Immersion language learning is an incredible experience. On my best Darija days I can listen to myself speaking and be really impressed by how easily I can say some things with little thought, considering two years ago I knew none of it. Matt and I have also unconsciously incorporated some Darija into our vocabulary even when we’re speaking English, as our friend who just visited could attest to. He’d occasionally have to remind us to explain something we’d just said in complete English, instead of just mostly English. And as silly as I’m sure we sound, I’m actually really proud of that.
Unfortunately, for every time I’m impressed by how well I speak Darija there’s also a time when I’m barely following a conversation, a time when I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, or a time when I pretend I understand something just to not have to stop and ask for an explanation AGAIN. This usually happens when we branch outside of my usual conversation topics and get into any subject with a more specific vocabulary. For example, the other day I stumbled through a conversation with my mudir about a theater competition he’d just been to. I pretended my way through most of it only to get stuck on the word for “ceremony”, which my mudir was determined to explain to me. Luckily he ended up remembering the English word, otherwise I don’t think I ever would have gotten it. It’s times like those when I find myself wishing I didn’t count so much on immersion and did a little bit more studying…
But no matter how much I learn, I’ll probably always be making stupid mistakes. I had an epiphany about one such mistake the other day at the store. I was saying “yeah” to confirm what I wanted the clerk to get me (I say “yeah” all the time, because what people say around here is “eeyeah” which sounds so similar I just sometimes don’t bother with the “ee”). He then kept asking me how much of each thing I wanted, until I realized that without the “ee” in front of it, “yeah” sounds a lot like the Tamazight word for one (which is “yan”). So it’s taken me almost two years to realize that people are probably hearing me saying “one” when what I mean is “yes”. I know that mostly they’ll understand me , but I’m sure every so often there’s also gonna be the person who’s secretly laughing at me for being the silly foreigner who can’t even pronounce “yes” right. Oh well… at least I learned the word for ceremony this week. 🙂