I am currently learning Darija, or Moroccan Arabic. It is a dialect of Arabic that is influenced by the indigenous Amazigh languages of Morocco, as well as French and Spanish. Though about half of Moroccans speak Darija natively, a large part of the population instead speaks Amazigh languages. In addition, many Moroccans that I have met speak French, Fus7a (Standard or Classic Arabic), and/or English. Because Darija is technically a spoken, not written, language, schooling is often conducted in one of these languages. This makes it especially difficult to learn the language because although we have a Peace Corps Darija textbook, there are virtually no other textbooks or dictionaries to use as resources if the PC textbook doesn't have what we're looking for. Not even Google Translate knows Darija.
Darija is written using a Moroccan version of Arabic script and also has an informal written form using Latin letters. I am learning the Moroccan Arabic alphabet, but even many Moroccans use the Latin letters within electronic communication. The image at the top of the page is my site name written in the Moroccan Arabic script. We learn in Latin letters because we are not well versed in the Arabic alphabet yet, and because some of the sounds in Darija do not exist in the Latin alphabet, there are some letter combinations and numbers used to represent those sounds. Below you can see the letters and numbers that stray from the Latin alphabet.
gh: g sound, in the back of your throat
j: zh sound, as in pleasure
kh: h sound, in the back of your closed throat so it rasps
3: a sound, nasal, in the back of your throat, like a sheep
7: h sound, without traction, just breathing out through throat
9: k sound, in the back of your throat
I also wanted to introduce some simple Darija- some that I might drop in blog posts.
Smiti Christabel: my name is Christabel
7amdullah: thanks be to God
Inshallah: God willing
Shwiya: a little
Bzef: a lot
Darija is unlike any other language I know so it has been a very unique learning experience. There are three words for "when" but only one word for "read" and "study." It's easy to feel like I'm never learning enough because I'm constantly thinking about how I can't communicate with the people around me. It's a beautiful language that will allow me to gain the trust and respect of Moroccans in order to successfully carry out my service. I'm looking forward to continuing to learn and trying to stay patient with the process.