An American woman determined to learn the Arabic language travels to the Middle East to pursue her dream in this “witty memoir” (Us Weekly).
The shadda is the key difference between a pigeon (hamam) and a bathroom (hammam). Be careful, our professor advised, that you don’t ask a waiter, ‘Excuse me, where is the pigeon?’—or, conversely, order a roasted toilet . . .
If you’ve ever studied a foreign language, you know what happens when you first truly and clearly communicate with another person. As Zora O’Neill recalls, you feel like a magician. If that foreign language is Arabic, you just might feel like a wizard.
They say that Arabic takes seven years to learn and a lifetime to master. O’Neill had put in her time. Steeped in grammar tomes and outdated textbooks, she faced an increasing certainty that she was not only failing to master Arabic, but also driving herself crazy. She took a decade-long hiatus, but couldn’t shake her fascination with the language or the cultures it had opened up to her. So she decided to jump back in—this time with a new approach.
In this book, she takes us along on her grand tour through the Middle East, from Egypt to the United Arab Emirates to Lebanon and Morocco. She’s packed her dictionaries, her unsinkable sense of humor, and her talent for making fast friends of strangers. From quiet, bougainvillea-lined streets to the lively buzz of crowded medinas, from families’ homes to local hotspots, she brings a part of the world thousands of miles away right to your door—and reminds us that learning another tongue leaves you rich with so much more than words.
“You will travel through countries and across centuries, meeting professors and poets, revolutionaries, nomads, and nerds . . . [A] warm and hilarious book.” —Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey
“Her tale of her ‘Year of Speaking Arabic Badly’ is a genial and revealing pleasure.” —The Seattle Times