Since I am living in Morocco; I have to learn another new language. Or, maybe two. UGH! It’s not easy! I think one of my biggest challenges in moving to Italy was learning the language. Of course, as a tourist, you can get by without knowing it since mostly you are ordering food, asking for directions, and other menial types of conversation.

Additionally, in the tourist areas of Italy, there are many English speakers just waiting to try out their skills. This can make it challenging to learn the language as well since the minute you stumble, they are all too anxious to change to English.

In Morocco, they speak Darija, a dialect of Arabic. It is not a written language. In school, they learn Arabic and French. Many people throughout the country speak French. When I visited there and inquired about which language to learn, they told me, French. Learn French and then you can “pick up” Darija once you are here. Sounds easy!

Honestly, when I visited, I had no problems communicating. However, I was a tourist, so nothing too in depth. Tangier also has its tourist areas, and some people do speak English, but it’s not common and can’t be counted on. My husband speaks Darija, Arabic, and French, so with him there it would be no problem. However, he won’t always be with me, and I am independent and want to stay that way.

I believe embracing any culture means learning the language. I found that in Italy, most government workers (post office, tax offices, and utilities) have little to no need to speak English and they don’t. Therefore, if you want to get something done, you need to speak their language. In addition, there is no guarantee that doctors, nurses, attorneys, and other professionals that you might encounter while living there will speak English. Learning the language is necessary.

So, here I am, faced with learning another language. To begin learning Italian at forty-nine is not an easy task. After ten years, eight of which I have lived here, I am comfortable with the language. But, the thought of starting over is daunting.

I signed up for a local community center course in beginning French, but they canceled it for lack of participation. So, I got online with Duolingo. Some of the hardest parts of learning Italian were that every verb changes with the person speaking. Additionally, they assign masculinity or femininity to words and the entire structure of the sentence changes to match that assignment. The grammatical structures of the sentences are also completely different.

Italian and French have similarities. I have been pleasantly surprised about that. Now with both English and Italian to draw from, I can figure out the meaning of many words. The grammatical structure of Italian and French are the same, and the “sex” of the words is similar.
Every day my husband and I go over what I studied that day and he corrects my horrible pronunciation. That is absolutely my worst skill set where French is concerned.

Now that I am here, I am happy that I have been studying French. It’s been helpful in the rental lease, legal documents needed for residence, shopping in the grocery stores and reading signs on the road and in the stores.

But, it is clear to me now that I must also learn Darija. While Moroccans can understand French and speak it with me when I speak to them in that language, it is not the language that I am hearing in the cafes, on the streets, and it is not really the language of Morocco. It will get me by, but I’m not satisfied with that.

After I am feeling more “settled”, I will enroll in a French class to continue that skill, and look for something in Darija. That will more likely come in the form of a private tutor. Classes are a great way to meet like-minded people, so if they are available, sign me up!

Some days I think there is a giant word salad in my head swirling around. I find that now when I’m tired and I speak, English, French, and Italian might all come out in the same sentence. It makes me feel like I’m going crazy. Maybe I am!


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