July 20, 2005

Harry Potter, Part II

Harry Potter has been spotted in Tunisia!

My earlier prediction was right. The French translation is not yet out so there is a market, even in Tunisia, for the English version. And it only costs a cool US$50 !

My roommate Cari and I seriously debated whether we could justify this kind of money to purchase a copy together, but gave up.

Fortunately, it sounds like someone who loves me is sending me a copy...

July 19, 2005

Learning to Read...

So apparently in teaching little kids to read, it's considered a big step to get them to the point where they know just how to hold a book, and turn the pages, and follow the words along from left to right, and pretend they're reading a book they've actually memorized. Even if they can't pronounce a single word, or understand any of what's printed on the page, these pre-readers have made an important step in acquiring literacy skills.

Today I sat down with a copy of The Little Prince in Arabic. (I figured this might be about my appropriate reading level.) I started to read the front cover, which had an unusual number of words for the front cover of a book. But with the help of my dictionary, and a good deal of time, I figured out that it said something about "one of the most beloved characters in children's literature, now available in Arabic..." etc. Which I thought was a strange title, but oh well. I turned the page and began. I was able to pronounce the words, and a few were familiar, but I was not getting any sense of the story. In fact, I was completely confused.

At some point, I noticed that the page numbers were going down rather than up, and realized my mistake. In Semitic languages the text reads from right to left, and the spine of the book should be in your right hand as you read beginning with what, to an English-speaker, looks like the back of the book. So I had actually tried to read The Little Prince beginning with the back cover, then page 88, 87, etc!

Anyway, after studying Arabic for a year, today I graduated to the level of "pre-reader." This might seem basic, but all of the (more complicated) texts I'd been introduced to before had been reprinted in Western books, or on photocopied sheets. This is my very first actual book. Hopefully it will be a good story!

July 18, 2005

North or South?

So, I was at the Bakery today ordering in Arabic, and the sales guy asks me where I'm from. I respond, "min amriika."

He asks a clarifying question which initially totally confuses me. I ask him to repeat himself, and then I recognize the phrase "junubi" from class. Aha! He's asking "North or South?" As in: North America or South America? I'm so pleased with myself that I can participate in this more complicated conversation.

Only later at home do I realize, much to my chagrin, that I mixed up the terms for "north and south," and that I answered with: "South America... near New York."

July 17, 2005

Harry Potter in Tunisia?

So, I hear from my contacts in the Western world that the latest Harry Potter book is out. This monumental event in the English-speaking world appears not to have been noticed in Tunisia.

I was in the biggest book store in Tunisia recently, creatively titled Al-Kitaab ("The Book"), and noticed they had the last five books in the series available... in French.

I enquired whether there was any possibility that they would be receiving Book 6 in English sometime this summer (on the theory that if the French translation is released later than the English one, there will be a market for the English book even in Tunisia).

The clerk gave me a typically Tunisian reply: "Insh'allah" ... literally, "God willing." Rough translation, "maybe, maybe not."