I've gone back to Arabic class. Let's face it -- after seven months and some major lapses in memory, my return might be characterized as anything but "triumphant." In fact, I don't even remember how to say "triumphant" in Arabic. Or "saddle" for that matter...
"I can see you're still thinking in English," my teacher says this morning. "Yes," I say with a nod, but only because the first word that comes to mind isn't aywa.
When I walk the dog around our neighborhood, I try to identify everything I can using Arabic: ground becomes ard; tree, shajaara; flower, warde -- or is that flowers? aSfar, azraq, aHmar, I think, yellow, blue, red. Hasheesh akhdar (green grass, although there's not much of that), masbaH (swimming pool).
Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees. That’s done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree....
A classmate returns after a six month's absence. She still speaks in full sentences: "this weekend my sister-in-law and her children are arriving from Seattle," she says (or so I'm guessing). "We're taking them to Petra."
Ahib atakallam 3rabi, I respond. "I like to speak Arabic."
I don't like to speak Arabic. I like to read it. I like to hear it. I like to write its ever-shifting consonants and vowels from right to left. I even like to try to decipher its odd grammatical rules and syntactical inversions. But do I like to speak it? The answer is, la.
The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth...
I'm of two minds, I hear folks say. Afternoons, I'm also of two minds: while reading my son classics like Brown Bear, What Do You See?, I secretly try to translate them into Arabic. I can get the red bird and black sheep, but the purple cat stumps me every time.
I had a dream:
Move to Jordan (check)
Learn to read and speak Arabic (?)
Translate Jordanian poetry (??)
Still, pedetemtim as Lucretius says,
Little by little, you do start to learn;
And learn as well, maybe, what language does
And how it does it, cutting across the world...