Saturday, March 20, 2010

Language advice you may or may not want to try

Abu Tulip has been reading a book, How Languages are Learned  by Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada.  This passage caught his eye, especially considering how difficult some of the sounds of Arabic are for speakers of Western languages.

"Another aspect of personality that has been studied is inhibition.  It has been suggested that inhibition discourages risk-taking, which is necessary for progress in language learning.   This is often considered to be a particular problem for adolescents, who are more self-conscious that younger learners.  In a series of studies, Alexander Guiora and his colleagues (1972) found support for the claim that inhibition is a negative force, at least for second language pronunciation performance.  One study involved an analysis of the effects of small doses of alcohol, known for its ability to reduce inhibition, on pronunciation.  Study participants who drank small amounts of alcohol did better on pronunciation tests than those who did not drink any.  While results such as these are interesting, they may have more to do with performance than with learning.  We may also note, in passing, that when larger doses of alcohol were administered, pronunciation rapidly deteriorated!"
(page 61)

I can think of a few people who probably would have been willing to participate in that study and contribute to scientific knowledge.   ~Abu Tulip

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blog about Jordan day

We've lived here in the Middle East for over five years.  It's hard to imagine being anywhere else.  I often don't really think about the fact that I'm a foreigner - a guest in the country.  I've learned the language (to an extent), love the food, and two of my children were born here.   Our oldest is in a local, private school where Arabic is the primary language.  It's adorable to watch him practice for his upcoming assembly, sharing "ana ilmalfuuf"  (I am the cabbage), a presentation on vegetables.

When I meet new people, they often ask, "where is home?"  I usually answer, "home is here".  This is my home.  Of course I miss family and friends who are back in the states, and there are certainly days I yearn for certain characteristics of my passport culture, but I'm proud to say we really have made our life here.

I realized my friends understood this during a recent choir rehearsal.  The choir I sing with is an eclectic mix of locals and foreigners.  We've been learning some Arabic folkloric music, and it is just fascinating.  At one point, the director asked for the Arabs to sing a section once through, and then for the others to sing once through.  This was for her to listen to us sing and check to make sure we were getting the pronunciation and nuances of Arabic music.  Quarter tones are amazing, but a challenge for us Western singers.  An Arab friend turned to me and asked, "inti ma3na 'aw mahum?"  (are with you us or them?) .  I smiled.  Both?  She had given me the ultimate compliment.

So, thank you Jordan, for accepting me into your country.  Your friendship, hospitality, food, music, and grace are in abundance. 

~ Um Tulip

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The best reason to wear a hijab

So, the other day I was driving home from work and saw the best reason to wear a hijab to date.  There have been some fascinating articles lately about women who wear the hijab, a typical headscarf for Muslim women. 

Check out and you'll find a lot of discussion.

Where we live, I'd say over half the women do cover, usually in stylish scarves that match their outfit.  It's usually a family decision.  The 8 year old daughter of neighbors has even started wearing one occasionally, so she can look like her mommy.  Choice?  Sort of.  Not any different than a daughter wanting to wear earrings like her mother.  Or our friend's daughter wanting to have the Coptic cross tattoo on her wrist, like so many of her friends. Or maybe not.  I'll let others work that out.

Regardless, as I was driving home I saw a woman driving through the circle, gesturing and talking.  There was no one in the passenger seat.  Then I noticed she had her mobile phone tucked in her hijab right against her ear.  It was almost invisible.  Why bother with a fancy bluetooth headset? Shatra, mu?

~ Um Tulip