Let’s hope EGE doesn’t read my blog.
The PEASS program at EGE is hit or miss. As part of the second semester of our intensive Arabic program, we’ve been taking topics courses in Arabic on revolution, religion, the history of Morocco and political institutions in Morocco. Our classes are now mixed levels and we’ve been instructed multiple times not to “lower the flow of the learning”. I’ve often found myself in classes nodding along, offline dictionary open on my phone, only to be asked the question, “فهمت؟” by the teacher. Did you understand? I laugh. Stare at my desk blankly. Make a non-committal snort. Shrug. Froth at the mouth. Drop into a Gollum crouch. Run home and curl up under a blanket, all the while screaming out the lyrics to angst-ridden musicals as I fall into an uneasy sleep. One plagued by thoughts of irregular conjugations, the dual, case-endings and one teacher’s particularly illegible writing. Shudder.
In all seriousness, I think the benefits of this program are that I’ve expanded my vocabulary (for example, I can have in-depth discussions on racism, the current U.S. political climate, the Arab Spring, Islamophobia and women’s rights in Arabic, but I can’t say “I need to pay my internet bill” without being laughed at by Maroc Telecom employees) and that my comprehension has soared. I’m slowly starting to fix my atrocious grammar. Bottom line, I have improved, just not to the extent I was hoping for. The other day, while giving a presentation, some satanic force compelled me not to look at my beautifully organized outline. I gave the presentation entirely off the cuff and felt that I was intelligible. Needless to say, I was quite excited.
Learning Darija – local dialect – has been strange. Unfortunately, it’s a larger part of the program than I thought it would be and it’s not always taught in an engaging way. Heads up: You will hate dictation in Darija. It will consume you. It will destroy your hopes and dreams. I can’t see myself coming back to Morocco for work in the future, which makes me feel to some extent that I’m wasting time and energy in trying to memorize the array of different words and patterns. (THERE ARE NO VOWELS, I REPEAT THERE ARE NO VOWELS!) I want to be able to understand people in the street and communicate on a basic level while I’m here. Well, I can wow the staff at our neighborhood bakery when ordering a cake in Darija. That’s about the extent of my abilities and I’m good with that. On the other hand, I feel that my Masri (Egyptian dialect) has deteriorated to the point were coming back to UNM’s Arabic program is going to be quite difficult.
If I’m being frank, EGE is just okay. I’m glad that I came because I have learned more than I would’ve in the same amount of time taking one Arabic UNM class. However, the building does feel like a hospital and after being there for 6 straight hours on a Monday it will suck out your soul. Additionally, the disorganization can be maddening and there are certain activities/formats that the program insists on that will drive you up the wall. Repetition is fine. Filling in class time with meaningless fluff is not. Would I recommend the intensive Arabic program to incoming UNM students? Yes, but come with realistic expectations and realize that you’re going to have to put a lot of extra study time in to see noticeable improvement.