After a brief “Ameeyah” class yesterday, I honestly felt completely overwhelmed. During the 1.5hr class, I understood about 5 words. For those of you who don’t know, “Ameeyah” is the Jordanian dialect of Arabic, which sounds quite different from the “Modern Standard Arabic” that I have been taught.
However, today was a fantastic first day of classes. It consisted of 2 hours of Modern Standard Arabic, an hour of “Media Class,” an hour of “Ameeyah,” and finally 2 hours of language partner meetings at a mall, where we tried McDonalds. Unfortunately for Americans, Jordan does McDonalds way better! I have been studying vocab for about 1.5 hours every night and felt quite drained after a day of intensive Arabic (don’t forget, we have the language pledge!)
After class, a group of us students went to the World Refugee Day Celebration in downtown Amman. I couldn’t help but think that the first day of classes aligning with this special celebration was the perfect beginning to the next few intensive weeks. This experience completely recharged my “Arabic battery” after hours of class and conversation. Not only were we able to sit down and speak with refugees from all over the world (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia, etc.), but we were also able to try their amazing foods, watch their traditional dances, and finally attend a concert by the famous Jordanian group “Autostrad Band.” (https://www.facebook.com/AutostradBand )
Perhaps the most impactful moment was when a group of us CLS students were sitting with a refugee from Syria, choosing questions from a jar of papers in the middle. When asked what was one thing this individual could change about herself, she said (translated) that she wished she could have given her girls a normal childhood. However, like many refugees I had spoken to, she was hopeful. When asked another question, “what is one thing you couldn’t live without,” she responded, “smiling.”
This event was particularly special to me because I was able to meet people from countries which I have no exposure to. In addition to the incredible Syrian woman we spoke to, I was touched by a woman from Yemen who graciously offered me food, photos of Yemen, and tolerated my broken Arabic. Unlike some experiences I have had in Spain, for the most part Jordanians have been charmed and appreciative when I have conversed in Arabic, even when at a 3-year old level.
Three hours of homework begins, followed by vocabulary review. Although the studying is intensive, I was reminded today of why I was first drawn to Arabic: I wanted to communicate with refugees and immigrants from Arab countries in order to show my appreciation and recognition of their struggles and identities. Inshallah I am on the path to achieving an advanced speaking level within these next 8 weeks!