Morocco: Willing To Be Bad at Arabic

I just wanted to buy chocolates for my host family. We needed directions, so we asked for a “chocolatier.”

Toilette?”

“CHOC-late”

“You want toilette?”

“I want CHO-CO-LATE.”

After my third technical year of learning Arabic, having conversations that go like this on a daily basis is endlessly frustrating. I think to myself, “When someone pronounced finger like FEEN-jer, I understood. When someone pronounced nest like neest, I understood—and the only syllable in the whole word was wrong! Why does no one understand me? And why bother?”

But that’s no way to learn a language.

You have to be willing to be bad at it in order to get good at it.

-Grace Bonney

This summer, I’ve had to toughen up when it comes to being misunderstood. I’ve had to let go of my pride and speak even when I know they’ll laugh because I’m basically speaking Shakespearean Arabic with some wonky pronunciations.

Even if people laugh or don’t understand some of what I’m saying, I have to keep talking if I want to get better—and I want that the most! I saw a quote on Pinterest by author and entrepreneur Grace Bonney that totally summarizes what I’ve learned over these eight weeks:

“You have to be willing to be bad at it in order to get good at it.”

Studying helps bypass the “bad” part, but there is always a rough patch before I get “good” at anything in Arabic. In the midst of the bad phase, I think the important part is the willingness: willingness to be embarrassed, to be misunderstood, to be corrected.

The way I see it, surely there are only so many times I can say a word wrong before my tongue can finally form the word right or my mind can do the grammatical, mental gymnastics.

I really want to get good at this language, and my eight weeks in Morocco have made me see the value in being willing to make mistakes that lead to progress. One day they’ll understand me the first time, and that road to a chocolatier will be a whole lot sweeter.

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Asilah, Morocco

P.S. If you’ve been following along with me, thanks for joining. Take care and مع السلامة!

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