Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Settlin' In...

This past month has been a whirlwind. I spent my first week in Amman settling into my new apartment (re: scrubbing away the filth from all surfaces). I’m thrilled with where I’m living—it’s spacious and situated at the end of a quiet street in a central part of town.

The building is full of young, active Jordanians. I live with two guys, an American and a Brit, who are also studying the language. My daily trip to school is a little bit out of the way, but luckily cabs are cheap and soon I'll have the public bus system figured out, Insha'allah (hopefully/God willing).

I’ve become good friend with my neighbor Hakim who runs his own tour company, Tropical Desert Trips, that leads excursions throughout Jordan. He’s an avid rock climber and has even installed a climbing wall on the side of our building. In addition to mastering Arabic, I’ll hopefully develop some climbing skills by the time I leave Jordan.

Hakim’s apartment is a popular hangout spot, and I’ve made countless new friends just going over there to say hi. The best times are when his Jordanian friends are visiting and they speak exclusively in Arabic. I’m not yet at the point where I comfortable joining in to their conversation, but it’s exciting to discover how quickly my listening comprehension is improving.

The Arabic that I study in my classes is the formal Modern Standard Arabic, also called fus-ha (meaning 'eloquent'). This Arabic is used in the media, academia, and in business settings. It is understood across the region by Arabic speakers from different countries. On the street, however, the locals of each country speak their particular dialect, or ammiya (meaning 'public'). To make a crude linguistic comparison, ammiya is to fus-ha what Ebonics is to proper English. In order to really understand what is going on around me and communicate with facility, I need to know ammiya. The good news is that with a foundation is fus-ha, ammiya is relatively easy. The vocabulary is limited and the grammar is very straightforward. Towards this effort, I am taking a two hour ammiya conversation class one evening a week. Once I have learned the basic grammar structures and learn the ammiya equivalents of my fus-ha vocublary, I should be on my way.

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