September 18, 2019 100

How I Learned Arabic (in Arabic) – spoken Iraqi dialect

How I Learned Arabic (in Arabic) – spoken Iraqi dialect


Hi, Welcome. I’m John. People ask me: John, how did you learn Arabic? I wanted to tell you the story of how I learned. From 2007 – 2009 I was an employee of The Mennonite Central Committee. It’s a humanitarian organization that works
globally. It does projects and assistance for people
who are poor, or they have violence or some problem in their town and they’re asking for
help. People of every color, every religion. It doesn’t matter who. So I worked with [MCC]. And people invited us to work with them in Iraq. In Erbil. So we would do projects in every area of Iraq. In all of Iraq. So I went there and I lived in a Chaldean
Catholic seminary. There were maybe 40 of us. Priests, students studying to become priests
in the future, and me. But there weren’t any other foreigners like
me, or work colleagues, just me. So I felt lonely and depressed. So what did I do? I went down to the kitchen where there were
three cooks working. Excuse me. They worked morning until night so all of
us could eat. Their names were Um Laith, Awat and Shereen. They didn’t know what Americans were like
so they were interested in talking with me. They gave me tea and food and we would talk. This way little by little, after twenty [months],
I learned. They’d say something new and I’d ask them,
“What did you say? Say it a second and third time so I can hear
it well.” Then I’d write it down. And I’d use it so I remember it. Of course they loved messing with me. Iraqis love joking around. So they’d teach me funny words. For example, one time I had plans with the
priests. I don’t remember what. But they started without me. I told [the cooks] they started without me. And they said, “Mr. John, go tell them: ‘Why
did you hit me with a pipe?'” (meaning: Why did you leave me hanging?) I didn’t understand really well but I went
over and entered the room. They were all
sitting there and I said, “Excuse me, why did you hit me with a pipe?” And they all cracked up. It was awesome. This is the way I learned Arabic over twenty months. My Iraqi friends say: John, how did you learn
to speak Arabic so well? What are you? You’re seriously amazing. You are pure Iraqi. In my opinion, anyone can learn any language in the world if they have three things: First, you have to believe in yourself. If you think you can do it, you can. If you think you can’t do it, you can’t. Don’t forget this first point. If you don’t do it, you will not succeed. Second, you have to decide every day that,
“I’m going to do this.” Learning a language is hard, not easy. It requires time and patience. Every day you have to make the decision, “I’m going to do this.” Third, you need immersion to practice the
language along with study so you understand the language, grammar, vocabulary, etc. If you use the language you can learn it. But if you don’t, you won’t remember it. So that’s really important. Like that; This is how I learned. And I think anyone can learn language if you
have the desire. That’s it. Thank you very much.

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