Alif… Baa… Taa…

By October 26, 2012Writing about Writing

Now that I’ve been studying Classical Arabic nearly every day for the past month, I thought it would be a good time to step back and reflect on how I’ve interacted with writing and the larger writing process, both in English and in Arabic.

Since I am far from fluent in Arabic, my writing is limited to simple sentences – both nominal and verbal – and paragraphs, per my vocabulary bank. I find that at my current stage in writing development, I am focused mostly on spelling and grammatical constructions, rather than the large picture of the paragraph or sentence I am writing. Since the grammatical and structural rules for Arabic do not correlate into English (for example, adverbs and adjectives are considered to be the equivalents of nouns, the changing of the vowels at the ends of words affects their grammatical role in a sentence, and there are three tenses, roughly translated as past, present, and command), I am focusing on trying to master these rules, whereas I tend to focus on more advanced issues in my English writing, such as voice, tone, the coherence of my argument, and continuity between passages.

This development has been a great blessing in the sense it allows me to consciously appreciate the early developments of the writing process. This is something that young writers usually do not learn to consciously recognize in their own development, but since I have had the chance to create, discuss, and engage in writing at various levels, getting back to the roots and basics of writing – discerning the very simple building blocks of letters and words in sentences – makes me appreciate the ability to engage in advanced writing all the more! While I have a long way to go with my Arabic writing, I look forward to developing into greater confidence and command as a writer of Arabic.

I have also found that focusing on my Arabic has led me to not only revisit some aspects of English grammar (and thus strengthen it) but I have found that my ability to form complex ideas and word constructs has been affected by my continual focus on simple writing constructs in Arabic. While my command of the English language as a writer has not disappeared, I find myself struggling to find words or make connections between points more so than before. This may be because I am no longer spending as much time with the English language as I used to, but it may also be due to my new attention towards simpler constructs in Arabic. While I can be frustrated by this reality, I also see it as an opportunity for a cognitive shift – a renewed opportunity to engage with the fundamentals of my primary language. While the rules may differ in many areas, the philosophy of returning to the roots has allowed me a new opportunity for learning and engagement.

It will be a challenge to manage my development as a writer of both languages while in Amman, which is why I am hoping to field suggestions from my UCWbL and UCWbL-friendly peers! Would you have any advice on how to maintain my development as a writer of English while immersed in a foreign environment?

The UCWbL’s Peter D. is studying in Jordan this semester.  Tune in here for this exciting series on language, learning, and culture.