only other American woman in the room. 32 of us are anxiously awaiting what the summer will hold. Little did we know the torture that would soon start. Day after day brought tears from some, blank stares of disengagement from others as we were ridiculed for not knowing vocabulary we’d never been given. For three months we were in total bewilderment as our teacher yelled at us for not knowing where to put the kisra (What’s a kisra?). In the heat and dust-filled, stale air we tried in vain to figure out this crazy Arabic puzzle. And each day we left discouraged and wondering if we’d ever learn anything.

And then came the ray of sunshine. In my miserable, defeated state, I trudged over to the university to see about their language program. It isn’t perfect. But there are books! And the classes are only 12. Could such a glorious place actually exist? Or is this merely a mirage, some sort of cruel joke? Have I finally found the place that will teach me Arabic? Will I actually be able to read signs now?


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