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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
my weight is . . . 78 kg (for the Europeans) 12st 3lb (for the
Brits) 171lb (for the Americans)
Return to Cairo
population is 66 Million
is four times the size of the UK
Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops
has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.
is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East
literacy rate is only 45%
total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt
Debt per person is $790
annual income is $630
is estimated to be 17%
Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian
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