Friday, January 20, 2012

Arabic Lessons

So I'm back at FANAR taking Arabic again. I'm still struggling with the usual: ayns, plurals, invisible vowels, trying to memorize words ... etc. I find it's not really sinking in as much as I hoped and I'm thinking it's because there's not a lot of practicing conversation in the class, something that you really need to do when learning a language. A friend of mine and I are probably going to gather a few other people and hire a tutor to focus on conversation. We'll see what comes of that.

Meanwhile I spend time trying to translate text messages sent to me by my Qatari friends. I even bought a pocket-sized electronic Arabic-English dictionary to help me out, and I usually try to have it with me wherever I go. It also has a speaker so it is able to pronounce the word to give me an idea how it sounds, which is cool.

I remember in a previous post on Arabic going on about the things in Arabic that make it difficult to learn. In fairness I will highlight a few things that are easier.

1) Sometimes the nouns are similar to the related verbs so it is easier to remember. For example I was texting my friend (in Arabic) about booking a squash court and I had no idea what was Arabic for “court”. Went to my electronic dictionary and found out that it was “mahlab” and the verb “to play a sport” is “yahlab”. This is easier than English where the name of the playing surface has nothing to do with the verb. We say "play" but depending on the sport it's on a court, field, rink etc. In Arabic it’s “play” and I guess something like “area you play on”.

2) No capital letters so there's no need to worry about proper names and all that jazz.

3) So far I haven't come across any homonyms [e.g. to/too, here/hear, there/they’re/their], which I'm sure have to be one of the most confusing aspects of English. I'm not ruling out that homonyms don't exist in Arabic but so far I haven't encountered any so if they do exist it might not be for common words.

4) So far I've not encountered any irregular verbs. The present form of every verb is conjugated the same way. For example to conjugate the verb with "he" you put a “y” in front of it. Every time. (so far)

5) Arabic seems to have no issue with adopting English words. Words like computer, mobile and bank are commonly used in Qatar, including being spelled that way in Arabic. There are actual Arabic words for these things (for example computer is “hasoob”) but the English words are more widely used. My teachers at FANAR don't like me using them though and want the formal Arabic used, which contrasts with my Arabic-speaking friends who tend to look me a little funny when I start saying words like “hasoob”.

[Actually I think they look at me funny every time I try speaking Arabic] ;)


Mahmoud Gamal said...

m Ben,

I read your post and found it to be very interesting, and I wanted to write to explore the possibility of acting as a tutor for you. I am a tutor of Modern Standard Arabic in Cairo and change $USD 8/hour. I can offer a trial lesson so you can see my teaching style.

By way of background, our company was founded by an American (non-Muslim) and an Egyptian (Muslim), and we are based out of Cairo, Egypt. I taught Arabic at another online institution for over a year before stiking out on my own.

My classes center on teaching you how to speak Arabic. Is is through this I find that real learning occurs, more than textbooks. Many students who learn only from textbooks find that when they actually try to speak the language they are at a loss, because they focused so much on grammar rather than actually thinking in, and using, the language.

If you are willing, I would love to give you a trial lesson. It is for free, and you can see what level you are as based by a native Arabic instructor. If you choose to continue with us after that, we guarantee you will rapidly increase your speaking ability. We could also discuss options such as tutoring multiple people at once. Also, and the end, the worst that will happen is I will give you a recording of your lesson so that you can learn from your mistakes.

Please let me know if you are interested in scheduling the trial lesson at


Glen McKay said...

Wa alakum assalam Mahmoud.

Actually my friend is organizing something already with a tutor but if for some reason it does not work out I have forwarded your post to him so he might be in touch.

Thanks for letting me know about your tutoring services.