I’ll pay a cent. (actually, realistically, I’d pay a lot more. I mean, a decent-you-can-get-by-on-this vocabulary is only a few thousand words. plus grammar, argh)

I listen to deutsch welle in french and german at the store- which prompts the tourists to ask me if I’m american. ( I’ve been tempted to claim I don’t speak english well.)

when I first started listening to deutsch welle en francais, about a month ago, it sounded significantly faster than the german. I actually had the thought- ‘huh, french must be spoken at a higher speed or something.’ – now, of course, it sounds the same speed…

one thing I’m observing: vowels and Ls make it tougher to learn a word. any word that is just vowels, or vowels and an L or two- forget it. they just won’t stick. I still don’t know the arabic word for family.  too many vowels.

(the bottom one is yiddish, i.e. german in another alphabet. you can see how much less fluid my handwriting is as the list goes down.)

an observation about learning multiple languages at once: it’s the basic words, the yes, no, and, pronouns, etc that seem the hardest to keep straight while speaking. My mom and I have been having conversation afternoons-  she speaks french and german fluently.  I would like to start speaking french; my german is sufficient for communication.  So, we’re attempting to speak together in french, but I can only understand the language-  can’t really produce it.  Consequently, there’s a lot of switching to german, or accidental interjections of german words-  to the point where I’d notice we’d be speaking in german, but I kept using “oui” or “eiwa” (egyptian arabic for yes).  She’d be speaking in german, but using ‘l’homme’ instead of ‘der mann’.

This whole process- of being able to understand a language but not speak it- mystifies me.

despite the description of arabic as one of the toughest languages for an english speaker to learn, and significantly harder than thai, I still feel like thai (and probably other asian languages) have more substantial differences from english than arabic.

For instance, when I first learned about classifiers in thai-  which I understand to be quite common in asian languages- it was such a foreign concept that it took a couple days to even wrap my mind around it. plus, you speak about yourself and others in the third person colloquially. plus, the tonal system is so different from western/ european languages. and, while thai has an alphabet, it’s a really complicated long one! (still my favorite alphabet. so pretty)

arabic doesn’t have any of this foreign-ess.  It has that hassley gender thing, but, you know, so do german and french.  and the arabic gendering is WAY LESS arbitrary that the euro-gendering. It’s actually predictable!!  the alphabet is a reasonable length.  and despite the wikipedia mention of the different arabic dialects being as different as german and dutch, I’m inclined to think that’s not true.  I’ve listened to lessons in moroccan, egyptian, omani, syrian, iraqi, and modern standard arabic now.  There are word preference differences, and pronunciation differences, and vowel differences, and some of the most basic words (like what, how, which) are different-  but it seems more like the difference between a deep texas accent and mine, than between german and dutch.

clearly, being immersed might cause me to think differently about how different they are…but I’ve listened to texans talking amongst themselves and caught maybe one out of seven words.

one more in the observation stream:  online dictionary resources for arabic-english are TERRIBLE.  Google translate for french and german works very, very well, even with quite idiomatic expressions.  But it’s terrible for arabic, and seems to be the best out there.  why?

Posted by:brook delorme

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