At age 35, I’m about to take my very first online course. I somehow managed to avoid online coursework while I was an undergraduate and surprisingly avoided it while in graduate school. Honestly, I would have welcomed some form of it during my graduate school years while I worked full-time and had to make the treacherous drive from Northern Virginia, where I worked, to the Georgetown University campus in rush-hour traffic several times per week. I (again) took up smoking during that time so I could calm down on the walk from the parking ramp to class.
Several months ago, I rejoiced when Duolingo launched an Arabic course. I quickly went through the first few lessons but grew increasingly frustrated that I was forced to memorize the Arabic alphabet without understanding the foundations of the language. I quickly lost interest in practicing because it merely became a game of memory for me in that I was memorizing the way that the letters, words and phrases appeared on my screen. I craved foundational knowledge – how the letters sound, what the rules for pronunciation were and how the order of the letters change the sound they made. I would listen to the voice on the app pronounce the words and phrases and try to repeat it back. Often sitting alone in room with the dog staring at me, or my husband yelling “Huh? What did you say?” from the other room. I had no idea if what I was saying was remotely correct. I know enough about Arabic to know that pronunciation is important. As a cousin told me recently (speaking from personal experience) – it can mean the difference between telling an acquaintance that your father works in construction or that he’s a gambler.
Wanting to avoid as much future embarrassment as possible, I signed up for a ten-week course that was supposed to begin in mid-March. In a scramble to figure out how to still make the course work, the instructor sent out an email saying the class would be postponed while we navigated our stay-at-home order. Class is now scheduled to begin April 21st and I’m very much looking forward to learning how to say “my father is a gambler” with perfect pronunciation.