This has been a very interesting project!
I started back in September, with three months to intensively learn the language while in Brazil, and then spent January and February travelling through Egypt (ultimately not doing more than a couple of hours intentional work on my Arabic level, although getting lots of practice), and if you check out the above completely unedited, and unscripted conversation, you can hear what my Arabic sounds like!
Unlike in my other videos, where I was focusing much more on an interesting message that the native speaker could share with the world, this time I did most of the talking, but had a very special guest interview me – the first person I ever spoke Arabic with! It’s got an almost poetic conclusion to the mission that I should finally meet her just before I leave! I found Amera on italki in September, and she is one of the teachers I stuck consistently with all the way through to December.
After leaving Cairo, the first stop on my Egyptian travels was Aswan, the furthest south in the country where you can find a major settled area, and where the Egyptian part of the Nile begins after Lake “Nasser” and the High Dam.
By far, the most interesting part of my time there was discovering things about the ethnic group known as the Nubians, which at one point in history were able to overpower the Pharaohs of Egypt, but have had an unfortunate history of displacement and migration, especially in the last century.
To share that story, I let Gasser M. Anwar, a Nubian working in the tourist industry, take the microphone to share his perspective on it all with us. With subtitles in English and Arabic as always!
Probably one of the most frequent comments I’ve received on my videos over the last months, usually from people in Arabic speaking countries that are not Egypt, or from elitist academics, all of whom ignored my travel-in-Egypt focus, has been “You should be learning Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)! It’s much better than dialect!”
Now that I’m actually using what I spent months preparing for, in the country itself, I can confirm that learning a dialect is far superior to learning MSA if you plan to speak the language.
My three months are officially up! In a few hours I’ll be getting a flight back to Ireland to spend Christmas with my family, then heading to Germany for a few days to celebrate the New Year in Esperanto with some good friends as always. Then, a few days into January, I fly into Egypt, […]
Here it is; my official two month point in Arabic! Subtitles in English, Arabic and Portuguese via Youtube.
I had initially planned to go to the Egyptian consulate in Rio, to finally speak the language for the first time in my life in person, but there were issues in setting up a meeting there. Luckily, I randomly ran into an Egyptian-American, Ahmed, at a Couchsurfing meeting!
I decided to only speak English with him then and ask him if he’d be up for recording a video with me. We still spoke English before recording the video, so he had no idea what my level would have been at. The reason I did this, was so you could literally see the very first time I genuinely spoke the language face-to-face with someone in my life, the moment after I pressed record.
Sharing this key moment is good for tracking my progress, since I know people are curious about such important milestones of the mission, (unlike some friends of mine, I don’t tend to have a camera on my head to catch such moments in cognito!) but obviously breaking into Arabic suddenly, after not speaking it for over a day since my previous Skype session, meant I didn’t have quite the ideal kind of flow I’d like. In future, I’ll speak in the relevant language for several minutes before recording, so I have this flow.
Here it is – my first ever video in Arabic, a week after starting to learn it! Subtitles are provided in original Arabic, English and Portuguese for all videos of this project. In this video, I read a script written entirely in Arabic (no romanisation) about how I’m in Rio and just starting the mission. To make it more interesting, I’ve thrown in some nice views of the city at various points in the video, but there is no editing out of my pauses and hesitations.
This may be one of the craziest language projects I’ve ever undertaken! Watch the video for the proper introduction. As you’ll see, I have three months, starting today, to reach fluency (more specifically, high level B2/low C1 on this scale) in (Egyptian) Arabic and I plan to do it… in Brazil!