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July 20, 2008 Language update

I’m making progress. Really and truly. I need to keep reminding myself of that, but it’s true.

I continue to be frustrated with how little I understand in every conversation I hear, but when I compare myself now to how I was when I first came to my village two months ago – let alone when I entered the country! – I remind myself that I really am getting better.

My tutor and friend H* came to visit this week. She was here on official Peace Corps business – she was inspecting my inshallah apartment to make sure it meets PC safety and security criteria – but I got permission from my host family to have her stay the night with us. :) I begged my cousin N* to come over; I hadn’t seen her in weeks, and reeeeally wanted her to meet H*, who I think is a role model for all young Moroccan women: she’s educated, multilingual, successful…I don’t know if N* had ever met any Berber women who have gone to college, but she knows one now. :)

Anyway, H* got to see me attempting to participate in the conversations she had with Ama, N*, and others, and afterwards I asked her how she thought I was doing. She said that I’m doing well, which I disagreed with. She pointed out that I’m able to express myself and be understood, which I countered with the fact that I don’t understand others expressing themselves. She reminded me that the accent here is significantly different than the one I heard when I was learning the language – the k/sh thing she’s used to, since her town is only a few mountains away, but the g/j and r/l conflations are tricky even for her – and that I need to be patient with myself. When I asked her for specific guidance on what to study, she suggested indirect and direct object pronouns, which in Tamazight are one- or two-letter suffixes on verbs. So I’ve been focusing on those, and am trying to hear them.

I think I’ve gotten so used to not understanding what people say that I’ve stopped pushing myself to tease out what I can, so I’ve been working on listening. So what if I can’t figure out the topic of conversation. The more words I can identify in context, the closer I’m coming to being able to participate in my community.

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Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps