First Day of Class (in Morocco!)

Today is the official class start date for people in the Arabic Language and Culture in Morocco program summer session II. Depending on the level of MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) or CMA (Colloquial Moroccan Arabic), different classes have different meeting times. As far as I could tell, there are only two kinds of schedule: have class between 8 to 10 am and 2 to 4 pm, or have class between 10 am to 12 pm and 4 to 6 pm. Good thing me and my roommate have the same schedule, even though we are in different levels.

We woke up early today to get to school so I could get my textbooks. Well, 7 am isn’t exactly when Moroccans start working, so of course the front desk at ALIF was empty. And since we left pretty early, we didn’t eat breakfast, and went a block away from ALIF to a café for breakfast. I got a cheese sandwich (4 pieces of toast with cheese in between), orange juice (fresh-squeezed), and mint tea for 22 Dh (a little more than 2 USD). Definitely a good deal.

Despite the breakfast being so cheap, books however do cost approximately the same as in the US (possibly more). Probably because the textbooks I am using are published by Georgetown University, and are the same ones as what most English speakers use when learning Arabic. I got mine right at 8 am, when the bell rang, and ran up to third floor to join my classmates.

As I learned, Arabic is a language with a set number of alphabets, each of which is associated with a particular sound. So like English or any Western language really, you can pronounce a word by just looking at it, even though you have no idea what it means. It’s really different from Chinese, which uses characters that don’t really associate with their sounds, but you might be able to guess the meaning of the character based on what it looks like. For the first period, we learned the first 4 alphabets out of the 28, which are called alif, baa, taa, thaa. I tried typing those in Arabic, but as you read Arabic from right to left, typing them in a left to right written document creates problem, which I am pretty sure could be get around of, but I just haven’t figured out yet. Our teacher speaks English, and is really funny with his over-emphasized pronunciations and different facial expressions.

Two hours flew past, and I used wireless Internet in the ALIF garden before meeting up with my roommate to go out for lunch. It turned out that the Wi-Fi in my host-family somehow just stopped working, so now ALIF is my only access to free Internet. We had lunch at the other café that’s one block from ALIF (there are only two), at which I ordered a maghretta pizza, and ended up getting what I think is a seafood pizza, as there were pieces of fish (I thought it tasted like tuna) on the thin crust with olive, cheese, tomato sauce, and probably a lot of other things that I just didn’t know were there. It was the first time I have fish on a pizza, and it didn’t taste bad.

The afternoon period involved some hard core Arabic pronunciation instruction. We learned so many different sounds, some of which do not exist in English (such as kh, which involves making a sound really deep in the throat, kind of like before spitting), and tried to pronounce some many different words that we had no idea the meaning of. It was pretty satisfying to see progress immediately though. Our teacher in this period speaks perfect Arabic (both MSA and CMA), French, and English (flawless without much of an accent), and also has a really expressive face (probably a requirement when they recruit language teachers I guess). I think I will be able to learn a lot in the 6 weeks :).

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