Term of Today: 3iyan

Before my Christmas post, I hadn’t contributed any content to my blog for nearly a month. I’d like to say my negligence is due to my intense attempts at integration into my community, meeting leaders and forming strong bonds with the youth, but… that’s not really the case.

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Mainly, I’m just really 3iyan – tired. (For an explanation of how to pronounce this word, see my first language post.)

There is a lot on my plate right now. I can’t deny that. But in all honesty I have a lot of time to do everything. That includes napping two hours a day.

Lesson Planning. Using the information and techniques I learned through PC training, I prepare lessons each week for two formal English classes at my dar shabab and a basketball-based English class at my sports complex. Usually one lesson plan takes an hour to write in addition to assembling or making necessary pictures, drawings, and activities for the lessons.

Lessons. Then there are the lessons themselves. The two English classes are one and a half hours each, once a week. In the beginner’s class there are around 15 students, and in the advanced class there are usually closer to 20. I should mention that these classes are actually Steven’s, the other volunteer in my site who has been here for two years. While he is on Christmas vacation in America, I am substituting for him. The basketball-based English class is mine, however, and I expect around 20 young boys to participate each week.

House Hunting. While I continue integrating and developing relationships, I am also looking for houses. I must move out of my host family’s house on February 1st. So far I have seen four options and will see the fifth next week. Stay tuned for a blog post specifically about house hunting!

Bureaucratic Work. As part of my work, I must monitor, report, and evaluate my activities. So far this hasn’t taken much of time because I am just beginning, but soon I will have to supply PC Morocco headquarters with detailed information about the number of youth developing or enhancing skills. This eventually will reach PC’s Washington, DC headquarters and then Congress.

Multimedia Committee. I was elected by my staj to serve on the newest of PC Morocco’s committees – the Multimedia Committee. Three others and myself will soon take over for the previous staj and run the upcoming PC Morocco Facebook page, make short videos about Volunteer initiatives and lifestyles, design technology handbooks, and help our fellow Volunteers with any ICT (information, communication, and technology) requests.

So… yes, ana 3iyan. I am tired. I am very tired, but it is so worth it.

Language, Part wa7d

1 wa7d, 2 juj, 3 tlata, 4 rb3a, 5 khmsa, 6 stta, 7 sb3a, 8 tmnya, 9 ts3ud, 10 3shra

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Darija & Technology

Darija is a purely verbal language. You can write its words in Arabic script, but due to the variance in pronunciation, one person may spell a word different than another. What complicates Darija even further is the factor of technology. Cell phone use is increasing throughout many parts of the world, and I haven’t seen anyone in Morocco – save some older community members – without a cell phone.

Phone keyboards, however, are often limited to the Latin alphabet. To compensate for this, Moroccans write words in Latin script that more or less represent what they sound like in Darija. They know Latin sounds likely from the French they studied in secondary school.

We now must take into account the Arabic sounds that don’t exist in the Latin alphabet:

Arabic character: ض
Transcription character: D
Sound: like English “d” but with greater tension in the tongue and throat

Arabic character: ص
Transcription character:
S
Sound: like English “s” but with greater tension in the tongue and throat

Arabic character: ط
Transcription character:
T
Sound: 
like English “t” but with greater tension in the tongue and throat

Arabic character: ق
Transcription character:
q
Sound: 
like English “k” but pronounced further back in the throat

Arabic character: خ
Transcription character:
kh
Sound: 
like the “ch” in the German “Bach”; some people use this sound to say yech!

Arabic character: غ
Transcription character:
gh
Sound: 
like the “kh” sound above, but pronounced using your voice box; similar to the French “r”

Arabic character: ح
Transcription character:
7
Sound: 
like English “h”, except pronounced deep in the throat as a loud raspy whisper

Arabic character: ع
Transcription character:
3
Sound: 
approximated by pronouncing the “a” in “fat” with the tongue against the bottom of the mouth and from as deep in the throat as possible

(source: Peace Corps Morocco, Moroccan Arabic textbook)

Moroccans use the transcription characters to represent the non-Latin-alphabet sounds. PC Morocco’s language model has evolved to better reflect this new cultural norm. As I understand it, the staj before mine didn’t use “q” or “7” or “3”. They used other letters until it became apparent Moroccans were using “q” and “7” and “3” on their cell phones. PC Morocco then changed its Darija textbook for my staj.

Note: PC Morocco uses a transcription approach to Darija, meaning we trainees follow the cell phone standard and use the Latin alphabet. I will mostly write Darija words in this alphabet, though I may accompany some words with the Arabic script.


Community-Based Training (CBT)

Six days a week you can find my five group mates and me in our Language and Cultural Facilitator’s (LCF’s) rented apartment. In the mornings Majid walks us through language lessons, some of the most recent being about possessive pronouns and conjugating the verb “to want”. Interspersed in the lessons is new vocabulary that we practice out loud, one at a time, to take with us to our host families and neighborhoods.

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Sometimes we have classes on the roof.

The lessons expand upon the Darija textbook. I like to read a little bit ahead, making it only slightly simpler to understand during the next day’s class. I also have begun a flashcard regimen that I review every night with my 8-year-old host sister. She’s learning English while I learn Darija, and we both enjoy helping each other.

Language classes are just one part of CBT. Afternoons are devoted to culture lessons and Arabic script. The former prevents us from making poor cultural mistakes – like hugging a member of the opposite sex in public – and helps us understand/participate in the culture further – like the opportunity to fast during Ramadan. The latter helps make life easier; after all, how will I know how to report my location in the case of emergency if I can’t read road signs? Or know what’s a hammam and what’s a dar chebab?

That is Majid’s job in a nutshell: teach six wide-eyed Americans Darija and how to exist positively in Moroccan culture. A third aspect of his job, though unofficial, is being our friend. He is only a year older than me and he has many of the same interests as all of us in his group. We have all visited a few cafes during culture sessions where we were free to ask questions and shoot the breeze. Though he’s still somewhat shy, I think he’ll become a close friend by the end of CBT.