July 08, 2005


I’ve been in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, about a week now. Initially the language barrier initially felt as impenetrable as the great wall around the medinah at the center of the city. But now the conversations I overhear on the street are smattered with familiar words and I even manage to communicate a few basic things in Arabic.

The language school we’re attending, the Bourguiba Institute, is a Babel of languages. There are a lot of people from Italy and Spain and France, plenty of Brits and a few other Americans, as well as a smattering of folks from Turkey, Korea, Japan, and elsewhere. I came here expecting to work on my Arabic, not realizing the school would also offer plenty of opportunities to practice my Italian and Spanish.

Local Tunisians, too, seem to speak a lot of foreign languages, and I often end up resorting to Italian or my own special form of French (Spanish with different inflection) to communicate with people when my Arabic breaks down. Of course, everyone wants to practice their English as well.


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