Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Glottal Stops

I got some Arabic language-learning CD's for Christmas.

"Who would give someone something like that?" you may ask. You may wrinkle your nose. I'll tell you who--my brother and sister-in-law (who are, by the way, going to have a baby girl in June!). This is because it's what I asked for.

"Why would you ask for something like that?" you may ask. With the same quizzical and wrinkle-inducing facial expression.

Um . . . to give me something to do in the car on the way to work at 4.30 in the morning? I don't know. I guess I feel I have totally underused second-language abilities, and I'm testing them out. Also, I think that, while Spanish may be the most practical second language to learn in this country, people the world over might be a step ahead of the game if they picked up some Arabic, too. I think Christian colleges should include Arabic in their foreign language programmes. But I digress . . .

Anyway, here are some things I have noticed, after going through just two lessons:

1) When you're learning a language which has very little overlap with your own, you start to hear words from your own language in some of the sounds. Sometimes it sounds like "bad words," actually. This can be funny . . . and a little distracting.

2) Speaking Arabic with a cold is a challenging endeavour. The first time I tried it, I found myself helplessly choking on all the glottal stops. And all the different aspirated sounds are tricky. I feel like I'm practicing tongue twisters, except that my tongue is scarcely involved at all, and the part that's twisting is the back of my throat.


kristin said...

salam jenn kefek, meha shekron
hello Jenn How are you. good thank you. I know some arabic. Good Luck.

Inihtar said...

Wowie! Good luck! I took Arabic classes (because I had the same "getting ahead of the game" notion too) and it's a tough language! Tougher than Japanese. . . and that's no piece of cake. But still, it's also a very cool language. all the best!

Barry Pike said...

That's really cool, Jenn. I've thought about Arabic, too, and how interesting it would be to learn an album with no system relationship to the Western tongues.

I think you learn some really elemental, almost subconcious things about a culture when you learn to speak its language. And it folds into your brain differently than if you just read about a culture's history or customs. There are insights into thinking and understanding embedded into sytax and pronunciation that you can't get to in any other way.

Good luck with it.

Marty said...

Wow! I don't know very much of that language. But I appreciate you learning it. My wife tells me I have 3 more years to learn it. She's a spanish teacher and wants our children to be bilingual. I better get on a faster tract

The Cubicle Reverend said...

Plus many of the best poets like Rumi write in arabic. The language of God baby.

Jenn said...

Wow. I had no idea people had such an interest in Arabic--or that so many had tried it. Except Kristin.

Barry--I agree with you about how learning a language helps get you into the psychology of a culture better.

Cube Rev--so they say! But yes, Rumi--very cool. Also very trendy. Which is why I still haven't ever read anything complete by him.

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