Using the “ya mara” (Oh wife) technique to learn Arabic

I feel like I’m always searching for different ways of getting language in and of outlets for working on getting it out more clearly.  One of my outlets has been a little arrangement I have with the driver for the church.  I ride along with him on his pick-up-the-kids-from-school route two times a week, and I get an hour to an hour and a half of sitting in Beirut traffic to talk.  “Inglizi mamnu3a” (English is forbidden) he often reminds me when I’m tempted to use any vocab that isn’t Arabic.  It makes for some great practice.  Sometimes, it’s hard to get motivated to go sit in traffic, but this practice time always brings some real gems of conversation and insight.  Like this one:

For a while, he’s been suggesting (to put it softly) that I only speak to Nicolette in Arabic at home.  The conversation always goes the same way.  I remind him of one of the following, either 1) that sometimes I just need a break, or 2) that I can’t always express everything to Nicolette that I need to in Arabic.  And he always tells me that this is the only way I’ll ever get Arabic.  Last week, I thought I’d explore the idea a little more, so I asked him what kinds of things I should talk about with her.  “Easy,” he said, “just talk about the normal things, like, ‘Oh wife, bring me some coffee.’ or ‘Oh wife, sweep the floor.'”  Guess I’ll have to give this one a try!!

posted by: caleb

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7 thoughts on “Using the “ya mara” (Oh wife) technique to learn Arabic

  1. So, I brought this up with Rachida and she kept it going, “Wife get my dinner and so on. Lori asked her if Hamid ever said that to her and she said, “Yes, he says, get me some water.” Her reply, “Get it yourself!” We had a good laugh over this.

  2. that’s really funny about Rachida! that’s a pretty typical beiruti wife response as well. they’re known for being strong!

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