I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a bilingual household. Since I began speaking and understanding language, I do not recall a time when I didn’t understand both Italian or English.
My favorite childhood storybook was Il gatto con gli stivali (Puss in Boots) and I switched easily between languages as necessary. Knowing Italian made it easier for me to learn other languages and more importantly, I think it made me more curious child when it came to other languages, cultures, and people.
In my native New York City I don’t think it’s actually possible to walk down the street without hearing a language other than one’s own. I think it’s beautiful to live among others who share the same environment but interpret it through the lens of another culture.
One culture that I find intriguing—perhaps because it is so different from my own—is the culture of the Arab countries of the Middle East. The history, the architecture, the food, the literature, the language—they all fascinate me. I have still too many countries of the region on my list of places to visit.
Part of my too-long delay in traveling to these places is that I have yet to make the time to study the language, which in my experience, deepens one’s understanding of a culture. My curiosity fueled my desire to read and learn and travel. (My graduate studies focused on Italian literature and language, which facilitated my studying French and Spanish and Latin, for a start). I added Arabic to my intended list of subjects to study long ago, but other responsibilities and obligations got in the way of my extracurricular studies.
This year I will attempt an extended trip to the region (country[ies] TBD as yet). And so, I have taken March’s goal for—speak the language—and run with it, enrolling in Arabic language classes, which are so challenging, and which are wonderful!!
Now, I’ve made slow progress, but I’m getting better at writing the characters and progress, though slow, is steady. I’m excited to keep going and absorb as much as I can. As soon as I can write something relevant in Arabic, I’ll update you accordingly. In the meantime, I have studying to do!