Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Arabic Confusion

The super fun thing about dealing with the Arabic language (even more fun than the sounds they put in there just to weed out the foreigners) is learning how to read things from right to left. When practicing Arabic, it is fairly easy to remember this one basic rule. However, even though that's a absolute tenet of Arabic society, it isn't always second nature to us ignoramuses.

My main teacher, Leen, and I received our schedules of classes earlier this week. Hers was in Arabic, as she speaks Arabic, and mine was in English for a similar reason. The papers were identical; both showed equal-sized tables with boxes labeled for each class. We were going over when we would have free time when I glanced over at her schedule. "Hold on," I said to Leen. "We don't have the same schedule. Look, you don't have free time first thing on Monday, you have it for the last two periods." Leen looks down at her schedule. "Yes, I have free time first thing on Monday," she says, pointing to the last two boxes on Monday. "Right here."

"No, that's last peri... Oh. Arabic goes from right to left."

Duh, Gretchen. But in all fairness to me, how do you reverse 24 years of reading tables left to right in three weeks, especially when I am staring at my own table that goes left to right?

To her credit, Leen did not snicker at my brain's stubborn refusal to cross cultures.

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