Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Arabic Lessons

Me and my Arabic teacher, Sanaa

The word is out: I'm having private Arabic lessons! Not classic Arabic as many institutions and websites offer. No, the colloquial Arabic of Sudan.
To explain how this came about, I have to go back a few months. When I arrived in Khartoum in January, Miriam was so delighted to see me that she immediately phoned someone and gave me the phone. (remember, we could not communicate, everything was done by charades) The person she had called introduced himself in English as Christopher from Bahri. Now, Khartoum is called the Tri City. It is made up of three cities. Omdurman, where we live, is the oldest and largest city. Cross the Nile and you arrive in Bahri. (pronounced Ba-ghri - the g sounding as if you're clearing your throat!) Beyond Bahri is Khartoum.

But I digress. That day Christopher asked me when I had arrived back at the apartment. I told him I'd just been back for a day which information he relayed to Mirriam. Over the months during our last stint, I perdiodically phoned Christopher when I was trying to convey something to Miriam. I also found out how he knew Mirriam: Her mother is the caretaker at the building where Christopher lives.

When we came back in April, I was unsure whether Miriam had been paid while we were on leave, so I phoned Christopher... Afterwards he and I got talking. When he heard I was from South Africa, he told me he had several South African friends, teachers. He told me he ran English classes for the Sudanese and he mentioned that his wife teaches English people Arabic!

Immediately I asked him if she'd be willing to teach me, and he said "No problem" (a standard phrase in Africa!) Three days later we met Christopher and his wife, Sanaa at a coffee shop and arranged for her to teach me at our apartment.

My lessons are two hours on a Monday and two hours on a Thursday. At the moment Sanaa is teaching me objects (plate, bowl, table, chair, names of vegetables and fruit) and verbs: sit, stand, walk, run. She has taught me the various salutations. She's very encouraging but strict. She insists that I practice the words, especially the greetings. I am not to say "Hi" or "Good morning" to anyone I meet, but use the Arabic version.

The course of sixteen lessons includes practical exercises as well. Tomorrow I'll post about my first furore into the market in the wake of my wonderful teacher, Sanaa.

I'd like to thank my dear blogger friend, Misalyn from Al Ain Daily Photo for always helping me with Arabic words and phrases. Thanks Missy! If you haven't visit Misalyn's blog yet, do yourself a favour and pop in. She has beautiful photos of her city, Al Ain and her blog is informative, vibrant and colourful.

To see what bloggers like Misalyn share in their worlds click here.


  1. Jo, how exciting that you are learning Arabic from a private tutor! You won't feel so isolated in Bahri once you have some Arabic words and phrases under your belt. You are a life-long learner, I can tell.

    I'm right after you today on the My World Tuesday list because I'm posting on Monday night.

  2. How wonderful that you will soon ve able to converse in Arabic :-)

  3. Look forward to hearing how things go! Great post for the day, Jo! And, yes, Misalyn does have a great blog and I follow her every day! Hope you have a wonderful week! Enjoy!


  4. Jo: You must be able to say at least the simple things, best wishes with the process.

  5. You two look stunning:) I am so happy for you my dear. Next time, I'll be the one asking you the translations:) I salute you for your eagerness to learn the arabic language. We know that we may not leave for long time in the Middle East but learning the language to communicate with the people will make our lives a lot better...communication wise.

    Thanks for mentioning my blog and for your kind comments. You are so sweet Jo. Thank you so much.

    Have a nice day. God bless.

  6. Hi Pat, to think you're still asleep and morning has broken here in North Africa. You're right, Pat, I'm am a life-long learner. I'll pop in and check your post now.

    Hi Julie;) thanks for popping in.

    Hi Sylvia;) Thanks for your kind comments on my post and thanks for your part in this meme! Have a wonderful day too.

    Hi Joyful;) Mmm, I hope I can soon converse - I have two months on the course and many opportunities to speak Arabic so I'd better do it!

    Hi Tom;) thanks for your kind wishes.

    Hi Misalyn;) You're right: even if we only live a year or two in a foreign country, it's wiser and easier to learn the language and the culture. Thank you for your help always. Have a blessed day.(((Hugs))) Jo

  7. Gosh, you are very brave to tackle this Jo. It has to be one of the hardest lanuages to learn.

  8. That is so nice to learn another language. What an opportunity for you! With your eagerness to learn, it won't take long for you to learn and be able to converse in Arabic quickly. And that is a nice picture of you with your private tutor.

  9. Good for you, Jo, having Arabic lessons ! I know that there is a lot of Arabic in the East African language we speak here (Kiswahili) and that many words/phrases are similar to Arabic. (and what a great way of 'communicating' via the phone if there's no one 'in person' to help with translations!)

  10. Thanks Joan;) I am finding it quite difficult although many words sound like Afrikaans ones. So it should get easier - I hope...

    Hi Eden;) thanks, my tutor is very sweet and a great help.

    Hi Lynda;) you would find it quite easy to learn the language. I'm glad that there are many Arabic words in other African languages. We may need them when we travel across Africa in 2012! (((Hugs))) Jo

  11. Aren't you brave! Good for you for trying to learn Arabic. You'll feel so much more free when you can say some things on your own.
    Glad you found such a nice teacher.

  12. Thanks Dedene;)it makes all the difference to have a tutor who is actually teaching me the culture as well as the language! Thanks for popping in.

  13. What a New and exciting thing to be Doing!! It'll make things So much easier for you as well!
    Enjoy the lessons!

  14. Thanks Donna;) I am enjoying the experience tremendously!

  15. Jy's 'great', vriendin!

  16. I'm proud of you, Jo, for learning Arabic.. It will certainly help you while living in North Africa...

    Good Luck!!!!! Keep working hard...

    It's raining at the beach today--so this gives me an opportunity to catch up with some blogging, some reading and some SLEEPING.. ha ha (What a life!)


  17. That's really neat, Jo. Can't wait to see how your trip to the market goes. I would love to learn another language - but I'm not sure that I have ENOUGH eagerness. I pray the lessons and mastery will come easy for you.

  18. Hallo Ida;) dankie, jy's 'n skat!

    Hi Betsy;) Ha, yes, what a life. About what I have here in Khartoum as well. Enough sleep, blogging, reading, taking photos of the sun rising and the sun setting. Mmm. How do we survive? (ha-ha) You continue to enjoy your outing and hug George for me... Bless you my friend. Jo

  19. Practice, practice, and more practice...

    Being able to speak another toungh is such a blessing, especialy when your being taught by people that are your friends...
    Good luck and remember... practice, peactice, and more practice...

  20. Well that will fill in a chunk of your spare time and come in very handy. Good for you. Research has shown that learning a language in later years helps keep your brain young.

  21. Aah diane;) Now that is what I want - to have an active brain in later years... Hope you're having a wonderful time with your girls.

  22. Good one. I do believe that if you are living in a country you should at least attempt to learn their language. I always try to pick up a few important words and phrases when I am traveling through a country.
    Keep trying, you will pick up enough to communicate with the locals.

  23. Hi Andrea, I'm always keen to learn the local language (to help myself) And now that diane says it will stand me in good stead in my twilight years... Mmmm

    Good to see you Glennis;) Yes, it makes sense to know a few basic words and terms.

  24. Right on Jo. I think it's important to learn the language of where you live and visit.

  25. Good for you! You are serious about learning the language.
    It seems quite different from our local Arabic.

  26. hi Jo - I\ve just moved to Khartoum and want to find an Arabic teacher. I just stumbled across your blog about Sanaa and am wondering if she's still teaching? Are you able to put me in touch with her? I'm in the Riyadh district. kind regards, Zoie

  27. Hi! If me a.female.arabic.teacher. M working in al ain now but I have difficulty interactimg with my patients and my co.workers. I speak English and.Tagalog. I am a Filipino. Just a month here n Al Ain.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo