Friday, July 25, 2008

الجريدة الجديدة

We've slowly been continuing our Arabic lessons, very slowly. Between Rachel and packing and working and spending time with friends and family we've had little time for much else.

Last night, though, we decided that we needed to get back into it. I'm not even halfway through the alphabet yet so we have a lot of work to do in very little time. I can recognize all the letters, I just can't write them all very well.

I struggled with D a lot. Andrew kept saying mine looked like a backwards C. I told him his looked like that, too, but he didn't believe me until I told him to write the word I was writing. Lo and behold, his D turned out looking a whole lot more like a backwards C than mine did. After that I didn't worry too much how he criticized my handwriting.

His penmanship is horrible in English, so I'm assuming it's horrible in Arabic, too.

My penmanship in English is pretty good, when I want it to be, and this is the eighth script I've learned so far in my life. First I learned how to print, and then I learned cursive in English. Then I learned some Korean--most of which I have forgotten by now. In high school I took Japanese so I learned Hirigana and then Katakana. At BYU I took Russian so I learned the Cyrillic alphabet, first cursive and then printing. Now I'm learning Arabic. I think I have quite a bit of experience learning how to write.

I know that Andrew knows more Arabic than I do, but seriously, when it comes to penmanship I have the upperhand.

One of the D words that I was copying over was جديد/jadeed (or in Egyptian, gadeed), which means "new." As I write, I sound out the words.

"جريدة/jareeda," I said as I spelled out jadeed.

"What?" said Andrew.

"جريدة" I repeated again. Jareeda.

"I've ruined you forever," said Andrew.

"Why?" I asked.

"You keep saying newspaper," he said.

When we lived in Jordan we lived in a building located behind the Dustour newspaper building. It was the closest landmark to our apartment building so whenever I took a taxi I would say,

"بناية جريدة الدستور" Banayat jareedat addustour, which means the building of the Dustour newspaper.

The taxi driver would drive me up Queen Rania street towards the Dustour building and then ask where to go from there and I would ask to be dropped off by the blue bridge, al jisser al asrak.

"الجسر الازرق"

I learned more Arabic than that when I lived in Jordan, but "jareedat addustour" was one of the first phrases I learned--it was my lifeline. I could end up anywhere in the city, completely lost, but if I said those two magic words I would always end up home.

Saying jadeed is difficult for me. I start out with good intentions but it always ends up coming out jareeda.

Chicken was another one of the words I learned. Dijaaj, or in Egyptian digaag.


I can only imagine the looks I'll get when I walk into a restaurant over there and instead of asking for their "new chicken dish" I'll asked for a "newspaper chicken dish."

I'm preparing for a lot of funny looks. Besides being a foreigner, I know that I will say the wrong words at inopportune times and that the Jordanian dialect will be wont to slip out. I still struggle with the hard Egyptian /g/. I just don't like it. /J/ is much prettier, I think.

You know, we considered the name Jamila for Rachel, but since we had a hunch we'd be heading to Egypt, we opted not. Gamila just isn't as pretty.


  1. I lament that I have forgotten most of my Japanese. There just isn't much opportunity to practice. Maybe one day I'll take it up again.

  2. Ha ha. I remember when we first moved to Damascus, I thought the major landmark in town was "Jesira Rais." (Sorry, too lazy to type in Arabic.) It was a few months before I understood enough Arabic to realize that it was actually "Jesr ar-Rais." And then it made so much more sense.