jmfargo: (Default)
احلن وصحلن. كيف الحلك؟

No idea whether or not this is going to work properly, just testing something. My spelling is horrible, I know.

Edit: Oh, for the record, all that says is "Hi. How are you?"
jmfargo: (Default)
English has two forms of numbers. I don't know how they're categorized, what they're called, but it's the difference between "one," and "first." They're the same number, but used in two different ways. Okay?

Arabic has three forms of numbers. You have the "one," the "first," and the "formal one" used for such things as telling time. We spent days figuring out the formal or "ordinal" number system for telling time, grueling over it, only for him to tell us (once we had it all figured out) that in Arabic speaking countries if you're just talking to somebody they won't actually use the ordinal number; they'll just tell you the time using the regular or "cardinal" numbers.

But the numbers are even more fun than that.

If you want to say you have two of something, you can't say you have two of something. You have to add a suffix onto the object that means you have two of something.

If you have 3-10 "somethings," you make the noun plural. If you have 11-100 of that same "something," the noun becomes singular AND feminine.

I have 3 cards.

I have 12 card.

I have 97 card.

I have confusion.
jmfargo: (Default)
My Arabic teacher told me today that I have very good pronunciation, and that I am a very good student. He said that I speak Arabic very well, and seem to understand more than many people at my level.

At least, I think that's what he said.
jmfargo: (Default)
I might be going to Tunisia this Winter, but first I have to figure out a few things. Tonight I'm going to a meeting to see if I'm even allowed to go as part of the college learn abroad program, or if I can't due to the fact that I'm a Continuing Education Student, and not an actual enrolled student. If it's the second bit, then at least there's something I could theoretically do to fix it, but I'm hoping it doesn't end up being a problem.

I just want to travel to Africa for a few months. Why is that so difficult?

Homework

Feb. 12th, 2009 08:57 am
jmfargo: (Default)
One of the banes of my existence since the day I discovered it, or rather, the day it was forced upon me, is homework.

In elementary school straight through to high school, it was a waste of my time, a task meant to keep me quiet at home and not out playing with my friends, or reading the newest book from Madeleine L'Engle. My teachers and parents told me that it was meant to reinforce the knowledge I had learned that day in school, but since I was a bright kid who almost intuitively grasped the subjects at hand, it was busywork. A waste of my time.

Some folks will tell you that homework is a way of teaching children that they have responsibilities. I say that's what chores are for. Some others say that it's how to instill obedience in children, that they have to do what's expected of them. I say that's just plain bullshit.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about today.

The fact of the matter is that I did as little homework as I could get away with throughout my school career. Even on into the first two classes of my college life I did very little homework, not wanting to waste my non-class time by writing out things that I already knew, already grasped. Why would I want to waste my time?

Something turned around in me.

Every day I would go to class, dreading being asked to turn in the homework. I didn't want to go because when it came time, at the end of class, to turn in the homework I didn't want to hear "Jeremiah, did you do your homework" as I ran out the door. I wasn't quite shamed by it, but embarrassed.

So then I did the Winter session of Linguistics. I thought to myself "self, what happens if we do every homework assignment? I mean, it's only an hour a night, and isn't an hour worth not feeling like a total tool?"

Come to find out, it is.

So here I am now, taking Intermediate Arabic. The homework is more difficult than Linguistics, and the teacher more demanding. It takes more of my time. Is it worth spending two hours every day doing homework, just so I don't feel like a complete screw-up at the end of class? Is it worth the time for a better feeling, and a slightly better grade?

I just finished my homework due in three and a half hours, and I can say that it is. It really is.

I still think busywork is crap. I just feel better about it.

Class

Feb. 10th, 2009 03:23 pm
jmfargo: (Default)
My first class of Intermediate Arabic is done, and my homework is almost complete. I have to find the DVD that goes with my book to do the last bit, so I've set up a reminder for myself to search for it this evening. Or now. Now is good.

Sometimes I put off something I should do right away because it's easier to think that I'll do it later. I had to stop myself mid-writing this in order to make sure I spent at least some effort looking for this very important DVD. Unfortunately, as it stands after some very serious looking, I am down one very important DVD. I will ask Maria when she gets home if she knows its location. I hope so; this thing is what I'll be using for my homework for the next month or so.

Okay, anyway. Class. Class was good. I'm surprised at how much I've forgotten over the course of the Winter, and at the same time amazed at how much I remembered. I was able to carry on (very) basic conversation, remembered conjugation of verbs, and spelling for a drill we did where everyone wrote out some things about themselves to share with the class.

You know what? It's really going to bother me if I don't go find this DVD. I'm going to go hunt it down.

GAH.

Can't find it. Going to have to wait for Maria now.

I was trying to make a point about how good a day I was having, but this is really bugging me. I've decided to stop putting everything off, change my life towards being a better person, and what happens? The first task drives me over the edge. Or at least a step closer to it.

EDIT:

Moments after asking Maria if she knew where the DVD might be hiding she suggested I look in a case I hadn't thought of. That's where it was. Thankfully. I love my wife.

Life Is Fun

Feb. 9th, 2009 10:33 am
jmfargo: (Default)
So I just finished my Linguistics Winter class on Friday. Winter classes are fun because you go to class longer each day, but for a shorter amount of time overall. The teacher has to cram a bunch of knowledge into your brain (or tell you to do it yourself) and generally everyone's a bit more frazzled.

Today would be the first day of Arabic 106 (Intermediate Arabic), except that any classes before 4pm are not in session. I have no idea why they do that on the first day of class, but I like it. I feel bad for the students whose classes are after 4, but I'm not one of them, so I'm not that worried.

Meanwhile, work has picked up again to where I'm earning decent money. A few contractors got let go, so there's more work to go around. I think the manager wanted to make sure she kept the good contractors, and in order to do that had to make sure to have some work in queue for us. I'll say this: It's nice to have put in a full days work before 11 AM. I don't think I could do that with any other job unless I started working before 9.

Social life has gotten busier too. With the addition of meetup.com to my life I've started finding some really cool things to do around here. The game night last night was a potluck dinner with lots of people at a really cool location. The next thing I want to do is go with the Adventure Group to one of their outings; they cost a lot of money, but they're usually something cool like learning how to ride a Harley, or how to make sushi. Diverse, and cool. Then there's the musician group, and the roleplaying group, and then, and then, and then.....

Things are good.

Now that I'm done with work, it's time to start cleaning the house.

My day just went from "AWESOME" to "Man, that sucks."

Not really. I'm in a great mood! Today rocks!
jmfargo: (Default)
We have to get to Dubai somehow.

Winter semester started Monday, and I'm again enrolled in a class. In hopes of complementing my Arabic classes I settled on Linguistics 101, a look at the science of languages.

It's absolutely fascinating. I've never been engrossed in a science before, but this is one I can really sink my teeth into. Part hard science and part philosophical, it's different from any other class I've ever taken.

(He said knowingly, on his third day of class.)

My wife and I have been talking about our three year plan. One of the biggest things is that we're not sure we want to be here. Here, in this case, being the United States.

I don't have anything against the US; I just like change.

Combine this move with my recent Arabic instruction, and you might begin to see what we're thinking.

Are we nuts? I don't know. Maybe. Is this kind of move impossible? Not at all. Can we do it?

Time will tell.

What do you think? Crazy? Awesome? Weird? A strange orgy of all three? I'd love to hear it.
jmfargo: (Default)
All my extra energy for the past few months has been spent in the pursuit of learning the Arabic language. When I'm walking down the halls at the college I get funny looks from people wondering why I'm concentrating so hard that I look constipated while muttering strange syllables under my breath. Worse than that is when I'm actually sitting in my chair and actively studying. It's like the world disappears around me, and there's nothing but the Arabic language in front of me. It got so bad, one night, that my wife asked me to please stop clearing my throat so loudly. The worst part is that I was in another room, with the door closed, and music playing so that I wouldn't disturb her.

Why is it, then, that I'm constantly feeling unprepared for class?

When there's a test, my brain panics, I start to freeze. An oral presentation to be given in class? I stand up in front of the other students, and feel as though I haven't learned the simplest forms of English, let alone Arabic.

Why is it? Well, for that I'm looking right at you, teach.

See, I know you haven't been teaching at this school very long, and that you love to spout off about how at Yale and Harvard the students were never late for class, never absent, but apparently there are a few things you missed realizing along the way. Let me help you here. Maybe if you listen to my advice you'll last longer at the University of Delaware than you did at those prestigious schools you like to name-drop. Here goes:

1) SHUT UP ABOUT HARVARD AND YALE!
~Obviously something happened and you're not working there any more, so every time you mention how much better the students were there, all I can wonder is why you're not still there, why you decided to move to a smaller, less famous/interesting/studious school. Every time you bring them up, all I see is failure in your eyes.

2) When you tell your students that a test is going to be specifically on a, b, and c, it's kind of rude to add subjects d and e.
~Especially when we haven't covered e. It's gotten to the point where students just don't believe you when you say that certain things are going to be on the test. Most just shrug and don't bother studying, because most of the time you don't even have a or b on the test. When asked, you say you "decided to go with something different at the last minute." Really? Did they teach you that at Harvard?

3) Making a student cry in class is not "shaking them up to be a better student," it's inappropriate.
~Giving them a hug afterward doesn't make it all better.

That's all I've got right now for you. Maybe I'll think of a few things later. The worst part is that when you're not actively teaching, you seem like a genuinely nice and caring person. I don't know why it is that the second you step into your authority mode you become inept, cruel, and down-right scary to your class.

Oh. One more:

4) In a class that's about talking in a foreign language, remember that if you intimidate us into silence we'll find it very difficult to speak, even in our native tongue.
~I'm 28 years old, comfortable and secure with myself. I'm a decade older than most kids in the class. All this together, and you still intimidate the hell out of me. I never want to speak up, even when I know I have the right answer, because of your attitude. I can't imagine what these kids go through.

Please, take this to heart. You've only been at our school for two semesters, and from the looks of things, I'm not sure you're going to last there much longer. It's obvious to us that you hate where you are; make some kind of change before it's made for you by the school.

Thanks. I hope this helps. Like I said, I think you're a nice person, you're just a horrid teacher. Good luck, and be well.

M'asselema.
jmfargo: (Default)
According to what we have learned in Arabic 105, meeting somebody for the first time requires a lot of what I would almost consider "filler" speech. I know we do this in America as well, but usually the filler is quick and simple, "That's nice," or "Oh, yeah!"

In Arabic countries, a typical introductory greeting between two people could go like this:

John: Good morning to you!
Mike: And good morning to you, as well!
John: My name is John.
Mike: My name is Mike.
John: Nice to meet you!
Mike: Good morning to you!
John: Good morning to you too!
Mike: How are you?
John: Good, thank you, praise God. And you?
Mike: A little tired, praise God. Thank you.
John: I work at the university.
Mike: I'm a librarian.
John: Good morning to you!
Mike: Good morning to you too!
John: It was nice to meet you. I have a meeting, may I go?
Mike: Of course, go. Nice to meet you.
John: Goodbye.
Mike: Goodbye.

The literal translation would be different, but you're saying the exact same thing after every bit of introductory information. The "Good morning to you" translates roughly to a general statement of pleasure at learning something new. It's strange to me.

And there's a LOT of praising God built into the language. For example, if you say you're doing well, but don't say "Al-hum dul-allah" ("praise God"), it is considered strange and possibly rude.

Just thought I'd share.
jmfargo: (Default)
Tomorrow's the first quiz for the class. Well, the second actually, but the one we took before "didn't count," so this is the first quiz. That means that I should be spending tonight, the night of my first anniversary, studying for the quiz tomorrow.

In actuality, I've got 10 pages to read, 8 writing practices to be done on separate pieces of paper to be handed in tomorrow, and 5 drills that each have to be done on their own paper to be handed in at the beginning of class tomorrow.

10 pages to read, 13 separate parts of homework.

Of course, I could get it done sooner if I just stopped bitching about it and got to it, but this is something that deserves a good bitching about.

I have no idea how the regular students are able to deal with this. I just spent over an hour writing all the forms of "miim." I already knew them! I wouldn't have wasted my time, but if I miss even one part of the homework assignment to be handed in, none of them count and I get a zero.

I wish I knew some Arabic swear words. I'd use them about now.
jmfargo: (Default)
Learning Arabic,
Confusion sets in at last.
I'm completely lost.
jmfargo: (Default)
While I was in High School, I often got my teachers angry. I didn't do it to be a wise-ass, and I actually didn't do it purposely at all. It was just the simple fact that I refused to do my homework, which hurt my grades, which upset most of them because they "know [I] have so much potential."

In my Sophomore year at VVS High School, our French teacher said something that I took as a challenge, even though she never meant it that way: "You can pass this class without doing any homework, but you'd need to get 100% on every single test, and even then you'll only pass with a grade of 65."

I passed French that year with a 65 and never did any homework.

The simple fact of the matter was that, in High School, all homework did for me was create busy-work. It was pointless for me to do, because I had already grasped the concepts in class, and the homework did not reinforce anything for me except that school was boring; that it interfered with what little social life I had.

I still feel I was right.

However, now I'm in college, taking a class that has very few similarities to my own, and isn't based in any background with which I'm familiar. Even the alphabet differs from anything I've ever done. It's read backwards, for heaven's sake!

I'm doing my homework, every night. I recognize the fact that, in order to pass this class I need to read the book, do the exercises, hand in the worksheets, and push myself. Homework must be done, because without it there is no way I'll ever catch on, especially since homework doesn't go over what we've done in class, it actually introduces what we're going to learn the next day. Then, after we've read the homework, done the worksheets, Professors Khalil and Ikram Masmoudi go over the concepts that we've already learned.

I'm absolutely adoring the way the class is going, and think that this teaching style is magnificent. I think I will do well in class. I'll do the homework, I'll learn in class, and I'll use my own time to practice the language. I haven't felt this energized about learning something since grade school.

It's new, exciting, and interesting. I'm even enjoying the homework.

My High School self would probably shoot me right now.

Class

Sep. 4th, 2008 08:28 am
jmfargo: (Default)
I'm off to class, and I'm feeling better. The lessons in the book last night were simple, easy-to-follow, and straight-forward. Having the DVDs to show native speakers pronouncing and writing the language was very helpful.

The homework wasn't difficult, but it was time-intensive. The first week or so we were told to expect to put in extra time in order to learn a whole new alphabet, so hopefully my homework won't take two hours each night after this week.

And yes, for the first time in over a decade I'm actually doing my homework. I think my parents would be shocked. Still, for this class I actually feel that homework is a necessity, where as in High School I almost always automatically grasped what they were trying to tell me, and so I felt homework was just busy work. With this class, I can't participate unless I learn the new stuff I'm doing the night before.

Time to get going to class. I'm getting there two hours early in hopes of getting a good parking spot, because if I don't find a good one it's a long walk. Well, kind of long. Long to me.
jmfargo: (Default)
I feel as though my brain is full. Like a glass full to the brim of red wine over white carpet, another drop spells disaster, and for a moment it hangs on, but you know what's going to happen, and then...

But thankfully when the brain gets full you don't have a mess to clean up, or not a visible one at least. The one left behind as all your thoughts come tumbling out over the edge can be pretty messy, but usually easily cleaned.

I'm taking college-level Arabic, and today was the first class.

The second I repeated the words the teacher would say, they were forgotten. Immediately, as though swept away, the words I was trying to remember were gone. I turned to my paired partner, and didn't know what I was supposed to say.

I can't ever remember feeling stupid. In High School there were plenty of concepts I just didn't grasp, but I never had to really work to remember the basics. This, today? This was horrifying.

The fact that two of the students are native Arabic speakers also seems unfair.

Add to that one of the female students coming to me before class and asking if I was the teacher, and now I feel old on top of everything else.

Today is not a happy day, but I'll survive.

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