Sunday, September 9, 2012

Study Abroad: Part 2

Language is a vital part to our identity; in fact, language shapes identity.  Morocco's language comes in many forms: lilting call to prayer that spreads through the ocean air, halting French which falls from my lips, children screaming the local dialect (darija) through the streets.  Morocco is one of the few countries where English does not rank of exceptional importance.  The signs are written in traditional Arabic, Berber and French.

I am informed by our program assistant that education is important, with children learning Moroccan Standard Arabic (also known as Fu'sa) in primary school, French in secondary school, and possibly English, should they pursue post-secondary education. Shopkeepers may speak five or six languages, even if they do not have an education past secondary third (the USA equivalent being eighth grade).

One interesting result of language: the barriers that arise.  My homestay family is exceptionally sweet.  However, Mama Fatima does not speak French.  She speaks a combination of Berber and Fu'sa.  My host sister and host cousin speak some French, but very little English.  I have only taken two classes in Darija and am nowhere near proficient enough.  Therefore, we all use our third language: French.

Despite my errors in grammar, and their problems with translation, we have learned how to communicate.  Pointing at something, along with pantomime, seems to be particularly effective.  Occasionally, saying Insh'allah (if God is willing), also helps convey earnestness.  Most importantly, a heartfelt smile and a carefree laugh are both things that allow you to continue despite any barriers.

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