A guide to_learning_arabic


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A guide to_learning_arabic

  1. 1. Arabic For The World (3) A Guide to Learning Arabic Islam Yousry Aly ALDIWAN CENTER For Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language 1
  2. 2. 2
  3. 3. © ALDIWAN CENTER For Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying , recording or otherwise , without the prior permission of the owner. Deposit No.: 1896/2004 Edited by: Bhawana Kamil General Supervisor: Waleed Assayed Muhammad Aldiwan Center 12 Najeeb Nahfooz Street-Nasr City-Cairo – Egypt 00202 2708415 – 020103886934 info@aldiwancentre.com http://www.aldiwancentre.com 3
  4. 4. Contents Introduction 1 How do we learn the language? 4 Misconceptions About the Language 12 When have we learnt the language? 19 Language Skills and Methods for Developing Them A Summary of Our Experiences Students’ Experiences in Learning Arabic 4 26 33 39
  5. 5. In the Name of God, all praise is due to God, may Peace and Blessings be upon the Messenger of God Introduction 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 5
  6. 6. lost much of his money, time, and determination. Therefore, Al Diwan Center for Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language considers it 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 Them 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 info@aldiwancentre.com 6
  7. 7. 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 7
  8. 8. 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 studied using the first method (Grammar- 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 language. B. Choosing the Period of One’s Studies Some of the students deal with the language as if it is ‘fast food.’ Students may want to learn the language in the same way in which 8
  9. 9. 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 which the students can truly accomplish 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 9
  10. 10. 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 the linguistic tasks which strengthen his relationship with the language. For example, the student who completes this introductory stage in the language should have:3  The ability to ask for necessary things.  The ability to express his preferences with respect to necessary things. 1 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. 2 The four levels are: introductory, intermediate, advanced, and expert. 3 Summarized from “Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking” 1999 from The American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages (http://www.actfl.org) 10
  11. 11.  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 tense conjugations, or memorizing some vocabulary, can not execute linguistic tasks using letters far removed from words, or with words far removed from sentences, or verbs far removed from syntax. In conclusion, from our experience, the minimal period of studying a language is approximately two hundred hours, the period in which one can complete a stage. 11
  12. 12. 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 teacher’s lead. I met students from Eastern Europe expressing verbs in a strange manner. If one of 4 ‫ س‬erTeT eheel iTrrThe ehT and ‫‘( ش‬seen’ and ‘sheen’) respectively. 12
  13. 13. 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. 13
  14. 14. 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 not?  Is the teacher an expert in Arabic or not? Meaning, has he studied the language academically in a university or an institute?  Does the teacher pronounce the language correctly?  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. 14
  15. 15. 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 learning Arabic. Eventually, in the first conversation with an Arab, they find out that they have studied about the language and not the language itself. Thus, the student must view the language as expressions, culture, habits and traditions. All of these facets are interconnected through the science of grammar. 15
  16. 16. B. The older the book, the more suitable it is for linguistic studies. 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 learning Arabic. 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 16
  17. 17. book in itself. He asked me to teach this book to him and his colleagues in Al Diwan. I asked him to give me the book, and when I saw it I remembered learning about the book in the undergraduate years. This book was an 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?” He 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 country?” “No!!” he replied. So I asked him, “Then, who made this rule?” He explained, “This idea was present before the Communist Revolution of 1917 when our country was occupied. Later, when the Soviet 17
  18. 18. Union fell and freedom returned to our country, people remembered that they were Muslims, and this idea (about the old book) returned once again.” 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 realize that several traditional books were 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 Arabs to read in an era when the most 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. 18
  19. 19. 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. C. The more difficult the words, the more eloquent they are. I remember one of my students always holding an Arabic-Turkish dictionary. When he 19
  20. 20. 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 context. He explained this according to his understanding that eloquence in language means using words that ordinary people do not understand. In fact, that was not the problem of just one student, but of several, who thought that rhetoric is synonymous to difficulty. This understanding is not accurate because Rhetoric, as defined with respect to Arabic Linguistic sciences, is “matching the language used with what the situation requires.” This means that the 20
  21. 21. 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 of these requirements “eloquent.” 21 are you considered
  22. 22. III. When have we learnt the language? In the past, the focus in foreign language classes used to be on “How,” “Rules,” “What to Say,” “Vocabulary.” Teachers used to spend their time 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 for foreign language education is “Communication,” in which the emphasis is placed on “Why,” “Who” and “When.” Although rules and vocabulary are considered essential tools for communication, acquiring the ability to communicate is the 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 22
  23. 23. of objectives. Whoever achieves these objectives can be considered to have learnt the language. A. Communication Communication is the heart of learning a second language, whether the communication is face to face, through writing, or across continents through literature. I met some students whose only 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 23
  24. 24. 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. B. Culture Students can not truly excel in a language until they understand the cultural environment of the language. I have met certain students who refused to learn bout Arabic literature and culture, 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. This view is not correct. We can’t 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 24
  25. 25. understand the Prophet’s (peace and blessing be upon him) life without understanding how 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 hatred towards occupation, their animosity towards Zionism, and the despondent state in which Arabs live- sorrowful over a lost glory. Therefore, we can say that a student can not grasp understands the Arabic these and 25 language many unless other he cultural
  26. 26. aspects of the historical and contemporary Arab’s personality. 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. C. Connections Studying language strengthens relationships among people who can not speak to each other because they do not speak the same language. 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 native speakers, thereby relationships. 26 developing new
  27. 27. D. Comparisons 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 between the two languages, the student’s 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. E. Community When a student can use the new language to express his happiness and sadness, to praise 27
  28. 28. and to criticize, then we can say that he has truly learned the new language. Such elements give the student of language the ability to coexist with a multilingual community, whether at home or around the world, whatever the environment may be. 28
  29. 29. IV. Language Skills and Methods for Developing Them 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 29
  30. 30. being spoken properly and imitate what you hear, and then you read and write.  Language Skills:  Listening  Speaking  Reading  Writing  Methods for Developing Language Skills: A. Methods for Developing Listening Skills 1. Listening to the Holy Qur’an on CDs or tapes. 2. Listening to Islamic and other eloquent songs. 3. Listening to the Holy Qur’an on the radio. 4. Listening to religious programming on the television or radio. 30
  31. 31. 5. Listening to news on the television or radio. 6. Listening to religions lectures in classical Arabic. 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 properly. 1. Memorizing vocabulary in correct Arabic syntax. 2. Concentrating on the correctness of speech rather than its speed. 3. Interaction with Arabs who speak classical Arabic fluently. 4. Training for delivering speeches in private and public venues. 31
  32. 32. 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 intonation. 7. Listening to lessons and repeating them out loud. 8. Concentrating on the most important 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. 4. Reading materials, various such types as of reading books, stories, newspapers and magazines. 32
  33. 33. 5. When watching non-Arabic movies or programs, one should turn off the sound and read the Arabic translation only. 6. Concentrating diacritical on marks the above placement or below of the written letter (tashkeel) in the elementary learning stages and assuring that the student memorizes the word’s written form and pronunciation. 7. Training for pronunciation recognition when of seeing a it word’s without diacritical marks. (This will enable the student to read un-diacritically marked texts.) D. Methods for Developing Writing Skills Handwriting – Dictation – Composition 1. Learning handwriting using handwriting workbooks. 33
  34. 34. 2. Writing abundantly. (compositions, letters, stories) 3. Following up what you have written with your Arabic teacher or handwriting teacher. 4. Reading a book on the rules of Arabic dictation, such as proper usage of the Arabic letter ‘hamza’ ) ‫ء‬ ( and differentiating between letters which sound similar. 5. Writing and asking someone to review what you have written. 6. Writing what you hear from a news broadcast as an exercise in dictation. 7. Make your own glossary of the most important vocabulary words and 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. 34
  35. 35. 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 teacher.  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 native speakers. 6. Reading newspapers and books about Arab traditions. 7. Visiting Islamic and historical Arab sites. 35
  36. 36. 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: A. Friends 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 week. 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. 36
  37. 37. 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 behavior and this may affect you psychologically. 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 37
  38. 38. you review information about the country in which you are going to study through internet sites. Try to vary the sources you use. C. Studying 1. Choosing the Institute a. It has a good reputation with 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 students, stating the students’ rights and responsibilities. f. It has an assessment form through which you opinions. 38 can express your
  39. 39. 2. Try to study at a center specializing in teaching foreigners. Teaching Arabic as a foreign language differs greatly from 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: a. The teachers don’t respect the students’ time. b. The teachers waste time haphazardly. c. The center takes a lot of money from you reason. 39 without a legitimate
  40. 40. 5. To avoid losing time and money, get to know the system in place at the center before paying students’ any regulations, fees. Ask their rights about and 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 the utmost benefit from time and knowledge. 9. Ask your teacher for advice if you want to raise your linguistic level. However, know that improvement does not come in a day. 40
  41. 41. 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 things can complicate between the two of you. 41 the relationship
  42. 42. Students’ Experiences 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 Arabic. 42
  43. 43. 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, 43
  44. 44. 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 Arab world, I know for a fact that my 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 media and most television and radio is transmitted in Arabic, the acquisition of the language is quicker, deeper, and more comprehensive. It is easier to see how the language is used by those who know it best. It is 44
  45. 45. 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 Institute 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 45
  46. 46. 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 present. Similarly, the only way a foreign 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 it. Righteous Companionship 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 had experience. They advised me to find 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. 46
  47. 47. 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 both wisely. 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 tribulations. Islam teaches that the correct 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 require patience. It is also important for a student to have patience when learning Arabic. Learning a 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 47
  48. 48. 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 48
  49. 49. How I Got to where I am in the Arabic Language 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 49
  50. 50. 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 learned it. Edmond Vathaj Az’har University– Faculty Sharia and Law 50
  51. 51. Studying Arabic in Egypt I am currently a student of Arabic in the intermediate level at Al-Diwan Center. I became interested in the language because it is a world language and one of the official languages of the United Nations. My first Arabic course was at a language institute in California. And although the training was for 63 weeks, intensive, and with native Arabic speaking teachers, I was disappointed in my skills (or lack thereof). I was able to communicate, but realized I was very far from fluency. I therefore decided to study Arabic in an Arabic speaking country. As I have had both experiences of language training at home and abroad, there is no doubt that the benefits of being immersed in the language, culture, society, etc., are invaluable. Anyone who has an 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 51
  52. 52. 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. The 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 Center in a one-bedroom rented apartment. 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 possible. 52
  53. 53. 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. Also, 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. And 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 program. 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 acquisition. Everett Hudson, USA 53
  54. 54. 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 the comprehension, even though the latter 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. While living overseas if at all possible, I recommend coming with a friend or a family member. It helps the 54 adjustment process
  55. 55. immensely and eases the pain of homesickness. Even better yet is to have someone with you who is there for the same reason so you can 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 are 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 really 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 55
  56. 56. 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 place. 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 56
  57. 57. 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 sciences. 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 establishment of programs appropriate for foreigners. Therefore, I entered one of these centers. Knowing that every deed is difficult in the beginning, my beginning was likewise difficult. I could only comprehend 60% of the first level material. One of my teachers advised my to return to the first level in order to master it so that my 57
  58. 58. 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. 58
  59. 59. 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 texts. 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 59