Saturday, April 21, 2007

Arabic study

Enough commentary, time for an update.

I learned today that I have (finally) been promoted to Staff Sergeant. It's not worth going into, but I was told it should have been "no problem" to get my promotion thru by December of 2006. This after getting ... well I could go on forever about the odd way in which the National Guard handles its promotions. Enough to be grateful that something goes my way for a change.

I have spent the last two weeks in intensive Iraqi Arabic, and my brain hurts pretty bad. [;) We are in class 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, and the instruction is all in Iraqi Arabic. I was doing pretty good while we were just using what's call English transliteration (ex: Anee Aachee Inglezee), but on Wednesday we were having trouble making progress with several verb conjugations because the transliteration is inconsistent, so our instructor decide we have to learn the alphabet since it will be much clear when we use Arabic letters. Which in fact it is once you understand that Arabic verbs are all based on 3 letter roots.

At this point I can carry on a rudimentary conversation, but read letters painfully slow, recognizing each letter takes almost a second, not to recognize the word mind you, but each letter. Ughh. And several of the sounds are quite difficult to make. There is a voiced and unvoiced "H" - so ihnaa and iHnaa are different words. There is a trilled r and several guttural sounds that can only be made with a lot of phlegm (which I find odd for a language that developed in the desert.) Fortunately, I have the experience of studying Slavic languages to help, for others in the class they are struggling thru it. One other issue we have is that apparently written Arabic is all MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), but we are speaking Iraqi, so sometimes the words we learn to write are pronounced quite differently than they look.

But we are all quite lucky to have the chance to be here - this training was not set up by our unit, we arranged it ourselves. When we were on post for mobilization processing, S, T, and I had some time to kill so we went looking for some language resources and found that there were Iraqi classes available. If it were up to our unit we'd be sitting in the Armory painting the walls or doing maintenance on vehicles. So we talked to the SFC in charge here, and were able to work out 4 weeks of training on our own.

That's one of the great things about the SOC community - even though we are from different organizations, we always help each other out. In this case this is an Active Duty Group, and we are a National Guard Group mobilizing with yet a different AD Group, but they are helping us and providing training because we are going "down-range" and they are our brothers. I am not sure we would see that in Big Army.

As the plan stands now, I have two more weeks with our instructor "Hakim", hopefully we will master enough to be able to continue studying on our own. Hakim is tirelessly optimistic and is doing his best to teach us the critical words and phrases. We shall see, and I'll let you know if this turns out to be worthwhile. For now it is great to be away from the flagpole, and I do enjoy learning languages so I like going to class. Hopefully I'll get to use what I learn.

Inshallah. [;)