Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Future Language Faux-Pauxs

Slightly worried about the need to understand and communicate Moroccan Arabic, I hit the local bookstore with a vengeance last night. Expecting to find everything I needed in the blink of an eye, and knowing exactly what that was, to my dismay there were no books on my desired subject matter. How could that be....I have been sleeping, eating, drinking, and worrying about Morocco for months....Especially considering that Ed has mentioned several times that if the opportunity presents itself for the bartering of any Penitent Yanks goods for bus parts or service, that I would be first on the chopping block!! Isn't Moroccan Arabic at the top of everyone's list of languages to study? That's why there were no books available...yeah, that's it.

All of my research has assured me that Moroccan Arabic is very different from say, the nice, sweet words I learned from (to borrow a phrase from Ed) 'the Mistake' I made for a few years too many. I have been reaquainting myself with the modern standard Arabic after a mental boycott, and vowed that I will (re)-learn Arabic script, because if there are any signs in the middle of the desert, I am fairly certain that they will not have the latinate equivalent directly beneath the Arabic word.

Not swayed by my disappointment and the delay (I did witness part of the bus construction process last weekend), I went over and had the store order me up some audio. Needing a place to let my eggnog latte cool down, I picked up an interesting little pocket-sized book that I wish I had had years ago. Although in Modern Standard Arabic, it contained many useful phrases for life, and the giggling and gasping and 'om my Gods' I was emitting was on the verge/over the verge of annoying the heck out of my fellow patrons who were quietly enjoying some sort of visual entertainment. There were various insults, phrases that which came with surgeon-general like warnings about what might happen if they were used, and how certain phrases, though clearly effective insults, would leave the listener likely forced to retort with the equivalent of "and you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

Much centered on how to use the f* word, with varying degrees of severity, intensity and emotion. One warning which I wish I had known is that apparently calling someone a liar is close to a mortal sin, and the f word is much better. No wonder things didn't work out.

If we only had this book in Moroccan Arabic, I am certain that the team would be able to talk there way into and out of any trouble that may come our way, and I most assuredly would not be bartered for a fuel pump. I am heading to the junkyard this weekend, just in case.


Jay said...

Jenna - I appreciate your assumption that we're going to make it as far as Morocco. I'm having nightmares that we'll be working on the bus in some cold climate somewhere, where (and when) being stuck in the hot desert sand will seem like a good idea.
Thank God someone's learning arabic. It'll probably come in handy.


ditto to what jay said; I did read somewhere that there are often French translations on road signs, which is good 'cause I am quite proficient in written french, just need to work on the speaking/verbal comprehension part (though I too have picked up some tapes which I'll be listening to on my daily commute over the next two months :)

Anonymous said...

Although anonymous - Jenna you know who I am. You might blog at midnight, I am known to clean house at that same hour -

so not all Arabic is the same ?? different dialects or totally different words ?

I can't help thinking about the commercial showing the couple stranded somewhere in the desert, and a bunch of kids come along and tell them - aytiem fix everything- then the commercial cuts to an ATM machine in their primitive village

Love ya !