(That means Arabic!)
As the semester is winding down, I have been faced with a considerable number of finals and Arabic progress tests. Before coming to Amman, most of the CIEE students had to take an oral test over the phone and a written test online to gauge their level of Arabic in order to be placed into a class. Beginning students like myself didn’t have to endure this torture…. until now.
We had to take the same two tests in order to see how much progress we have made over the semester. I was nervous, primarily about the oral text, because I had heard horror stories from the other students about how the questions were in rapid, muffled Arabic and made no sense.
After an initial crisis over dialing the wrong phone number (who knew America’s international code was 001 instead of +1?!), I began the test. It was comprised of 15 questions and you could repeat the question if needed. Other students had told me to use Google translate to try to figure out words in the question I didn’t know. They also told me to say “la arif,” or, “I don’t know,” if I couldn’t understand a question. Everyone I talked to said they had “la arif”‘d the majority of the questions.
I tried to take the test without the help of Google translate, but quickly gave up after I said “la arif” to the first four questions. I soon realized I knew NONE of the vocabulary they were using, despite me having one of the best grasps on vocabulary in my class. If I could at least understand the question, I could reply using vocabulary I knew myself, without the help of Google translate. After I validated this to myself, I proceeded with the test.
One of the questions involved a story about the speaker’s grandmother living in the UAE and dealing with time zones, or so I think. I replied explaining how in America, we have 4 time zones and twice a year we go through day light savings, but in Jordan, there is one time zone and no day light savings. Another question asked me to talk about my “habibi,” or boyfriend, and explain a problem we had. I made up a fictional person who is “nice and handsome” and how we have a problem because we go to different universities and don’t see each other much. My favorite question, however, was asking about my neighbors. I explained that I live in an apartment and all of my neighbors are old, but we still have parties, regardless. We don’t even have parties in the apartment and I don’t know any of our neighbors. Luckily they aren’t grading on factual accuracy!
The written test was a bit harder. The questions were in English, but told you to write 2-3 paragraphs in 10 minutes per question. Formulating a response, figuring out the vocabulary, figuring out the spelling, and THEN finding the keys on the keyboard takes much longer than 10 minutes! Most of my responses were only 1 paragraph, but I answered them completely.
I believe we should get the results before the program ends, so we will see where I end up! My professor said most students will advance to either Beginner II or Intermediate I level. I do not plan on continuing Arabic, so the final result doesn’t matter. I am just pleased that I can now sound out any Arabic word and even have a conversation, however brief!