Bread and soap operas

What do bread and soap operas have in common? Perhaps nothing. Yet recently, I’ve been beginning to wonder if there indeed is some sort of correlation.

Imagine bread for every meal—breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee time, and dinner—and soap operas, not between those meals, mind you, but before during and after those meals.

Lest you become concerned that I have just wasted a week of my life by living with a local family, rest assured that not all of my energy was spent in anticipating the next show.

More than spicing my limited vocabulary, the week marinated me in the flavor of the culture. What do their homes look like? What do they eat? What do they do during the day? How do they use a bathroom without an American toilet? How does a typical family function (or dysfunction)?

Overall, the week was culturally awakening. Now the North Africans I pass on the street aren’t just people–they belong to a home and a family…and maybe I’ve just sampled a slice of their typical day.

Having said that, I still might be able to tell you the time of day according to what soap opera is on.

Making sentences

After 9 days of studying Arabic, we learned formulaic sentences today. I discovered I was capable of following a pattern… and making mistakes.

I plodded through the Arabic script, plugging in my information at the end of each sentence: “My last name is…”, “My country is…” The sentences ticked by, miraculously without authoritative interruption to correct my pronunciation. I gathered speed. “My city is…” And like a sentence-making machine, I burst out: “My wife is…” and then paused. I really didn’t know who my wife was. Hmm.

I wasn’t the only one making mistakes. My classmate smilingly informed us that she was a “teacher” of Arabic instead of a “student.”

We giggled at ourselves. But the fact we were making mistakes meant that we were producing the language (or at least some form thereof).

Language learning is tedious. I confess I think it unfair for an adult to struggle for speech and still be patronized by teachers. There must be a better way. But meanwhile, I’ll keep working.

The Arabic school director told me, “This will give you more sympathy for your English students.”

He’s right. I didn’t even laugh when a 15-year-old boy stood up and told the class that he was a “housewife.”