Archive for the ‘Arabic’ Category

The last thing I expected to hear in Lebanon was Portuguese, but surprisingly it was one of the first things I heard.

After arriving in Lebanon, and sleeping off a bit of jetlag, I started wandering the campus until I ran into our University President.  He quickly introduced me to the University chaplain, who happens to be….Brazilian.  In fact, he studied at the same University where I did Portuguese study abroad one summer during college.  After meeting him, I learned that there was a small army of Brazilians on our campus – some had come and gone before my arrival and some would come later in the year.

However it’s not only on our campus that we have a mini-Brazil; it’s within the country of Lebanon as well.  The blog Brazzil explains the phenomenon pretty succinctly here.  Over the course of time Lebanese have emigrated to countries around the world, Brazil included.  Nowadays, there are more Lebanese living outside of the country than inside of the country.

Over the course of the year, we’ve run into some of the hyphenated Lebanese (Brazilian-Lebanese).  We even saw the launch of the Brazilian-Lebanese Cultural Center.

Coming from the States, where Hispanics are the largest minority group, it’s hard to imagine them as being anything else, but the more I pay attention, the more I’m finding Hispanic Lebanese.  I study Arabic with a kind lady who’s Mexican-Lebanese, and more and more, I find myself hearing Portuguese in the mall and most recently at the airport on my way home.

These days, we all find a way to hyphenate our identities.  African-American, Korean-American, Mexican-Lebanese.  It’s like the noveau “I got some Indian in my family.” (only a few of you will understand what I mean by that one)

How do you hyphenate?


This week I’ve started taking Arabic classes at Saifi Institute in Gemmayze.  It’s about a 20 minute ride from Middle East University and normally this would be a small issue, but given the public transportation system, or the lack thereof, it’s a bit more complicated.  There isn’t a traditional public transportation system, but there is a system.  My options are a bus, which I could catch after getting “down the hill” or a series of “service” (pronounced ser-vees) taxis.  The services are on a fixed route, they stop if they see you walking and ask where you’re going.  If you’re headed in the same direction as they are, they’ll pick you up and take you to the farthest point they can on their route for a mere 2,000 LL or $1.50.  If you haven’t reached your destination, well, find another service!

Since my Arabic skills are still being developed and I don’t have the patience of a saint, I’ve been taking regular taxis, making my transportation costs about the same as my tuition costs.  Nonetheless, given what I’ve been learning, it’s worth it so far.

At the school, I was placed in level 2.5, however my listening comprension prevented me from being very comfortable in the class, so the teacher encouraged me to move to level 1.  While there, I felt as though the challenge was gone, and I’m all for the challenge.  Challenge and competition are my fuels, they drive and motivate me.  So now I’m struggling in level 2.5 again.  It’s kicking my butt, but dangnabit, I’m kicking back!!

Exercise from Chapter 1

Teacher from my Level 1 class

My quest to learn Arabic started about 2 years ago….or maybe it was 4 years ago.  I started taking classes at Language Loop in Chicago.  I learned the alphabet and then had to quit because of my demanding work schedule.  In fact, my Senior at work asked, not so subtly, if I planned to quit the class during busy season started. Well, I guess you have your answer right there.  I quit the class before busy season.  Besides, I thought, when would I ever find myself in the Middle East.  Fast forward 2-4 years, depending on who’s counting.  Now I find myself in Lebanon, trying to juggle multiple methods to learn the language.

For those trolling the internet hoping to find ways to learn Arabic, here’s a list of my favorite resources so far.  I’ll update as I find additional things:

1.  Check out YouTube.  Many people have posted lots of great children’s videos in Arabic.  It’s a quick way to learn the letters, numbers, colors, family members, etc.  I really like Syraj Arabic Books’ videos.  Here’s one that teaches you the numbers

2.  If on the off chance you’re in Chicago, I really liked the classes I took at Language Loop.

3.  Amazingly, the Institute of the Language of the Quran, based in Toronto, Canada has free online video lessons that you can watch.  The purpose of the videos are to teach non-Arabic speaking Muslims so that they can read the Koran.  The classes are great for anyone who’s looking to learn Arabic grammar.  I quickly learned the 14 prounouns from a catchy tune the professor sings.

4.  Both cute and entertaining, I love watching Maha teach Arabic via her Youtube channel.  It’s great because she’s never scripted and comes off so human while she’s teaching.  If you’ve never been interested in learning Arabic before, Maha’s sure to change your mind.

5.  Although The Arabic Student is pretty advanced and presents very detailed information.  It’s still quite helpful and gives me something to strive for.  Most interestingly, the man teaching is an American, who when through a Language Institute.  He said when he travels, he often gets mistaken for being Lebanese because of his Arabic accent.  Even still, he understands the innerworkings of MSA as well.

6.  I’ve got my own Mr. Miyagi.  Wax on.  Wax off.  Only mine speaks Arabic.  Since arriving in Lebanon, I’ve gotten a tutor, who I affectionately refer to as my Mr. Miyagi, just because of his age, his wisdom and his excitement for the language.  I realize that this is not an internet resource, but I’m sure you can find something similar by doing a quick Google Search.

7.  Transparent Language has lots of interesting information and explains little tidbits you might be hard pressed to find elsewhere.  The blogger often posts things of cultural interest as well.

8.  The Global Language Online Support System is a program run by the US government that offers free lessons in a myriad of languages, including Arabic.

9.  If you’re interested in giving and receiving, check out LiveMocha.  A place where you can share your native language while learning the language of your choice.

10.  Though short on bells and whistles, Babel is practical and contains information that will be helpful in your quest to learn the language.

Besides these things, I try to watch Sesame Street in MSA and I’ve bought a few children’s books that I’m slowly picking my way through.  The process can be long and tedious, as is anything else in life, but I’m hoping that it’s worth it on the other side.

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