Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Learning Arabic in Qatar
So I've been continuing Arabic lessons and things have been going well. I've also found myself in a situation where I'm now working with a number of Qataris who do not know English very well, this is really forcing me to use Arabic. It's a challenge but I must admit I'm grateful because I think it's making a big difference for remembering the words and how to structure sentences.
Over the years I've taken Arabic lessons from many different sources and if you're interested in learning Arabic there are a number of options:
1) Use a language school
This will probably be the most expensive option as some of these schools can charge upward of QAR 200+ an hour but can be a useful way to tailor the learning to what you want, especially if it's just yourself or a small group.
I've never used one of the language schools so I certainly can't recommend which ones are better than the others. Many of them advertise in books like Marhaba or in classified ads in the newspapers if you're interested in contacting them.
2) University courses
Qatar University offers Arabic for non-native speakers, at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. I took this once (intermediate) and they definitely push you on speaking, writing and pronunciation. It was pretty intensive, I think nine hours a week, and between that and the distance to get to the University I didn't continue on once I completed the course. Decent program though. I think the cost worked out to around QAR 50 an hour but don’t quote me on that.
Stenden University also offers Arabic courses for beginners. I did one of these many years ago as part of a work program and thought it was also decent but I recall it was more about reading and writing as opposed to conversational.
3) Fanar (the Islamic Cultural Centre) offers six different levels of Arabic, ranging from complete beginner to very advanced. It's probably one of the most affordable ways to learn -- a 35-hour course costs something like QAR 300 or 400. I think the cost also makes it very popular, typically they have hundreds of students and class sizes are typically around 20-30. I've taken levels two and three twice each, while level 1 is definitely for people who don't know any Arabic the jump in difficulty from level 1 to level 2 is big, same for going from levels 2 to 3. Even after taking it twice I struggled with level 3. Maybe now it would be different since my Arabic has improved. Ultimately I wasn't all that happy with the structure of the lessons, and I think there could be a lot of improvements in that regard, but for the price Fanar is definitely worth trying.
As it is an Islamic Centre the classes are gender-segregated, with different classes for men and women.
4) Private tutors
You would think since this is an Arabic-speaking region there would be a ton of people posting fliers offering Arabic lessons but in truth it can be a challenge to find people advertising such services. It took a while to set up but a private tutor is what a friend of mine and I are using now. He is not a professional teacher, we met him through a mutual friend and since his English and Arabic are both excellent he agreed to tutor us whenever we can arrange an evening (sorry I can’t give you his contact details as he does not plan to spend lots of spare time tutoring people – he has a day job). So far I’ve enjoyed this as it allows a lot more flexibility in terms of when we meet and what subjects we cover. For you it is unlikely to be the cheapest option but the flexibility makes up for it. If you’re interested in private tutoring maybe ask around and see if anyone knows someone.
If people know of other Arabic-language classes please let me know in the comments. However please note I'm not going to advertise for “for-profit” companies so unless it is a school, university, or Islamic centre it’s unlikely to go into this post.