I am blessed with a natural, God-given ability to hear a word once, in any language, and repeat it, almost exactly wrong. This is a good skill to have when you are wanting to make the people around you laugh uproariously.
And the people, they do laugh.
Today, for example, I very nearly caused my lovely Arabic teacher to split her sides laughing. There might have been actual tears - of laughter, one hopes, though it is also quite possible she was crying because she's stuck in a small classroom with an idiot like me three times a week when she could be spending her time, oh, I don't know, dragging her nails up and down a chalkboard.
The homework assignment for today: write the names of all of the members of your family, in Arabic letters.
I handed in my paper this morning for the teacher to correct.
I got "Gorman" right (pssst - don't tell - I copied it off of my husband's business cards). Coincidentally, I also spelled his first name right. But my name isn't printed on his business cards for some odd reason. So I had to guess. I did alright, if by alright you mean "got the first letter right." But the second letter, not so much. Nor the third. And the fourth might have been a teensy bit wrong, too. The big problem was with the third letter: the letter "n." Apparently I put the dot underneath the letter instead of on top, rendering my "n" more like a "b."
"Daba?" I said and the teacher laughed. 'Ana ismi Daba!?!" I said, and she laughed again, but at the same time, she told me sternly not to repeat it. Turns out "Donna" is an actual name, but "Daba" is a rude word, which she translated roughly as a work animal - a beast of burden, like a donkey, or a jackass. Which, frankly, seems about right. There I was, proudly stating "My name is Jackass!" Because I'm classy like that.
It was all downhill from there. I'm telling you, who thought it was a good idea to randomly sprinkle dots all over your squiggly lines in order to differentiate the letters? And while we're on the topic of letters, where are all of the vowels? Because it seems to me that every language needs a handy supply of vowels. But no. Not Arabic. They don't have a letter "G," either. They can pronounce my last name, but they have to spell it kind of like "Jorman."
Oh, well. I'll keep trying. And the people around me will keep laughing. But after today, I can proudly say that I know the difference between an Arabic "n" and a "b."
At least I think I do.