Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Comedy and Confusion of Language Learning

Learning another language is confusing enough, but to do so in another culture, along with students who are learning from an Arabic speaking background, takes the confusion to a whole new level! With excited shouts of word- for- word repetition, or challenging and correcting fellow students (correctly or otherwise) at the tops of their voices, there is no doubt that my fellow class mates are eager to learn. This cacophony of noise was enough to bring a smile to my face within minutes of my first lesson, but having acclimatised I’ve found myself joining in!

Further bemusement and entertained is provided by the teacher, a gentleman with an impressive moustache who will regularly leave the classroom either to spit in the court yard or to greet people who happen to be walking by, who, judging by the enthusiastic welcome, it can only be presumed are long lost friends. 

Meanwhile, mobile phones are being answered and various phones are plugged into and unplugged from the much coveted single electrical output in the room in order that as many people as possible are able to take advantage of the rare source of power.

These classes seem to be as much a lesson in culture as it is in language. For example, when trying to describe to the class what the word ‘revelation’ means (easy from an English background, less so from an Arabic one), rather than use the example within the text we were reading about discovering a scandalous top secret job offer, our teacher began to describe that a revelation is what Mohammed received which led to the Qur’an. Cue a mass class debate on who God is and who has received true revelation! Where some of basic literacy skills are lacking, there is no doubting that my class mates are streets ahead in speaking French, and I am frequently left feeling slightly confused, but also very amused!

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