11.08.2007 -17 °C
I've been a bit negligent on posting recently, largely because class has been kicking into high gear recently, and we've all been grinding out the classwork. So, I figured I might as well put up at least one post on classes since it is the reason for me being here and is consuming a good sized majority of my time. When the State Department said that the program was going to be intensive Arabic, they sure weren't joking. We are using the Al-Kitaab series books, which are one of the most popular Arabic language series in America, and used in most major Arabic programs in American universities. Over the course of this summer, we will be going through an entire book, in the course of eight week. To put this in perspective, each book in the series is meant to be completed in one year. This is in comparison to OU's quarter system, of three quarters of roughly ten weeks each. So, I will be covering the same quantity of material that I would have over the course of 30 weeks at OU in eight weeks here, plus supplementary materials, including a seperate book on political vocabulary, and speaking out on the streets. Consequently, I've become quite a bit more familiar with the Arabic language.
The classes consist of four hours of instruction divided into one hour blocks. The first two periods are focused on speaking proficiency and listening comprehension. The second two periods focus on grammar. I really enjoy this arrangement. All my previous Arabic classes have focused on speaking, but I am still in serious need of building up my vocabulary. We also can focus on everyday stuff that helps us get around Yemeni society easier. Because my previous classes have focused on speaking, I've had very little formal grammar practice. So, the second half of the classes are incredibly useful. Many Arabic words are derived from roots consisting of three letters. Hebrew, another Semitic language, also has a similar trisyllabic system. The three letters of the root form a myriad combination of verbs, nouns, adjectives and all sorts of other parts of speech. I've known this from the beginning, but this is the first time I've formally studied all the structures, and Arabic becomes significantly easier when you can derive the root and compare to similar words. My class started with four people back in June, but one of my classmates Paul (who was also my former roommate at the Hilltown) went back to the States after the Marib stuff. So, now we are down to myself and two others in class. When there are only three people in class, you can't get out of asking questions, you can't avoid doing homework, and you have to stay on the ball when it comes to studying. So, even though this won't be for any formal grade, that doesn't mean I'm working any less. Given that there are only three people in class to begin with, and that my classmates keep coming down "sick" or showing up during the second and third hours, it's practically one on one tutoring.
In addition to the Arabic classwork, we have stuff that is required for the CLS program. I attend a weekly two hour discussion with a Yemeni NGO called the Democracy School. There are about eight of us, broken into two groups of four, paired up with about ten Yemenis per group. We have been discussing, in Arabic, American foriegn policy, the Israeli-Palestine conflict, human rights, and assorted other fun topics. Last week, we had a comparative discussion about the structure of the US government versus the Yemeni government. It's hard enough explaining concepts like the Electoral College or federalismin English, it gets significantly harder trying to explain it in rough Arabic. During the recent trip to Ta'izz, we saw a sign in poorly translated English in our hotel rooms discussing the hours for the "purgation of the ladling." Translating the original Arabic, we came to realize that this somehow meant room cleaning. I can only hope that when I'm having these discussions with Yemenis that I'm not somehow butchering Arabic as badly as the "purgation of the ladling." At times, I'm not always optimistic. Anyways, this is the sort of stuff that keeps me busy most days, so please forgive any prolonged absences on the blog.