Tag Archives: host family

English Lessons


One of my host moms, Jamila, is all about learning English, and I love giving lessons whenever we find ourselves with a free hour. We’ll translate misspelled French sentences into weird Arabic transliteration, then she’ll write try to write out the English in Latin script and I’ll correct her spelling. Or something like that.

Native Arabic speakers have difficulty WITH: the P sound (which does not exist in Arabic), the American R (that one, I believe, periodically causes aneurysms for many non-native English speakers trying to learn the language. It’s a rrrreal killer), and the “th” sound, both voiced and unvoiced (which I actually don’t get, because those exact same sounds DO exist in Arabic: ث and ذ; but hey, I sound like an idiot when I try to speak Arabic, so who am I to judge?). Anyway it’s great fun, because I learn a lot of Arabic, we both practice French, and I get to discover over and over how FIDDLY the English language is.

When Jamila and the kids borrowed a French and/or Arabic-English dictionary the other night, the first word they decided to yell was: “BLOW!”

I giggled. They were using it as a noun, as in “hit” or “punch,” and I could already see them heading down hilariously dangerous path of noun/verb usage (“I BLOW YOU” as opposed to “I HIT YOU,” for example) and proceeded to define what “to blow” meant as a verb (AS IN BLOWING OUT BIRTHDAY CANDLES GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER) and told them to be careful of their usage because it’s got a sexual connotation as well. They giggled  too.


Oui, ça veut dire “aussi.”

“What about to?”

“That’s a preposition, as in I go to school, or a part of the infinitive form of a verb.”

“…what about two?”




Today, during teatime, I taught my host family the verb “to fart” and its proper usage when referring to the Rim the Farty Kitty (I’ve renamed her now, since she’s no longer pregnant. I think Rim the Farty Kitty goes rather well with Tomi the Barfy Kitty, don’t you?). As Abir, Abdenmabi, and Jamila repeated, “da cad – the cad- the CAT…FARDED!” I recalled walking to school with Ernie and his host brothers one morning in Buknari.

(For new readers: I went to the Republic of Georgia for spring break to visit Ernie, who teaches English there.)

“Ernie, you are suck,” Tengo said, as Temo walked stoically beside him.

Tengo and Temo are Ernie’s ninth-grade Georgian host brothers. Tengo is tall and talkative and Temo is short and silent, though Ernie says that’s only because he speaks less English. Tengo tied a piece of brown yarn around my wrist one evening to join the other bracelets there, which was probably some kind of weird Georgian marriage proposal. Temo is a wrestling champion who changed into his tight blue wrestling onesie and medals when I brought out my camera so we could take pictures of him, his medals, and his muscles. Temo enjoys doing backflips off the giant Soviet truck in the yard, and Tengo enjoys swearing at Ernie.

“You are sucking,” Ernie corrected him. “It’s the present continuous, remember.”

“Fuck you,” he replied, and looked over at me. “Ernie is beautiful woman.”

It’s funny: here in Morocco, saying bad words can either be really, really bad, or a strangely hilarious translation misfire. I was talking to another of my host moms about how weird it is to try to translate directly from French to English, from French to Arabic, la dee dah, and she agreed.

“Par exemple,” she said, “le mot: fucky.

I choked on my tea.

She laughed and went on to explain how that’s the way this particular Arabic word is translated into English, though it has a more pedestrian and everyday meaning in Arabic. Shit’s bizarre.  Also, who decided that “fucky” was an acceptable English swearword in the first place, much less one that could serve as a decent translation from Arabic?! “That’s pretty fucky” is a swear that makes “motha’ flippin” feel better about itself.

Anyway, this weekend’s pretty awesome thus far. I was going to do work, but I ended up sitting up in the room on the rooftop terrace listening to the rain and working my way through the View Askewniverse: Clerks, couldn’t get Mallrats to work, Chasing Amy. Next up, Dogma (again), and then Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, then Clerks II.

I love Kevin Smith. I love watching Kevin Smith movies while the pouring rain pounds the roof and terrorizes the cats on the riverbank fifty feet below us. What a delightfully improbable situation!

Oh, I like that phrase. A Delightfully Improbable Situation: A Memoir.

Pax in terra, bros.




That means “good!”


Actually, it’s pretty funny now.

(If you’ve ever studied abroad, you will either understand or laugh a lot at me throughout this post.)

Awkward Things I Did This Week

1. Hide my dirty laundry. Here in Morocco, host families take it for granted that they’ll do your laundry, but we hadn’t talked about that yet and I wasn’t sure whether I should wash my underwear by hand or what. So I shoved it all in a corner of my closet. We confronted the issue only because I’m running low on underwear.

2. Not shower. I just took my first shower here; it was an intensely emotional experience. Full details of the shower situation will probably show up in here soon enough.

3. Fail to check for toilet paper and end up rinsing instead, rather than just asking for it.

4. Not eat dinner for a night, replace with Corona at random American bar.

5. My roommate: fail to brush teeth effectively because it’s electric and makes noise. Me: suffer severe paranoia that family is annoyed by sound of me brushing teeth normally, because the sink is out in the room where they sleep

6. Severe dehydration: we fail to buy enough bottled water and the tap water’s sketchy

7. Get so turned around from the train station that we end up miles from where we need to be (the most obvious and well-known part of the city, the medina and l’oudaya), take cheap taxi home instead.

8. Nod and pretend you understand what host is telling you

9. Realize that nodding was a completely inappropriate response, laugh awkwardly

10. Stop laughing because you feel awkward, makes it worse

11. laugh again

12. escape

13. Feel obligated to inform host family of awkward things like going to the bathroom, so they don’t think you’re rude when you get up from the couch

14. Attempt to leave house before breakfast, paranoid about public transport (when really it’s just a bus) and not wanting to wake host mom, she stopped and fed us first though.

15. Go without stuff like shampoo and a phone card rather than have to communicate with a local hanout keeper and betray your obvious foreignness, even though for me it’s a lost cause (Mme. McWhiteyness)

16.Bring ukelele to play for host family, too embarrassed to play more than 1 song

17. Learn Darija, speak only French

18. Refrain from asking for anything, especially things you really need.

You know, I’m really having a lovely time, and as I address these small awkwardnesses one by one, I get more and more comfortable. Still, it makes me laugh, the things we think are a Big Deal when everything is new. Lulz. poomph. Comment your awkward stories! Woop, falling asleep now. Peace out, scout!