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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  06 June 2002
Subject:
  How for you can here message when him not properly is speaching?
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Greetings,

I finished my intensive course of Arabic, and as planned I have started to do meetings without using a translator. How have he fared so far, I hear you cry? Well, OK, on the bright side I have improved! The original intention was to study Arabic from January to March without a break, then embark on my original programme without using a translator. The intensive study period didn't go as well as I hoped because I have a problem with a short attention span. I get distracted very easily, and since it was mostly self-study I found it easy to be distracted by other things (mostly good things, but distractions nevertheless!). I'm doing more things with Arabic compared to what I was doing a few months ago, so I guess that must be good. My way of getting through meetings now is to simply memorise the Arabic that I need, parrot fashion. The sketchboard talk for a recent meeting was 20 paragraphs of Arabic. The days before the meeting I simple memorised all twenty paragraphs, then recited it paragraph by paragraph at the meeting. I don't like doing that, but at least I didn't have to use a translator!

When I speak in English in meetings, I never really know what I'm going to say until I'm actually in front of everyone, then I get my best ideas- so I hate to be restrained by a straitjacket, a "prepared speech" beforehand. I guess that when I improve I can slowly wander away from what I memorised. The first meeting which I spoke at after my intensive study was at quite a nice church in a posh area. I could immediately see that most people present were upper-middle class, since before the meeting started children were speaking to me in English because they go to the English-speaking private schools. When I was invited to go to the front to give the sketchboard talk to the whole congregation, I asked the children in English "who understands me without a translator?" - almost all the children put their hands in the air. I thought, great! All this effort to study the Arabic, and the first meeting I go to is one of the only places where I could get away with only speaking English! I decided that the next couple of times should be in the poor areas where they will appreciate my efforts to learn their language.

Shortly afterwards I was in another place where I was playing with some juggling equipment outside. Some children came to me to see what was I was doing. I spoke to them in Arabic, after a few minutes they looked at each other in a confused way, then said to me "Why don't you just speak to us in English?" So much for my efforts!

More encouraging news about learning sign language. It's improving much faster than the Arabic. The other week I had a phone call on Sunday afternoon from someone at the deaf church. She said that she couldn't make it to the meeting and wanted me to take over from her and do the talk that evening. I said it wouldn't be a problem. The thought of doing the same thing in Arabic would have made me scared stiff! The meeting went really well. Since the deaf like to participate in meetings it was easy to get a question and answer session started over the sketchboard talk. I left at the end of the meeting feeling satisfied that the message was received and understood by all.

To help to improve both my Arabic and sign language I have taken on a project to produce a dictionary of sign language on CD ROM. The basic idea behind it is that the user will see a list of Arabic words (with the English translation if wanted), and when he mouse-clicks a chosen word a small screen will show a short video of a deaf person doing the sign for the word. The word will be spoken in Arabic too, since the aim of the dictionary is for hearing people to be able to learn sign language. We are currently at the stage where we are generating the word lists, we have settled for about 2400 words total.

The word lists have taken a long time to compile because of a few factors. First, we want to use frequently used spoken Arabic words. There are not many resources in Arabic so we have had to translate many things from English. Second, since sign language is simplified, many words have the same sign e.g. Good, better, best, excellent, I'm feeling fine . . . etc. all have the same sign! (a thumbs up sign, in case you are wondering!). Third, to make it easier to learn, everything has been put in different categories: Colours, clothes, directions, tools ...etc. There have been many revisions to include missed out words, change the translations and remove words which have no sign. I think we have one more revision to do before we can go ahead and start to video the individual signs in a studio I have set up. A nice thing about the project is that is has improved the typing speed of my Arabic!

When we produce the CD ROM we hope to put it on general sale, and that it will be distributed among all the deaf schools in Egypt. This is the first ever attempt to compile a commercially available dictionary of Egyptian sign language- our aim isn't to make a profit, but to break even! The deaf community in here numbers approximately 2 million. I'm aiming to put some extra video on the CD for examples of use of sign language. Amongst them will be psalm 23 and other passages . . . bear in mind that this will be distributed nationwide and you can see the potential of it!

We are intending to visit the UK for a few months starting December 2002. We want to spend time visiting friends and supporters, so expect me to contact those of you in the UK about a visit at that time. We plan to return to Egypt afterwards.

On a different note, now that I'm getting older I've found that it is easier to put on weight than to take it off. I intend to do something about it. I have decide that whenever I write Cairo update I will tell you my weight, this will give me the reason to take it to a respecable level! (I'm assuming that publically humiliating myself like this might be the incentive that I need to loose the "excess baggage". More about that next time.)

Currently my weight is . . . 78 kg (for the Europeans) 12st 3lb (for the Brits) 171lb (for the Americans)

Toodle pip,

Jason

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It's a Fact!

Facts about Egypt:

  • Egypt's population is 66 Million

  • Egypt is four times the size of the UK

  • Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops

  • Cairo has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.

  • Cairo is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East

  • Official literacy rate is only 45%

  • A total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt

  • Public Debt per person is $790

  • Average annual income is $630

  • Unemployment is estimated to be 17%

  • Religion: Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian

  • Most Christians are affiliated to the Orthodox Church, less than 1% of the population are Protestant

  • There are an estimated 100,000 street children in Egypt

 

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