I had my second Arabic class in Gaza today. We started off with present and past tense verbs, and then turned to vocabulary. My teacher, a first year college student, was trying to gauge my level. “Let’s start off with important words around the house,” he said. We hadn’t yet obtained copies of the Palestinian colloquial Arabic book so he just looked around our apartment and pointed to things.
“Chair,” he said.
“Kursi,” I answered.
“Tawleh.” He went on to window, door, bed, room, pen, paper, refrigerator, washing machine, glass, knife, spoon. I got most of them.
“Okay, now we learn the most important words outside the house,” he said. I was sure I would ace these as well. I had recently taken an intensive Arabic class outside of Gaza, and I had memorized a whole bunch of vocab like car, building, bridge, traffic, etc.
“Buffer zone,” he said.
“Uh. . . mantiqa . . . . ” I knew the word for neighborhood or area, but “buffer zone?”
“Mantiqa azleh,” he answered.
“Sniper.” I didn’t know that one either. Ganas.
“Injured.” I shrugged. “Jareeah or you can say mosab. Mosab is easier for you I think.”
“Tank.” Finally, a word that I knew from my time in the West Bank.
“Dababe!” I exclaimed. Finally, a point for me! I even knew the plural, should he choose to ask. Dababat.
Turns out my accent was all wrong. “Here in Gaza we say dababah. Remember I told you ‘a’ instead of ‘e.’ Like in the West Bank they say jiraffe, here its jiraffa.”
“Bulldozer!” I said, before he even asked. I hated being a bad student.