Sunday, May 28, 2006

What does Andrew do all day?

I wrote about how school was organized here a while ago, but it's changed a bit and is now officially set in almost-stone, so I'll comment about it again.

We are all studying at the مركز اللغلابت (language center) at the University of Jordan. Normally, language classes are held there for both Arabs and foreign students, like us. They have set teachers and classes just like any other university. However, becuase our BYU group is so large (30+ students), we have our own separate and special program.

We were all divided up according to our level of proficiency in Arabic, decided by competency tests taken our first week here. There are 4 levels - beginning, intermediate low, intermediate high, and advanced. I was unfortunately placed in intermediate low, probably because of my 2 year Arabic hiatus. Class is actually really easy for me now (for the past few weeks it hasn't been though - it took a while for Arabic to kick back in).

Each group attends classes together, kind of. There are 4 different classes of fusHa, or written Arabic, one for each of the levels. There are 3 classes for ammiyya, or spoken Arabic - the intermediate classes combine for those.

The teachers are UJ professors from different departments on campus, specially hired and contracted for our program. For example, my fusHa teacher is normally an Arabic grammar teacher. She actually taught in a private school for the royal family before coming to the UJ five years ago, so she taught grammar to princes and princesses and famous Jordanians. My ammiyya teacher is actually the department chair of the French department. He has an extra hour every day to teach us, even if he's not an official Arabic teacher. Ammiyya isn't taught in schools here - it's just spoken in homes - so having a class on ammiyya is rare - no teachers really teach it.

I'm on campus for a little over 4 hours every day. My fusHa class goes from 11:30-1:00. I then have a lunch break from 1:00-3:00 and then have ammiyya from 3:00-4:00. It's a pretty easy schedule.

Just to give you an idea of what I actually do at school and learn in classes, in fusHa we have to read the newspaper in Arabic everyday for homework and we discuss current events in class and debate about them. Recently we've talked about Iran's nuclear program, Darfour, and Iraq's new government, but we've mostly focused on the problems between Fatah, Hamas, al-Qa'ida, and Israel, since all that is going on a little over an hour away from here (it's a 90 minute drive to Jerusalem from here...). It's been fun learning all that vocabulary and focusing so much on the news that's happening in this area of the world. It's also fun to talk about it with people on the streets, although discussions can get pretty heated.

In ammiyya, we don't have any set lesson plans. Our teacher just teaches us words and phrases for specific situations, based on our needs. We know how to find an apartment, take a bus to places out of Amman, order food from a restaurant, check prices of food from a grocery store, talk about soccer and the World Cup, including all the names of the positions on the field, and lots of other stuff. Our homework is to go and use those words with people on the streets. Last week I had to go to a bus station and figure out how to get to Petra. Jason Slade (the guy living with us), had to go to a restaurant yesterday and talk with the owner while eating food (hard homework, eh?). It's a fun class.

So that's what school is like here. I'm learning a lot!

No comments: