So it’s official: my Oral Proficiency Interview in Arabic is in exactly 3 days. If you don’t know what an OPI is, imagine someone speaking at you in rapid-fire Arabic (or any language of your choice) and having to come up with grammatically pristine responses in a native-speaker amount of time. At the end, you get rated with one of 10 qualitative scores based on your performance anywhere from Novice Low to Superior. Naturally, the higher up your competency is, the more time it takes to move from level to level.
Now I’m hoping to achieve a score that’s somewhere between 1 and 2 levels above where I’m *guessing* that I am right now. Is this impossible? Maybe not. I’m sure I know more than I think I do but my struggles typically come from the fact that I’m not a very chatty person in any language. If someone asks me to describe my house I’d probably stall for half a minute or so and eventually say “It’s like small-ish I guess idk we live on a hill.” If I were to say that in Arabic, that really just that I don’t have a good command of the language when in reality, I just don’t ever really think about descriptors for something so normalised to me.
So how do I plan on cramming for the OPI you ask? Well I’m lucky because I’ve taken it twice before once in Arabic and once in Persian so I have an idea of the kind of questions that are asked and the format of it already. I plan on formulating lengthy, grammatically correct answers for the questions I already have an idea that they might ask. Granted all of these questions would be at the Novice Level which I’m most definitely not in, but I don’t want to be asked a question like “tell me about yourself” and reply with a 4 word answer because I don’t know what points I am linguistically able to cover.
Secondly, I’m watching A LOT of TV. I’m sure it’s far too late in the game for me to think I’m going to get drastically better as a result of passive listening but it’s the first time in a while where I don’t have a million and one things to do so I’m excited to be able to kick back, relax, and watch Fairly Odd Parents dubbed into Arabic for hours on end. While the focus of the OPI is on how well I am able to speaking, I also need to be able to understand the examiner’s questions in order to answer them. Related to my show of choice: I absolutely love watching children’s programs because a) they’re more likely to be Modern Standard Arabic, b) they don’t use overladen jargon or too-specific cultural references (especially shows that are dubbed), c) they’re typically shorter than your average show (Phineas and Ferb episodes are only 10 minutes!) which is good for a host of reasons one being that you’re not burned out halfway through the episode, d) and lastly, they’re just fun.
But overall, I’m preparing for this OPI by making sure I am hearing and speaking as much Arabic as possible in the days leading up to it. It’s not a competition and whatever OPI score I achieve does not particularly matter because I know that I have the rest of my life to get better which is one of the greatest parts of language learning.
I started up on anti-biotics the other day and realised that my final dose will be on Thursday evening just as I’m checking into Logan Airport. Talk about tangibility.
I was getting my typhoid shot on that same day and the nurse asked me where I was going. When I told her, “Jordan,” and explained what I was going to be doing there, she called me brave. (If you’re laughing at that concept, that’s fine because I was too.) I don’t feel brave at all. I’m going to Jordan because I want to get better at Arabic, and what better way to do that than to go to the source. I’m going to Jordan because I want international work/internship experience. But that’s not to say I’m not absolutely tweaking out at the prospect of having to communicate entirely in Shaami for 4 months. There is a very huge part of me that genuinely doesn’t want to go. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking up Turkish Airlines’ refund policy the other night. Nothing in that screams bravery to me.
People say being brave is being afraid–but doing it anyway. Of course I’m going to do it anyway. I can’t not go: I would be letting down far too many people, myself included. But I don’t think that’s being brave I think that’s being obligated.
I’m excited, I promise. I’ve been very cool, calm, and collected up until this point and now everything is just happening and I can’t rationalise as quickly as I can feel so that’s where we’re at.
Logistic updates: I still haven’t packed or figured out how to get from the airport to the apartment or even looked up the USD/JOD exchange rate. I’m doing great, y’all.