Lost in Translation: Megan’s first (Arabic) words

When I arrived in Nablus to begin my orientation for the TYO Internship Program on May 17th I realized that I had been so busy packing and saying goodbye to friends that I hadn’t really thought about the fact that I knew absolutely no Arabic words or phrases (besides “inshallah” of course). I also soon realized that I was the only new intern who had never studied Arabic before so I felt as though I had some serious catching up to do. So what does one do to communicate with locals in Nablus before her Arabic lessons have even begun? Well, I practice a combination of charades, speaking English louder and slower than usual (this often makes me sound obnoxious) and throwing in whatever random Arabic words I’ve picked up over the course of the week. I recently worked as an English teacher in Thailand and this strategy somehow convinced taxi drivers that I could speak Thai. In reality, I had just become really good at giving directions to my apartment.

I'm getting there with Arabic, absorbing as much as I can from day to day. I still feel a little jealous when other foreigners understand something that has been said in Arabic and they are able to have a simple conversation in the language. Still, I am not one to stay silent and let others speak for me so I’ll keep on keeping at it.I also need to learn how to place a proper order at the juice shop so that the guys who work there don’t get annoyed with me for excitedly pointing at pictures of fruit and my mispronunciation of the Arabic word for “strawberry”.

So far my studies have focused on numbers and telling time. I’m really excited to learn more phrases and vocabulary soon. People in Nablus are always happy to help foreigners learn Arabic and it is really fun (and often funny) to practice speaking with our local staff at TYO. I'll definitely practice my new language skills with our taxi driver Munir too. He's a legend in our midst.

How much Arabic can one learn in 2 and half months? I am on a mission to find out. Wish me luck!

- Megan

Megan is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.