Thursday, July 18, 2013

It was the eighth day of Ramadan . . .

 . . . and four of us went to McDonald's for Futoor.  The best part about it was the fact that when we had almost arrived at the restaurant some random man on the street looked at us, sized up our foreignness, and without any introduction pointed at McDonald's and said "McDo."  It has been some time since I have felt quite that ashamed.

Also, thanks to our lovely round-table class discussions, I found out today that St. Augustine was at least part Amazigh (Berber). Fancy that.

I don't seem to be able to go long, however, without talking about language.  Probably because I'm currently a walking, talking guinea pig for various second (third) language acquisition techniques.  So, with no further ado, welcome to Darija 101:

ah.  iyyeh.  na'am.  aiwa.  yak?  wakha.  ok.

All of the above could be translated as "yes," though they all have slightly different meanings.  The first is the basic, everyday variant, useful for informal conversations.  The second is slightly more emphatic - maybe the difference between "uh-huh" and "yeah."  The third comes straight from FuSHa and is the most emphatic of the straightforward "yes" words - usually used to respond to someone calling your name.  The fourth comes with an attitude: "Yeah, alright, fine . . . ugh."  The fifth is only used as a question and is roughly equivalent to the English "right?"  The sixth and seventh are equivalent, though I don't hear "ok" used that much, maybe because "wakha" is so fun to say (the kh is pronounced liked the j in Spain - something like a cat hissing).

I've also realized that what makes Darija so hard to understand, aside from the different vocabulary, is the stress system.  My linguist friends here in the program have explained it to me in fancy talk, but it basically goes like this: in FuSHa the stress any given syllable has depends upon the presence of long vowels and shuddas (doubled consonants) but follows a predictable pattern.  Darija is far from consistent, but the stress virtually always falls at the end of the word, making even words borrowed straight from FuSHa incomprehensible.  "Aanaa Tawiila" (I am tall) becomes "Anaaa Twiiilaa," which may not look like anything to you, but trust me it makes a difference to the ear.  

Meanwhile in the land of FuSHa we're torturing ourselves with increasingly finicky grammar points and I'm getting somewhat burnt out.  I also feel like I get much more out of outside reading/writing/listening - last week I bought another novel, this one rather shorter and simpler, which I'm able to read without a dictionary.  (I've gotten quite a few lovely words and turns of phrase from it, including "coated with blood," "bombardment," "oars," "despair," and "gall.")  I think once I've finished it I'll hunt for some more - I have plans to bring home a goodly stack of them to help make up for the lack of Arabic classes at school.

It is strange to think we only have two weeks left in the program.  Apart from the sporadic moments of frustration and exhaustion I've become accustomed to the rhythm of life here.  I have a particular person in the souq I go to for eggs, and someone else I go to for bread.  I know how to get to Casa Barata and where to find a grand taxi and what's an acceptable fare out to the lighthouse.  I know the locations of at least eight bookstores and two music stores and a tiny patisserie in a tiny alley off Sharia' Meksik.  I'm familiar with various forms of "gizel" (the Darija word for catcalls) and I've got the walk down well enough even with all the freckles people have to look twice to tell I'm not Moroccan.

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