Sunday, July 15, 2012

Language (and food) updates

It's been a long time since I talked about our language progress (here's the last one, way back in February!) so I thought I would do a short update.

This past week, Justin and I took a day trip into Rabat to help Peace Corps staff with "Language Proficiency Interviews" (LPI, for short). After the initial 2-month training period, all Peace Corps Volunteers take an LPI test that assesses their level of acquired language, ranging from Beginner Low/Medium/High, to Intermediate Low/Medium/High, to Advanced Low/Medium/High, and up to the most fluent level of Superior. To become an LPI tester takes quite a bit of training and practice, and Justin and I were serving as the guinea pig interviewees for the testers. We were of course excited to do this as it was more practice in language for us, and might help us get a sense of how our language has progressed.

So how has our language progress been going? In the few months after coming to our permanent site, I think our language skills were the strongest, as we were forced to use Darija to find and set up an apartment, meet new people, begin English classes, and generally explain who we are and what we are doing in Morocco. Nowadays, we tend to have similar conversations each day - greeting friends, shopping in the market, or discussing familiar activities in our Youth Center. We meet with a Darija tutor once or twice a week (he is an English teacher at a local high school) but neither of us have studied regularly enough to make much progress outside of our tutoring sessions. 

So our progress has been focused more on improving speaking, understanding others, and pronunciation, rather than acquiring new vocabulary or grammatical structures. Fortunately we both picked up the language pretty well during our training period, which has helped us here. Justin originally tested at an Intermediate Low level and I tested at an Intermediate Mid level (though I think I should have been Intermediate Low). After our testing in Rabat this week, we were told informally (as these were not official tests) that we are both at an Intermediate Mid level - which is high enough to be able to perform all of our tasks, make friends, and work well with counterparts. And apparently we have both developed strong communication strategies to make up for language that we don't know (so if, for example, we don't know a particular word, we just find a way to talk around that word to get our point across). 

So it may be difficult to improve our language levels, but I think if I dedicated myself to studying just a little bit every few days, it could make a big difference. My goal would be to speak at an Intermediate High or Advanced Low level by the time I leave Morocco... Inshallah!* 
* that means "If God wills it" - a very commonly used phrase here!

In other news - Summer is in full swing in Morocco. We are very fortunate to be in a site that's not too hot - Today it was 115 in Fes, and for us today only about 92 at its highest, so while it's hot, it's nowhere near as bad as it is elsewhere in Morocco. Ramadan is coming up next week, which I'll write more about in the next blog post, and I'm really looking forward to learning firsthand about what it's like. Justin and I will be in Morocco for the first few days of Ramadan, and then we'll be leaving to travel for 2 weeks. More on that soon. And I've been doing a bit more cooking since we've had some spare time - Check out a few photos of the latest dishes below, and visit my recipe page if you are interested!

Homemade lasagna bolognese - even the noodles were homemade. Took SO. LONG.
Gnocchi in a tomato cream sauce! Hopefully the Italian side of my in-laws are proud :)
French fries - very easy, wouldn't do often but fun to have!
Tortillas - have made these lots but never took a photo. Very easy and very good!

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