How do we learn the language?
Misconceptions About the Language
When have we learnt the language?
Language Skills and Methods for
A Summary of Our Experiences
Students’ Experiences in Learning
In the Name of God, all praise is due to God,
may Peace and Blessings be upon the
Messenger of God
For eight years now, I have met a great
number of non-Arab students learning Arabic, and
among them I have found those who have
succeeded in learning the language and those
who have not. I have noticed that the difference
between the successful and unsuccessful student
is mostly a result of their understanding of the
nature of the language learning process and of
the planning of that process. Most of the new
students are given advice by their teachers on the
first day. Some of them accept the advice and
some prefer to try to achieve success in their own
way. Unfortunately, the second type of students
realizes the value of the teacher’s advice only
after several months have passed and he already
lost much of his money, time, and determination.
Therefore, Al Diwan Center for Teaching
appropriate to present some advice to students
wanting to learn Arabic, with the hope of helping
them plan the learning process. We offer them
not only some of our own experience, but also the
experience of their colleagues who have already
learnt Arabic, so that they may effectively utilize
their time, money, and strength.
We will discuss six main topics:
1. How do we learn the language?
2. Misconceptions about the Language
3. When have we learnt the language?
4. Language Skills and Methods for Developing
5. A Summary of Our Experiences
6. Students’ Experiences in Learning Arabic
And God it is Who bestows success.
Islam Yousry Aly
Al Diwan Centre
I. How do we learn the language?
A. Choosing the Method of Learning
Out of the many methods for teaching
foreign languages, two are most common. The
first method, called the "Grammar-Translation
Method", utilizes the native language of the
students while teaching. The second method,
"Audio-Oral Method", uses the target language,
which is the language the student is trying to
learn, without using an intermediary language in
teaching. Researchers in the field of teaching
foreign languages have found that a method in
which an intermediary language is not used is
more beneficial for students because it mimics the
way children learn their mother tongue. A child
knows no language when he is born, so he begins
by listening to people around him (listening
skills). Then he begins repeating their words
(speaking skills). After growing older, he learns to
read (reading skills), and finally he is able to write
and express what he wants (writing skills).
I have met many students who have learnt
Arabic in their countries for periods of more than
six years, yet they are not able to speak Arabic
for more then three minutes. This is because they
Translation). Thus, they are not accustomed to
communicating in Arabic. Their only relationship
with Arabic is through studying literary texts
which were translated for them into their mother
tongue by their teachers.
In summary, the student wanting to learn
Arabic must only use Arabic when studying the
B. Choosing the Period of One’s Studies
language as if it is ‘fast food.’ Students may want
to learn the language in the same way in which
they pass through a fast food restaurant; they
order a hamburger, take it away and eat it
wherever they wish.
I have seen some students who want to
learn the language in a month. Others want to
learn in a couple of weeks. My reply is that they
need a tourist office which could run them
through the basics of Arabic
rather than a
specialized institute for teaching the language.
Language is a living organism. To get
acquainted with it, to understand it, and to live
with it, one must dedicate a certain period of time
to it. If you were to ask, “How long is that
period?” my reply based on our experience at Al
Diwan would be – not having found any prior
research on this topic – that the shortest period in
something is two hundred hours in a period of two
months. We have noticed that if the student
studies for less than this period, takes a break,
and then recommences studying, he forgets what
he previously learned. On the other hand, if he
completes at least two hundred hours of studies,
he forgets much less. To demonstrate this point
more academically: the student during that period
of two hundred hours1 has nearly finished the first
of four stages in learning the language.2 Thus, he
has reached a level that enables him to execute
relationship with the language.
For example, the student who completes
this introductory stage in the language should
The ability to ask for necessary things.
The ability to express his preferences with
respect to necessary things.
This number represents the average period of time required
by students to finish one level in learning the language and
may differ from one student to another.
The four levels are: introductory, intermediate, advanced,
Summarized from “Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking” 1999
from The American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages
The ability to answer simple questions
about his daily matters.
The ability to ask simple questions.
If the student puts these abilities to use,
he retains command over them and does not
forget what he learnt.
On the other hand, the student who
studies for a very short period of time, only
learning the alphabet, or learning some past
vocabulary, can not execute linguistic tasks using
letters far removed from words, or with words far
removed from sentences, or verbs far removed
In conclusion, from our experience, the
approximately two hundred hours, the period in
which one can complete a stage.
C. Choosing a Teacher
The teacher plays a very consequential
role in the language acquisition process. The
student can not judge what the foreign teacher
language presents, as opposed to any other
teacher. If a mathematics teacher says that 3 + 3
= 7, any student can find the mistake. When
learning a new language, the student can not find
the mistakes by himself.
I met a group of students coming from an
African county who confused the ‘s’ and ‘sh’
sounds. This is despite the fact that the group had
been learning the language for nearly fifteen
years, albeit with a non-native speaker who also
interchanged the ‘s’ and ‘sh’ sounds in Arabic.4
Therefore, the students were simply following the
expressing verbs in a strange manner. If one of
سerTeT eheel iTrrThe ehT and ‘( شseen’ and ‘sheen’) respectively.
them wanted to say, “I want to sleep,” he would
say “I want to do sleeping.” And instead of saying
“I want to drink,” he said, “I want to do drinking.”
When I investigated the matter, I found that their
teacher was Arab, but did not study the language
in an academic setting, and therefore found this
to be the easiest way to teach verbs.
I met other students discussing Arabic
grammar in English, although they had been
studying Arabic for nearly six months. When I
asked about this, I found that their previous
teacher told them that in order to learn Arabic, we
must learn its grammar rules first and then
learning the language itself would be easy.
In my opinion, for the student who has
spent six continuous months and is still not
speaking Arabic, it is cheaper for him to stay in
his country and buy an English book of Arabic
grammar rules, which can be bought anywhere.
In this way he may reach the same result that he
reached in six months far from his country.
To summarize this point: the student first
has to ask the other experienced students:
Is the teacher Arab or not?
If not, does he pronounce Arabic well or
Is the teacher an expert in Arabic or not?
Meaning, has he studied the language
Does the teacher pronounce the language
Is the teacher aware of how to teach
Arabic as a foreign language?
If all of these conditions are met, the
teacher is suitable to study with.
II. Misconceptions about the Language
A. Grammar Rules Are the Language
If you have read a book on traffic rules, it
does not mean that you can drive. If you can start
the engine and move the car forwards and
backwards, it does not mean that you can move
with it amongst other cars.
Likewise, grammar is a tool for linguistic
accuracy, not the language itself. I have met
many students who have spent hundreds of hours
studying Arabic grammar, thinking that they were
conversation with an Arab, they find out that they
have studied about the language and not the
Thus, the student must view the language
as expressions, culture, habits and traditions. All
of these facets are interconnected through the
science of grammar.
B. The older the book, the more suitable it is for
I see many students always searching for
old books from which to study, thinking that the
older the book, the closer it is to correctness.
Some of the students have a sheikh in their nonArab county who advises them to go to Arab
countries and to study old grammar books which
they have suggested for them. The student
travels thousand of miles to study that book,
spends his money and time thinking that he is
learning the language. Eventually, he returns to
his country neither understanding that book nor
I remember once a student from Central
Asia came with a book printed from an old
manuscript. In the margin of all the pages, there
was an explanation of the text. Under this
explanation there was more writing, which was a
book in itself. He asked me to teach this book to
him and his colleagues in Al Diwan. I asked him to
remembered learning about the book in the
intermediary stage in the development of Arabic
Rhetoric. The book does not represent the final
form of that science, as other efforts came after it
and Arabic Rhetoric took its final form.
I asked the student, “Why do you and your
colleagues want to study this book?”
answered, “In our country, a man is not regarded
as knowing Arabic if he has not read this book.
I asked, “Do people know Arabic in your
“No!!” he replied.
So I asked him, “Then, who made this
He explained, “This idea was
before the Communist Revolution of 1917 when
our country was occupied. Later, when the Soviet
Union fell and freedom returned to our country,
people remembered that they were Muslims, and
this idea (about the old book) returned once
This attitude expresses how many students
feel that using older books is the best way to
learn Arabic. The reader should not think that I
am opposed to legacy. However, we have to
stepping stones in the development of Islamic and
Arabic sciences. They are not the semi-final form
which scientists later agreed upon.
Moreover, these books were written for
distinguished people were the Arabic authors and
speakers. An author used to write for people
living and breathing the Arabic language. They did
not take into consideration that these books were
going to be studied by non-Arab students learning
Arabic. Many words used in these books are not
used anymore in our daily life.
To summarize this point – on which I
elaborated because of its importance – we must
study from books written to teach Arabic as a
foreign language, which take into consideration
the spirit of the age in which we are living and its
literary styles. Once we master these books, we
start reading religious books written for children
because they have easier words and some older
traditional words that have less complex rhetorical
forms. If we understand these books, we proceed
to the next stage, and so on, until we arrive at
the traditional books. However, we must know
which of their words are used in daily life and
which are not so that we do not make mistakes
when interacting with Arabs.
eloquent they are.
I remember one of my students always
holding an Arabic-Turkish dictionary. When he
wrote an essay, he would use some very unusual
words. If I asked for a synonymous word, he
would give me an even more unusual word.
When I investigated the matter with him, I
found out that he had memorized the dictionary,
regardless of whether a word is still used or not.
He memorized words not knowing the context in
which they are used “because the dictionary was
small.” Thus he used certain words together,
using unusual words in an even more unusual
understanding that eloquence in language means
In fact, that was not the problem of just
one student, but of several, who thought that
understanding is not accurate because Rhetoric,
respect to Arabic
sciences, is “matching the language used with
what the situation requires.” This means that the
words you say have to be appropriate for the
situation in which you are talking, from the nature
of the subject, to the actual situation, from the
person to whom you are speaking, to your
relationship with him. Only if your words meet all
III. When have we learnt the language?
In the past, the focus in foreign language
classes used to be on “How,” “Rules,” “What to
explaining grammar rules, and the students were
eager to memorize vocabulary and master the
rules. Unfortunately, the end result did not justify
all the effort.
The principle of the current organizations
“Communication,” in which the emphasis is placed
on “Why,” “Who” and “When.”
considered essential tools for communication,
acquiring the ability
to communicate is
essential goal for learning languages.
The American Council for Teachers of
Foreign Languages, in cooperation with other
organization in the field, has decided upon a set
of objectives. Whoever achieves these objectives
can be considered to have learnt the language.
Communication is the heart of learning a
second language, whether the communication is
face to face, through writing, or across continents
relationship with the language was through a
book and their teacher. They did not interact with
native speakers. There are colonies of students in
some Arab countries who study religion in circles
as closed as possible, and avoid dealing with
Arabs. Therefore, we find that, in the end, their
linguistic capabilities are very weak.
Hence, we suggest that in order to achieve
communication skills, students should participate
in conversation, obtain information, convey their
feelings and emotions, and exchange points of
view. They also have to understand, and be able
to explain, literature (written and oral) about
different subjects. The have to present their
thoughts and understanding about different issues
to the listeners or readers as well.
Students can not truly excel in a language
until they understand the cultural environment of
I have met certain students who refused to
considering their teachers’ discussion of the topic
a form of racism. They think the student who
studies Arabic in order to understand Islam does
not need to understand Arabic culture.
appreciate the effect the Qur’an had on the Arabs
to whom it was revealed without knowing the
value of the word in an Arab’s life. And we can not
understand the Prophet’s (peace and blessing be
relationships were built and developed in Arab
society. An Arab used to stand by his brother
whether he was the oppressor or the oppressed.
An Arab himself did not want to leave idol worship
for fear of betraying the path of his father. On the
other hand, certain Arab morals blended with
Islam to create a prophetic generation which ruled
over a land stretching from the borders of China
to the Atlantic Ocean.
In the present age, a foreign student will
not grasp the language perfectly unless he knows
the value of the sacred things in an Arab’s life,
and in a Muslim’s life in particular, such as the
towards Zionism, and the despondent state in
which Arabs live- sorrowful over a lost glory.
Therefore, we can say that a student can
aspects of the historical and contemporary Arab’s
Culture encompasses literature, customs,
traditions, feudal and tribal relationships, the
relationship between the scholar and the student,
the rich and the poor, the ruler and the ruled.
relationships among people who can not speak to
each other because they do not speak the same
When you speak only one language, you
can communicate only to foreigners who speak
your language, and usually only to the well
educated. But when you speak their language,
you can communicate with a large number of its
A student should not deal with the foreign
language detached from his own language. It is
true that we do not want the student to resort to
literal translation. But we would like him to
compare between his language and the new one,
from the sounds of the alphabet, to how people
convey their emotions, in addition to symbols,
proverbs, heroes, customs and traditions.
Through comparisons and differentiation
understanding of the nature of language and
cultural concepts is broadened. He may come to
know about the multitude of points of view
present in this world.
When a student can use the new language
to express his happiness and sadness, to praise
and to criticize, then we can say that he has truly
learned the new language.
language the ability to coexist with a multilingual
community, whether at home or around the
world, whatever the environment may be.
In order to discover what the language
skills are, let us each ask ourselves, “How does a
child learn language?”
You will find that a child is born without
having any vocabulary. He begins to listen to the
sounds of words around him. If such words are
Hindi, the child, near the age of ten months, will
begin imitating these Hindi words. If these sounds
are Arabic, the child will behave similarly with
respect to Arabic words.
This implies that we hear first (Listening
Skills) and then imitate what we hear (Speaking
Skills). We then begin reading (Reading Skills)
and, as our cognition develops, we express what
we want through writing (Writing Skills).
Therefore, the natural way of learning a
language is the best way to learn a foreign
language. That is, you listen to the language
being spoken properly and imitate what you hear,
and then you read and write.
Methods for Developing Language Skills:
A. Methods for Developing Listening Skills
1. Listening to the Holy Qur’an on CDs or
2. Listening to Islamic and other eloquent
3. Listening to the Holy Qur’an on the radio.
4. Listening to religious programming on the
television or radio.
5. Listening to news on the television or
6. Listening to religions lectures in classical
7. Watching historical Islamic movies and
television series spoken in classical Arabic.
B. Methods for Developing Speaking Skills
Good speech is the intrinsic result of listening
1. Memorizing vocabulary in correct Arabic
speech rather than its speed.
3. Interaction with Arabs who speak classical
4. Training for delivering speeches in private
and public venues.
5. Living with students whose only common
language is classical Arabic.
6. Making use of the science of Tajweed in
order to develop correct pronunciation and
7. Listening to lessons and repeating them
grammatical rules in speech.
C. Methods for Developing Reading Skills
1. Reciting the Holy Qur’an.
2. Reading texts out loud with Arabs.
3. Reading texts out loud with colleagues and
correcting each other.
newspapers and magazines.
programs, one should turn off the sound
and read the Arabic translation only.
written letter (tashkeel) in the elementary
learning stages and assuring that the
student memorizes the word’s written form
diacritical marks. (This will enable the
student to read un-diacritically marked
D. Methods for Developing Writing Skills
Handwriting – Dictation – Composition
1. Learning handwriting using handwriting
2. Writing abundantly. (compositions, letters,
Following up what you have written with
4. Reading a book on the rules of Arabic
dictation, such as proper usage of the
differentiating between letters which sound
5. Writing and asking someone to review
what you have written.
broadcast as an exercise in dictation.
7. Make your own glossary of the most
expressions concerning important topics.
8. Writing essays on topics you care about.
a. Identifying the topic.
b. Identifying the main ideas.
c. Identifying the subsidiary ideas.
d. Writing, while seeking assistance
from a dictionary.
9. Let your colleagues read what you have
written and ask their opinion.
10. Follow up your writing with your Arabic
Methods for Understanding Arabic Culture
1. Reading popular stories.
2. Reading popular proverbs.
3. Reading the history of native speakers.
4. Watching movies and programs discussing
the issues of the native speakers.
5. Attending the happy and sad occasions of
6. Reading newspapers
7. Visiting Islamic and historical Arab sites.
V. A Summary of Our Experiences
The following is some advice extracted
from our experience with students at Al Diwan
who come to Egypt to study Arabic:
1. Be wary of friends who take up your time
in wasteful matters.
2. Befriend the serious students.
3. Inform your friends that you are going to
speak Arabic for a certain time everyday.
Start with one hour and increase it every
4. Look at your friend’s condition before
heeding his advice. For if he is industrious,
take his advice. If he is not, do not take
his advice in matters of studies.
5. Do not live with a friend who differs from
you greatly in his habits. You may lose
much of your time in trying to adjust to his
B. The Country in Which You Study
1. Try to interact with people.
A large number of students who come to
the Arab World to study face certain difficulties
as a result of their limited information about
Arabs. Some students think that Arabs are all
good, and others think they are all bad. Both
points of view lack balance. Arab people are
like any other people in that some of them are
good and some are bad.
2. Local Accents
Each Arab society has its own accent which
is derived from classical Arabic though it may
differ somewhat from it. We recommend that
you review information about the country in
which you are going to study through internet
sites. Try to vary the sources you use.
1. Choosing the Institute
respect to the knowledge offered
and the administration.
b. Its curriculum is clear.
c. Its financial system is clear.
d. It has the ability to adjust to the
student’s goal for studying.
e. It has set regulations concerning
rights and responsibilities.
It has an assessment form through
2. Try to study at a center specializing in
teaching foreigners. Teaching Arabic as a
teaching it to Arabs.
3. If you want to learn classical Arabic, be
careful in your mingling with ordinary
people because they use a dialect of Arabic
which may adversely affect your ability to
speak classical Arabic.
4. Don’t move form one center to another.
Most students who do that return to their
home without learning Arabic. Therefore,
don’t try to leave your center and move to
another one unless:
c. The center takes a lot of money
5. To avoid losing time and money, get to
know the system in place at the center
responsibilities, and what is allowed and
what is not.
6. Try to familiarize your center with the aim
of your studies so that the teacher can
direct you in ways that will help you
accomplish your particular goal.
7. You are far away from your home in order
to study Arabic, so don’t distract yourself
in studying things you can learn at home.
8. After every level, try to convey your
observations to the teacher concerning the
administration of lectures so that you get
9. Ask your teacher for advice if you want to
raise your linguistic level. However, know
that improvement does not come in a day.
10. In Arab culture much respect is given to
teachers. This may differ from certain
other cultures. Therefore, be aware of how
you interact with your teacher in terms of
appreciation and respect. A lack of these
between the two of you.
in Learning Arabic
The experiences of the following students are not meant to
endorse any particular institution or viewpoint, including that
of this book. The comments of these students are included
because they were successful in learning the Arabic language
and their experiences may be helpful to those wishing to study
In the Name of God
the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
It has almost been a year since my husband and
I arrived in Egypt. In this year, I have learned a
lot about myself, my fellow students, and about
what it takes to learn a language and survive
away from home.
Studying Arabic in the Arab World
My aunt, who is a linguist in India, once told me
that Eskimos have over fifty words for snow and
ice. This is an indication of the importance of this
object in their lives.
There is a Hindi/Urdu word ‘nazar,’ of Arabic
origin. The closest translation in English is the
evil-eye. Yet it is much more than that. It implies
envy, jealousy, malice, desire. It is a concept
which South Asians and Arabs have. However, the
English did not have the same concept, and hence
had a need to create a word to describe it.
One of my goals in learning Arabic was to be
able to understand the Qur’an. In this holy book,
heaven is often described as having an abundance
of rivers and trees and fruits. Living in California,
a state where you can find any fruit in the world,
and being surrounded by lush greenery, I do not
think I ever realized the full power of this
description. Only when I survived my first Arab
summer in an apartment overlooking miles of
sand did I realize why the prospect of a future of
rivers and trees would seem like heaven to a
seventh century desert Arab.
My purpose in mentioning these anecdotes is to
convey that language is not a set of words. It is
an expression of culture, thoughts and emotions.
Language only makes sense within the culture of
its origin. And having spent almost a year in the
understanding of the language would not have
been the same had I studied the language at
home in America. Even from a simply practical
point of view, living in a country where all print
transmitted in Arabic, the acquisition of the
comprehensive. It is easier to see how the
language is used by those who know it best. It is
known that the only way to solidify information is
to put it to use, and studying here I was forced to
use the language in order to deal with people and
live my life.
The choice of the institute is probably the most
important choice you will have to make in learning
Arabic. It was important to me that I chose a
place that employed teachers who were experts in
Arabic and teaching it as a foreign language and
had friendly and open personalities. I knew I
made the correct choice when I looked forward to
going to class every morning and meeting my
teachers. The institute in which you learn not only
has a huge effect on your education, but on your
entire experience living in a foreign country. The
teachers in your institute will be the people you
interact with most regularly. It is important that
you are comfortable there!
I also loved the fact that the institute had an
Arabic-only policy. From the very beginning, the
student is forced to try to use any Arabic he
knows. One of my teachers gave me a wonderful
analogy. He said that if I had a Mercedes and an
old beat-up Pinto parked outside of my house, I
would obviously drive the Mercedes. The only way
I would use the Pinto is if the Mercedes were not
language student is going to use the new
language is if he is prevented from using his
native tongue. Also, there are many words that
can not be translated. It is important to get a feel
for how the word is used in the language without
depending on a translation in order to understand
I did not miss home until about four months into
the trip, and when I did it came as a shock to me.
I asked many people for advice, from people who
righteous companionship. The cure was spending
time with friends who had my same intentions in
learning Arabic and placed importance on the
same things as me in life.
Your choice in friends can also affect your
education. Will you encourage each other to
struggle harder to learn? Will you try to speak to
each other in Arabic to get extra practice? Or will
you spend too much of your precious time abroad
‘hanging out’? Going abroad to study costs a lot of
time and money. We must be careful to spend
Patience and Intention
Two more things that I found to be essential to a
student of knowledge: patience, and purity and
strength of intention. Every student who goes
abroad is a traveler, enduring hardship and
response to hardship is patience. Many things will
be hard- living in a new place, dealing with a new
system, dealing with different kinds of people. All
It is also important for a student to have
language is a process which has to be taken step
by step. We may be eager to read advanced
traditional texts, but we have to realize that a lot
of work has to be done before we can jump into
these higher levels. I found that it was more
efficient to put in the time required to understand
the language and then move on to advanced
subjects, instead of trying to tackle them before I
was ready, wasting time and effort.
Finally, I think most foreign students here would
agree that THE most important thing you can
bring with you is a strong and pure intention. For
Muslims, our intention always has to be pure for
the sake of pleasing God. All students thinking
about studying abroad must have a clear picture
of why they want to do so. They should renew
their intention on a regular basis before coming
and during their stay. When I found myself losing
will-power in my studies, I found that it was
because I had lost focus on my reasons for
studying Arabic. A strong intention is the only
thing that will sustain a student of knowledge.
- Bhawana Kamil, California, USA
How I Got to where I am in the Arabic
First of all, I would like to say that learning the
Arabic language is a gift from Allah.
I came to Egypt on October 11, 1998. Two weeks
later I enrolled in an Arabic language institute for
foreign students. This was the most important
step I took to learn the Arabic language.
In the first year I lived with foreign students who
came to learn Arabic language as well. This
helped me improve my Arabic and feel the
difference between learning Arabic in my country
and here in Egypt. I can honestly say that what I
learned in my country in four years I acquired
here in four months.
My academic studies also played an important
role in improving in my Arabic. Every language
has more than one component. In the Institute I
learned rules and vocabulary, and learned how to
speak correctly. But my relationship with the
students and the faculty helped me practice what
I learned at the institute, especially with those
able to speak in Fus’ha (regular Arabic language).
I hated the popular Arabic (am’mie) in the
beginning, because he who learns (am’mie) first
is not able to speak Fush'a fluently afterwards. ,
But the opposite works; if you learn Fus’ha first,
you can easily understand and speak in (am’mie)
in a few months.
Understanding the value of the Arabic language
makes you exert maximum effort to learn it, and
to use different ways to acquire it, such as TV,
radio, newspapers, magazines etc. What I mean
is that we should use every thing that the middleeast offers us to realize our goal.
I think this is all I can say about Arabic and how I
Az’har University– Faculty Sharia and Law
Studying Arabic in Egypt
of Arabic in the
intermediate level at Al-Diwan Center.
interested in the language because it is a world
language and one of the official languages of the
My first Arabic course was at a
language institute in California. And although the
training was for 63 weeks, intensive, and with
disappointed in my skills (or lack thereof). I was
able to communicate, but realized I was very far
I therefore decided to study Arabic in an Arabic
experiences of language training at home and
abroad, there is no doubt that the benefits of
being immersed in the language, culture, society,
opportunity to study Arabic abroad should do so.
I am a firm believer that the target language
should be spoken as much as possible from the
first day the student enters the classroom. At the
language institute in California, I quickly became
disillusioned and disappointed by the fact that the
teachers always reverted back to English.
policy of Al-Diwan, on the other hand, is to speak
Arabic at all times.
Indeed, this is what first
attracted me to the program.
Although it is
frustrating and uncomfortable for the student in
the beginning, it pays tremendous dividends in
the long-run. Of course, a little English is useful
to clarify a grammar point from time to time when
others means have failed, but, this is always kept
to a minimum and I am grateful for it. So, it is
helpful if your teacher knows your language, but
it is not advisable for him or her to use it.
I live in Nasr City within walking distance of the
There are plenty of apartments to fit any budget
in Cairo. I currently live alone in Egypt but I think
it’s a good idea to bring your family with you if
Socially, I have met a lot of people here in Cairo,
but, unfortunately, I don’t have many close
friends. For one, if you are studying intensively,
you don’t have a lot of free time to go out,
especially at the beginning of the course.
some of the cultural differences have prevented
me from bonding as much as I’d like with others.
Still, I do try to go out in my free time.
because Egypt is a fascinating country, I am
trying to make short excursions to different areas
on the weekends from time to time. The Center
is extremely flexible in taking a day or two off as
well as schedule changes.
Although I have improved tremendously in the
past six months, I haven’t reached all my goals
yet because I am still in the middle of the
However, I believe I am on the right
track and I also believe that living and studying
abroad is the best way for foreign language
Everett Hudson, USA
My Arabic Experience
Studying overseas has been a very rich and
enjoyable experience. This is in spite of any
hardships that come with moving to a new
country. But learning Arabic in an Arabic country
is a much more comprehensive way of learning
the language than if one is in a non-Arabic
speaking country since it
immerses one in the
language and forces the person to speak, as well
as to read and write. The speaking, which is an
integral aspect of implementing what one has
learned, usually only comes when one has no
choice but to speak. Also, the fact that all the
classes are held in Arabic helps immensely with
process is initially extremely cumbersome and
often frustrating. But it removes the crutch –for
the most part- of constantly relying on one’s
native language and thereby not progressing as
fast as one would otherwise.
recommend coming with a friend or a family
immensely and eases the pain of homesickness.
Even better yet is to have someone with you who
encourage each other specially in the times when
you feel you are saturated with the language,
tired, homesick and want just someone with
familiar thinking in your life from back home.
Living close to the center where you
studying is greatly recommended since a lot of
time can be wasted in traveling back and forth,
especially if plan to stay at your center for long
periods of time. Finding a living situation that is
best suited for your studying style is important
since bad or uncomfortable living situations can
cause a lot of interruptions in study and don’t
help with the homesickness. I highly
recommend an apartment within walking distance
of the center where you are studying. Many
centers know landlords in neighboring areas and
can help you find housing.
Also, as far is a center is concerned, I highly
recommend doing as much research as possible
before you move to the area. It helps greatly to
request the center you are considering getting
you in touch with current students and old
students and to talk to them or e-mail them with
all your questions in order not to waste too much
time in the decision process once you get to the
And know that a lot of what you get out of your
study has to do with how many hours you study
outside of the classroom. Some students like to
change centers when they feel they are not
getting anywhere when the issue is not so much
the center but the effort they are putting in
outside of the classroom.
Every city will have its distractions, but know
that your goal is to learn the language, so limit
the sight-seeing as much as possible. Know that
you may not see the extent of your progress often
times until you go back, so don’t despair if you
think that the learning is not at the pace you
would like it be. Everyone learns at different pace.
Persistence is extremely important. ٍSo don’t
give up when it gets tough.
Saira Thaira, California, USA
A Strong Foundation for a Strong Structure
I came to the Arab Republic of Egypt in the year
2000 at the age of 13. The first goal I set for
myself was learning the Arabic language because
it is the one key that opens the doors of Islamic
I found the private centers for teaching Arabic as
a foreign language to be the best means for
realizing my goal, as they surpassed the official
institutes and schools in terms of seriousness and
Knowing that every deed is difficult in the
beginning, my beginning was likewise difficult. I
could only comprehend 60% of the first level
One of my teachers advised my to return to the
first level in order to master it so that my
foundation would be strong for me to build upon it
what I desired.
So I followed the advice of my teacher and return
to the first level despite my strong reluctance in
doing so at this beginning stage. I thought that
repetition would waste my time. But I realized
that doing so was in my interest because after
that point I was able to succeed in the other
levels with soaring results.
Because of the fact that I came to Egypt at the
age of 13, I was made to learn the Arabic
language without realizing how I had learnt it.
One of the things that helped me was that I,
along with my elder brother, who learned Arabic
before me, and my two sisters who were studying
with me at the same time, agreed to speak Arabic
for one hour everyday, and after every a while we
would increase this period of time until we were
all speaking Arabic well.
Another thing that helped me was that I began to
learn proper recitation of the Noble Qur’an, and I
would memorize what I could and read with a
scholar who helped me memorize some religious
This is a summary of the method in which I
learned the Arabic language.
Sha’ban Qudri Wathay, Albania
First Year, Secondary School
Al-Azhar Al-Shereef University, Egypt