GLOSS now has Arabic dialects!

It's been a while since I visited the GLOSS website. For the past few months I've just been watching Arabic TV shows, but when I saw it yesterday I noticed that it now has Arabic dialect lessons! There are lessons for Levantine, Iraqi, Gulf, and Egyptian. When I looked at the Levantine lessons the first few I went to were all recorded by someone reading something that was written down. The way people read is a lot different than the way they talk off the top of their head with nothing to look at. Talking is a lot harder to understand than reading since talking is usually a bit jumbled and not so proper. Even natives make mistakes when they're talking. Things being read are great if you're starting out on a dialect because everything is really clear and spoken slowly so you can hear every syllable and learn new words, however if you only ever hear speech like that (slow, clear, meant for learners of the language) then you'll have a lot of trouble with fast everyday speech spoken between natives of the language.

There are also authentic materials from the media on GLOSS though, so you'll find something that suites you. And best of all there are transcripts of what is being said. That way you don't have to wonder if you're hearing the word correctly or not. Some of the audio is very distorted and low quality which is good for advanced learners in my opinion, but if you're just beginning it can be frustrating. If you find a clip where the audio quality is bad you can click the button at the bottom labeled "alternate audio" to get the audio of someone reading the text. I used GLOSS a lot when I was studying MSA and now that they have dialects I plan to go through all of those lessons too. I don't actually do the lessons. I just open the audio and transcript and go through it until I can hear and understand everything. If you want you can go through the questions they ask, but personally I haven't found them to be very useful. GLOSS is also starting to add videos with transcripts and they have 22 right now for MSA, but currently there are no videos for the dialects.


Trip to Jordan

It's been a while since I've posted and the reason for that is that I've been vacationing in Jordan for a month and a half and the internet at the hotel was slower than dial-up. I saw a lot of the tourist stuff. I went to Petra البتراء, Jerash جرش, Um Qais ام قيس, Aqaba العقبة, and The Dead Sea البحر الميت. All of them were amazing, but what was even better than the sightseeing was the chance to practice Arabic. Everyone is really happy to speak with you, but sometimes you run into the problem of them wanting to speak English and you wanting to speak Arabic since most people have at least basic English. There were positives and negatives to the trip as far as my language learning goes. Something positive was that I was mistaken for being Lebanese almost every time I entered a taxi and any time I started a conversation. I imagine that is due to all the LBC I watch. If the other person started the conversation it would usually be in English because until I start talking I don't look like someone who speaks Arabic. On the flight home the Jordanian man next to me who I was speaking Arabic with asked me if I was from the West Bank or Jordan because he couldn't tell. It makes all the hard work you put into learning a language worth it when someone mistakes you for being a native speaker even when you don't look like you're "from around these parts". I mean I don't exactly look Arab. I'm pretty much the most pasty white person you'll ever meet (Irish and German decent) and I have a lot of freckles.

The negative part of the trip is that now I realize that I still have a lot of studying to do before I can understand everything being said. The Jordanian dialect is like a mix of Iraqi, Palestinian, and Bedouin. They use بدي (I want) but most people pronounce the ق as a 'g'. There were some people I could understand easily and others with whom I was totally lost. Most of the times I was lost were when I was talking with less educated people, and I suppose it's this way wherever you go. When you learn a language your teachers are most likely very educated people as are all the news anchors and media personalities you listen to. Even in soap operas that are in dialect the speech is usually very proper and without too much slang so that Arabic speakers from other areas can watch and understand. The language you learn is, more often than not, the language spoken by people who have college degrees. This is good in a way since you are learning the "proper" way to speak the language, but bad in that you're not getting exposure to less educated ways of speaking. Even when teachers speak in their dialect I find that it's an educated form of the dialect and very different than what is spoken by the poor and uneducated. I'm not really sure how to get exposure to this kind of language aside from living in a few Arabic countries for a while since you can't really find the slang of the streets on TV or online.

All in all I am very pleased with my time in Jordan. It's a great country and even though it is in smack dab in the center of the Middle East and is surrounded by countries plagued by violence it has an extremely low crime rate and the government takes preventing terrorism very seriously. When we went to eat in a 5 star hotel the taxi dropping us off was wiped with a cloth on the steering wheel and the dashboard. We asked the taxi driver why they did that and he told us that it was to test for traces of explosives. Jordan realizes that terrorism is bad for tourism.