Yesterday in Hussan’s school of hard Darija knocks, we covered the future tense, practiced Arabic Script, sang the national anthem and reviewed a number of other grammar points. While I have advanced from absolute zero to writing paragraphs with confused verb tenses in just over a month, I still feel frustrated by the slow advancement of my language skills.
I feel as though I have entered a kind of language purgatory; I am able to recognize words, tenses and slow questions, but I’m not always able to place or understand the full meaning. I can respond to particular questions, but it still takes me forever to formulate a full sentence when put on the spot. I stand in the kitchen and proudly announce “I am washing the dishes, I am helping you,” (no applause from the family yet on these occasions), but when my host mother asks me a simple question about my day, I look like a deer in headlights. I can feel the boredom of my host family as I work through my simple sentence, in fact, I start nodding off before I finish my thought.
Is it ridiculous to feel annoyed that I can’t understand the rapid fire language of teenagers? Absolutely. Could I understand my French host family all the time? Not in the least. Am I learning and improving at a rapid pace? For sure. Will I be speaking like a 3 year old in the next few months? Totally! And yet, on a Wednesday night when the family’s conversation eludes me, I still feel the unwarranted angst.
Last night was rough. I tried to help my host mother in the kitchen, only for her to repeatedly talk to me while facing the wall and washing dishes. We tried again to communicate about having tea and/or dinner and just were not speaking the same language. I missed a key phrase and she kept repeating the names of the people involved in this activity rather than the actual verb tense. The younger host sister compounded the situation by being herself. It’s not her fault for being fifteen, and I’m sure she is turning into a lovely woman, but she drives me bat shit crazy. After rattling off a paragraph in five seconds and my inevitable announcement that I didn’t understand, she proceeded to practically sit on my lap and point out the egg on the table. Thanks. I’m fairly sure my host parents yelled at the girls last night for their bad attitudes, but that might be my paranoia talking.
A night of mediocre sleep hasn’t erased the night from my memory. It was the most unpleasant evening I’ve had with the family since my arrival. I feel frustrated with my inability to reproduce a new language, irritated that I was berated instead of encouraged by native speakers and selfish for believing my family always needs to cater to my language needs. I could use a beer. Here’s hoping a coffee and a new attitude will do the trick.