Introducing Spring 2018 Blog Correspondent: Liora Silkes
“Hi, my name is Liora and I don’t yet speak Arabic.” I am prepared to say that sentence many times over the next few weeks — along with its French counterpart, “Bonjour, je m’appelle Liora et je ne parle pas encore d’arabe.”
Yes, I am about to spend four months in a country where I don’t know its most widely spoken language — Darija, the Moroccan variety of Arabic. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first, a little more of an introduction. I grew up in a suburb of Seattle, a city I love very much. Much of the last two and a half years, however, I’ve spent near Boston, going to school at Tufts University. I am majoring in sociology and environmental studies, which is the official way of saying I am interested in people, places, and how they interact with each other. When I am not in class, I usually can be found editing the school newspaper, practicing with my dance team, or playing my guitar.
Although I will not be taking classes that count toward my majors while in Rabat, there will be a lot I can learn about people and places just by being in a new location and talking with the people who live there. I will certainly gain knowledge in my courses, but I expect to learn more outside the classroom by walking, shopping, eating, and just living in Rabat. As an environmentalist, I wonder how the (very large) phosphate mining industry impacts the land and people of Rabat. As a sociologist, I hope to learn about upholding traditions in this rapidly modernizing country. As a student of the world, I am interested in how Morocco functions as a multilingual society.
This is why I am eager to study in Rabat even though I do not speak Darija: I have studied French since high school and I’m ready to use my existing language skills for more than just grammar worksheets. Plus, as I said at the beginning of this blog post, it’s not that I don’t speak Arabic — it’s that I do not yet know how to speak it. In other words, I want to learn. I am excited to begin studying Darija and bring the total number of languages in which I will attempt to communicate to three. I know that whichever French-Darija-English words I end up speaking will make up just a slice of the languages I’ll hear in the city, and I look forward to hearing Moroccans navigate this linguistic landscape.
The more I read about Morocco, the more I realize how much more there is for me to learn about the country. I am, therefore, starting this trip with an open mind and the goal to explore as much as possible. This will be a semester of firsts: a new language, a new city, new people to meet, and many, many new challenges. At the same time, this semester is builds on much that I have already done: from French to global development, I can’t wait to use my classroom knowledge in real life. I am eager to begin my travels and share these experiences here on this blog.
Hi, my name is Liora, and I have not yet arrived in Morocco. I’ve solved this initial problem, however, by booking a plane ticket — my next blog post will come from Rabat!