And the [Arabic] Oscar Goes To…
As a wonderful way to begin to close out the year, those of us that do not speak Arabic as a first language and are taking Arabic lessons put on a play for the students… in Arabic.
We wrote the play with our wonderful Arabic teacher, Lina (who is younger than I am!), who actually wrote most of it and put many hilarious cultural jokes that we did not know were hilarious until we performed them. The play consists of four scenes of Americans getting into tricky situations because of language difficulties (like accidentally paying a cabbie 3000 JD instead of 30 JD, confusing everyday words in a conversation between students with words for drugs and smoking, and accidentally ordering a pigeon at the grocery store instead of getting directions to the bathroom – the Arabic words for the two are “Hamam” and “Hammam” respectively). I got the lucky role of being the old-man narrator who also sings a short song after every scene with the moral of the story, an Arab Oompa Loopma. Earlier in the year, I danced in front of the school, and now I can add “Sing in Arabic to an entire school in Jordan” to my running list of things I never could have conceptualized I would be doing in the future.
For 10 minutes of glory, the room itself was just bursting with laughter and applause. I was really not expecting the reaction to be quite so enthusiastic, but they absolutely loved it. I have been fending off compliments left and right from students and faculty, and some have suggested that they stop speaking to a lot of us in English because they were so impressed with our Arabic accents.
Though you wont be able to understand the dialogue, its worth checking out the video on the play (posted on my Facebook wall) just to see the students’ reactions to everything. There’s a girl in the background of the video straight up belly laughing the whole time, which in turn made me laugh a lot when I saw the video. [UPDATE: the friend who posted it has privacy settings so you can’t see it unless you work at King’s…. working on getting a different version posted]
I have really noticed a marked improvement in my Arabic over the course of the year. Last year, at the end of the year, a few students made a Rube Goldberg machine as an extra credit project and including a lengthy dialogue in Arabic. I remember watching the video and understanding the gist of it but not really the details. I showed the same video to my classes this year and I was shocked at how much more I could understand now. Guess those Arabic classes are going to good use!
P.S. I know that theoretically you would win a Tony not an Oscar for a play, especially a musical (I was singing), but I’d rather have an Oscar.