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O Fim duma Viagem

And Now the Test

MOROCCO | Sunday, 13 July 2014 | Views [249]

 There's a saying that I've heard several times- “Life is a hard a teacher. She always gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.” That's how I've felt about Darija class. First we go home to our host families, and only later learn important words like “I'm full” and “thank you.” We somehow manage to navigate our way through several days and then they teach us how to say things like “the food is delicious” and “I would like a bottle of water, please” and “I'm married.”

 With that being said, life was not enough of a test for our Darija class. We made it this far in the program, and they decided we were done learning, but hadn't been tested enough. Personally, I think they were wrong on both fronts. That didn't get me out of the test.

 "Do people want to meet tonight to study for the Arabic test?” Erika asked before lit class.

“Sure!” Natasha said. “We can quiz each other.”

Erika made a slight face.

“Oh,” Natasha said. “You meant 'study' in quotation marks.”

 Either way, it was better than anyone else's plans for the evening, so we agreed to meet outside the boat to head to Marina Bay at 9. At round 8:15, Nathan sent a message saying he'd meet us at Marina Bay. To everyone who's not Nathan, “I''m just gonna meet you girls at Marina Bay. So, don't wait for me :)” sounded like he was going to be late, or maybe never show up. Given the waiters like him so much more than they like us, I wasn't particularly looking forward to the unspecified length of time we'd be there without him. Then again waiters liking us is more of a nice perk benefit than the reason to meet at a cafe (to socialize. I mean, study Arabic. Definitely that.)

 I arrived at the boat same time as Cynthia and Natasha, and we walked to Marina Bay. We were looking in the cafe to see if Erika had already arrived when we noticed Nathan. Apparently he'd meant “I”ll meet you there” as “I'm going there early, so I'll see you when you arrive around 9.” He did not understand why we'd all been so confused.

 Erika arrived a little bit later. Nathan complained that his computer was running low on battery, so I went around looking for the outlets that he couldn't find. The only one that I could see that was accessible as in a corner, and even that I wasn't sure was allowed. When I reported back, someone suggested that we should just try plugging it in and see if anyone complained, and I was automatically given responsibility for that. I'm not quite sure why I agreed.

 Given I'd been the one scouting earlier, the waiters recognized me when I came with a power cord. The manager from Orlando asked me what I was doing, and I explained that a computer needed charging. He asked where the computer was, so I needed to explain that it wasn't mine and lead him back to Nathan and the others. He told us that we could either move to the corner, or he could take the laptop in the back and charge it there. We moved.

 As one might be able to gather from the fact that Nathan needed a computer, and the entire Arabic text was printed out, he wasn't really working on studying. He was working on preparing the lit presentation for the next day though so it wasn't completely unrelated.

Megan had to give the presentation for poli sci the next day (poli sci presentations are much worse than lit. Lit consists of translating relevant segments of a Wikipedia article into French and maybe coming up with a comment related to the reading and other sources. Poli sci is a multi-page summary of around 50 pages of French political theory) so she wasn't there. It was five us crowded around a single table. Which might have worked better if we didn't all have papers, books, maybe a computer, and food or drink. It was hard to arrange all of it.

I ordered pistachio ice cream. It was not the best pistachio ice cream I'd ever had in my life, but it wasn't too terribly sweet or too terribly gingery, so I'm counting that one as a success.

Apart from Nathan, the rest of us began well. Natasha seemed to be writing out every single vocabulary word or phrase on several sheets of loose leaf paper. Cynthia was doing a similar thing, though less intense, and Erika and I were reading through our notes and textbook.

We did have a decent break from that to complain about receiving a written exam. There were two main reasons for this, neither of which (at least none of them that were expressed) was that we just really didn't want it. But given we never learned the Arabic script (Megan knew it from classes she'd taken at her home university) and the class was predominately oral (we had one homework assignment. To write four sentences. That was it. We spent way more time talking than writing) a written final made no sense. It didn't really matter, though. We'd still have one. Might as well try and study for it.

At one point, the manager came by to see if everything was all right and offer us (free) tea. He noticed that we were studying Darija, and asked if he could borrow one of the books to show one of his friends in the cafe how they teach Darija. Then the waiter came back with our tea, and we had yet another thing to try and fit on the table. (I'd finished my ice cream, and the tea cups were much smaller, so it was actually a net gain of space, at least for me.) The tea was nice and strong, and reminded me that it had been a while since I'd had tea outside of my host home and the center.

Our Arabic studying started disintegrating when Megan asked a question through Facebook and Erika and Nathan got into a conversation about that. That conversation started making them laugh, so I, Cynthia, and finally Natasha went to go see what was going on and input our own comments. That was the end of our studying. By the time we decided to call it a night and go home, people were resding (non-academic) things on their phones and I was pressing the random button on webcomics to show them to other people. We were roughly as prepared for the test as we'd ever be.

The next day, I tried a last-ditch effort to get out of having a test by responding to Mahjid's “How are you?” with “I don't want a test.” It didn't work, but it was worth a try.

The test wasn't so bad. The first pat was a dialogue with fill-in-the-blanks, the second part was a translation from Darija to English. Then fill in the proper possessive ending, give the right demonstrative pronoun, say the names of the numbers in Darija, match the Darija to the Arabic numerals, fill in the dialogue for the future, and say the times in Darija.

It didn't seem too bad. I completely forgot how to say “where are you from?” in the dialogue portion, so I had one person ask “are you from Morocco?” instead, and added “no” to the second person's answer. That should be worth at least partial credit.

Then we handed in the tests, received a final packet of vocabulary and useful expressions for haggling in case we hadn't gotten enough of that in Senegal, and we were done. We've had 21 hours of Moroccan Arabic, and now we're left on our own to face the real world. Which is really what we've been doing for most of this summer, so it's not a huge change.

I'll miss that class, though. For all that the pronunciation was harder than Russian and I couldn't read the script and there was a lot of vocab added to an already decently heavy workload, I liked learning Darija. I don't really want the class to be over.

At least I'll still have plenty of opportunities to practice in the house and on the street.

Tags: arabic, marina bay, test

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