“Hello” and “Thank you” are two basic phrases I am trying to learn first in all the new languages I am being exposed to.
I thought Arabic would be the language I would need the most here, but Saudi Arabia is diverse. Here on the compounds we have people from all over the world including India, South Korea, South Africa, Germany, Brazil, Columbia, Netherlands, Argentina, Canada, Spain, Portugal, and I haven’t even met a quarter of the people who live here yet!! Also, the compound staff and what seems like a majority of the daily Saudi workforce are from different parts of Asia including the Philippines and various parts of India. The company that drives us around employs people from Kerala, India. The many different languages and cultures reminds me of working with folks on the International Space Station and the patience and understanding required. Space Fact: Astronauts from over 14 countries have visited the ISS and there are control centers in 5 different countries spread all over the world.
My hope is that learning at least some words or phrases in the other languages will show people I am making an effort to communicate and in return they will teach me something new about their language, culture, or their personal perspectives. Though, once we get past hello, a rough form of non-official sign language is also sometimes used. A lot people know some English as well, but I’ve learned that when I speak a million mph it doesn’t help! And it’s hard for me to slow down when I am excited or determined! But after experiencing confusion myself trying to understand Arabic from native speakers, I understand! I always feel like a goof when someone speaks to me in Arabic and I finally get what one or two of the words were like 30 minutes later after I’ve left the store and we’re in the car driving back.
My Arabic classes start up again soon!! I am excited to use my vocabulary and start putting more sentences together and conversing. Josh is also learning, so it has been fun to practice with him. He is learning more informal words than me since he talks more with locals. I’m still waiting for someone to teach me the bad words….though it is probably a good thing I don’t know them yet! It has also been fun to start using my Spanish a little more with some folks here on the compound.
I have tried to master “hello” and “thank you” in Filipino and in Malayalam (spoken in Kerala, India). Learning Filipino has confused the crap out of people trying to figure out “what” I am. Sometimes I forget that I don’t look like a “typical American” or Latina and I am often mistaken for being Asian. It has been a fun conversation starter most of the time, the only time I got concerned was at the passport check going to Bahrain…the officer first laughed at me for smiling in my photo (I promise I wasn’t trying to) and then asked me if I wasn’t originally from China, Philippines, Malaysia, or Indonesia…then he just laughed again when I said my family is originally from Mexico. Oh well.
It has been fun to see locals and folks from other countries get excited to meet and learn from Americans too. I have had friends approached by locals studying English at university. Also, we were the main entertainment when we went to visit a small hole in the wall Filipino restaurant, Kabayan, here in Jubail. We were the only Americans (me, the only female) on the whole block, let alone the restaurant. Folks were lining up to take photos with Josh 🙂
It’s been a fun first month and I have already learned so much. It is still a challenge for me to get into a routine, but that is part of the fun as well. We just got back from our first trip from Bahrain (more in future post) and for our next trip we are planning on Turkey!