Prep for Africa : learning language #8

I am a language buff and love speaking native tongues when traveling. I think it adds to the authenticity of the experience and makes it so much more rewarding. But boy, was I not ready for this one !

My native is Czech. My first foreign language was Russian – I was 10 and thrown into a Russian school for my 5th grade. I knew nothing – couldn’t even recognize the letters since they use Cyrillic alphabet. My first class was a geography and I swear I sat thru it crying and avoiding any eye contact with the teacher. Of course, in the typical Russian fashion (very disciplinary school system), she put me on the spot and asked me (as I was told later), what chemical elements is air made of. Needless to say, my first words in Russian where oxygen and nitrogen, slowly repeated after Svetlana Ivanovna. My second class was English, in Russian. Welcome to immersion learning!

Piece of cake now but wasn’t that easy at first

The point is, my brain is used to learning languages and throughout the years I have studied or picked up German, Swedish, Italian and Spanish. I have lost much of that knowledge but can get by with German and Italian once in those countries. I am actually improving in Spanish as my nanny speaks it to the kids, and I join them. Best way to learn, after all these years is to ignore the mistakes, throw away all the shyness and just talk as much as you can. Ramble, mix it up, butcher the grammar, but talk – and laugh with others at some of the funny things that come out of your mouth.

So against my own advice, I signed up for Arabic at Emory Continuing Education to prepare for my trip to Morocco. Every Thursday for 6 weeks, from 7-9 pm I will be sitting in a room with 6 random people. Yesterday was my first class.

My week at work was hellish, it was really busy and I worked 16 hours every day, my eyes actually hurt from all the screen time so I was worried about the class. I wanted to be fresh to absorb – but I was so confident that I can handle this, my 8th language – bring it on! My first impressions are:

  • my hand is not used to drawing letters and can’t really move smoothly from right to left
  • I can’t make half of the sounds as they come out of your throat or your stomach

    My new friend for Thursday nights !
  • 28 letters sounds relatively typical for alphabet -multiply it by 9 sounds / vowels and it has me lost
  • letter drawings change significantly when you start writing words and connect them

This is the hardest language I have seen ! At this point, I will be glad to say my name and ask for the bathrooms by the end of the course. I may give up on writing all together and just try to read the signs. I am determined to stick to it but expect to rely on my hands/legs gestures much more than my language abilities in Morocco! Bon jour, Al-Maghrib! #ibmcsc


  1. […] Asia – there was at least 1 person who spoke English – so this may be a place where all my “languages” do nothing for me – which is fine. We haven’t been able to connect with the client […]


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