I live one block from a Spanish language institute, and today, I signed up for a Spanish class and excitedly showed up for the first class session. There were twelve students in the class: eleven Moroccans and one random American. So when the teacher went over introductions and asked us, “De dónde eres?” it went something like this:
Soy marroquí, de Tetuán. Soy marroquí, de Tetuán. Soy marroquí, de Tetuán. Soy marroquí, de Tetuán. Soy marroquí, de Tetuán. Soy marroqui, de Tetuán. Soy marroquí, de Tetuán. Soy marroquí, de Tetuán…..
Soy americana, de Boston.
I was impressed by the teacher’s ability to teach a clear, effective lesson entirely in Spanish, to students who spoke very little Spanish. The way she used visuals, acted out words, and had us help each other worked perfectly, and I know all that is harder than it looks.
I couldn’t help thinking of my old job in the States, teaching classes of English Language Learners, usually all Spanish-speaking except for one or two who spoke Haitian creole or Pashtu or some other language. I always felt bad for that student who was the odd one out. Some of the Spanish-speaking students were kind and welcoming to the non-Spanish speakers, but some excluded them.
But one of the girls sitting next to me spoke a little bit of English, and she helped translate a few Spanish words for me when I wasn’t sure what they meant. I told her I was trying to learn Darija. She said, “Oh, I’ll teach you Darija! And you can help me practice my English.”
As soon as class was over, three girls approached me to introduce themselves and chat. I asked them how they’d learned English and they said, “in high school,” and seemed surprised that I would ask. I explained that we Americans are lazy and think we don’t need to learn other languages because the whole world speaks English, so I am continually impressed by the Moroccans I meet. They all speak at least three or four languages! It’s awesome.
My new Moroccan friends walked me to my door, asking about my program and my job here and what I think of Tétouan, and told me I was welcome in Morocco. I thanked them for being so sweet. They laughed. “We love foreigners!”