31 October 2014

Learning a language is like learning to play the piano

As I face only 24 more weeks of language study before my test (and presumably/hopefully before I have functional use of Arabic  إن شاء اللة ), I have sought out guidance from every corner of the language study world to aid me.
Thankfully, the language consultation service at FSI is excellent and they host seminars on proven effective study techniques regularly. It's been quite a learning experience just hearing about all the work that is being done around how adults learn, retain, and employ new languages.
Last week, the session was called "On the Tip of your Tongue: Speaking Strategies for Fluency". Being far from fluency myself, my interest was more on tips and tricks to get my tongue to sync up with my brain - to start actually using the knowledge that I have about grammar and verb conjugations and have it come out of my mouth correctly!

We talked about how learning a language is more like learning to play an instrument than learning a subject like science, mathematics, or history.
Right now, I need to focus on the basics – learning to read, identifying differences between the notes, and beginning to connect them like chords.

I have nothing complex, my best sentences are:
My name is Rose, but in Arabic my name is Werda. I work at the foreign ministry and study at the foreign service institute. (editor’s note – my Arabic keyboard isn’t working well right now, I will try to insert later.)
And anything more complicated tends to be memorized rather than impromptu.
I am developing an ear for the sounds and the rhythm. But most importantly, I am beginning to love it.

My instrument is piano and I love how the piano sounds, even if, perhaps even more, if I am not currently capable of producing that sound.
I began learning to play piano when I was 7 or 8 – I never became a professional pianist (or even close to that!) but I know enough to enjoy playing, accompany myself when I sing, and play Christmas carols for my family.
If I can get that far with Arabic in the next 24 weeks, I will be delighted.

14 October 2014

I am Rose

أنا وردة

I am Rose, but in Arabic you can call me Werda (that's the translation into Arabic transliterated into English)
Werda in the elevator (with bike helmet)

I was going to write a post about Arabic class but tonight I'm actually much more excited about the fact that just survived my very first night time urban bike ride.

Since the sun set today at 6:30 and it's only going to keep setting earlier and earlier, I wanted to make sure that I took the opportunity on a nice warm day to try out my normal route in the darkness.  Of course, I had this super snazzy and totally cool vest on.

Tried to take a pic with flash - this is what I got!

One thing that I overestimated (underestimated? Hmm well in any case I got it wrong) was the amount of light along my path. I thought that there were more street lights and didn't realize that the light on the front of my bike is a flashing light, not a solid beam.

So it was quite dark. I was visible to drivers but the bumps in the road weren't always visible to me. I only had a few teeth-jarring encounters with manholes though because i know the route very well and what to avoid even if I can't see it.

I set out at about 9, arrived home around 9:30 and now I'm snuggled up on the couch with a glass of wine and an episode of a Madam Secretary feeling like I earned them!

07 October 2014

I have important news... and other (hopefully useful) phrases I am learning in Arabic

I have set up my iPhone and newly acquired iPad to type in Arabic, but I haven't figured out how to use that gorgeous script on my actual computer yet, so I won't be able to share all of my exciting phrases with you this time. But I have a new goal of updating my blog at least once a week, so you will see some phrases soon.

I'm certain that all 5 of my loyal subscribers will be extremely excited about this new intention.

In case you are not connected with me through social media or I haven't seen you in person (and yet for some reason you are reading this blog, hm?)  I have received my very first assignment as a Foreign Service Officer!

I will be going to Beirut, Lebanon as the Cultural Affairs Officer!

This means that I am currently in full-time language training and I will be until mid-April 2015.

For those of you in the DC area: I am still around and up for brunching!

For those of you not in DC: I probably won't be able to see you for another year at least.

Full-time language training is amazing and fun and brutal and discouraging all at the same time. I had a bit of a meltdown today - a combination of too little sleep and too much going on.

But a tasty empanada from my new favorite cafe Boccato and a bit of a venting session with some of my favorite new colleagues helped bring my mood back up.

Plus, the chance to use my new iPad to review my vocabulary makes me feel justified in my birthday present for myself as an investment in learning (despite a certain looming credit card bill).

P.S. check out the engraving.