Continuing with my Arabic Studies in the States

I’ve almost filled up the composition book I took with me to Jordan so I’m looking forward to using my new “bought in Jordan/made in Palestine” notebook which is meant for right-to-left writing

It’s been seven weeks since I came back to the States from my amazing summer in Jordan. When I first arrived, and was surrounded by English, Hindi, and essentially anything but Arabic, a frantic stress gripped me. Every day, hour, minute I was forgetting words I had spent weeks learning. In Jordan, I was surrounded by Arabic 24/7 and I was worried about how I would maintain my language skills; as my Spanish and French continued to improve in school, I struggled to keep up my Arabic. However, in the past few weeks, I have come up with some great ways to practice and continue my learning which I wanted to share with any Arabic learners who experienced my predicament:

1) Skype Classes: This is by far the most important way I have been keeping up with Arabic. Prior to leaving for Jordan, I messaged a NSLI-Y Arabic (Morocco) alumna named Elise (thank you so much for being so helpful and sharing your tips with me!!), and asked her a lot of questions about her experience, and how she maintained her language skills after coming back. I got back in touch with her after returning, and she gave me details about a program called Preply, in which you can you find language tutors from across the world, and schedule flexible live classes for a very affordable rate. For the past few weeks, through Preply, I have been using my study hall (every other day during school) to study Arabic with two different Jordanian tutors. I am currently only formally studying the Jordanian dialect of Arabic (basically Shaami 3ammiye) instead of fus7a (Modern Standard Arabic), although one of my tutors always gives me new vocabulary in fus7a as well. Alternating between the tutors is really helpful as they have different teaching styles, and I am able to get the best of both. Being able to incorporate time in my school schedule for Arabic class means that I can learn the language within school just like Spanish and French, without taking out time at home.

Notes from my Skype classes

2) Al Jazeera LearningFor those who don’t know about this, the news site Al Jazeera has their own FREE Arabic learning program very aptly called Al Jazeera Learning. While not meant for beginners, the site has a range of very brief articles of varying levels on different news topics, which are updated regularly. The articles are accompanied by comprehension activities. Since Al Jazeera is a news source, all the articles are written in Modern Standard Arabic, so it makes for great fus7a practice. While I am not very regular about Al Jazeera Learning, I have done a few articles in my free time, just to brush up.

3) Music on AnghamiYou’re sitting in your apartment in Amman, watching your favorite Turkish soap opera dubbed in 3ammiye when suddenly– your enjoyment is interrupted by the dreaded commercial break. Usually, in those situations, I just ignored the commercials which were mainly about Tide and other cleaning agents, perfume, etc., but the one for Anghami never failed to grab my attention. Anghami is essentially the Arabic version of Spotify, which, for no cost (unless you Upgrade of course), gives you a practically unlimited selection of Arabic music from across the Arab world. I installed Anghami as soon as I arrived in the States, and have been enjoying Lebanese pop (Nancy Ajram, Myriam Fares, and Maya Diab), Palestinian tunes (Mohammed Assaf), Syrian Dabke (Hussein Al-Deek), my staple Moroccan jams (Saad Lamjarred and Jannat Mahid) and an occasional Masri (Egyptian) or Khaleeji (Gulf) hit. It’s so great to have access to catchy music in every Arabic dialect right at my fingertips. The benefits of listening to music in foreign languages are limitless, so not only are these Arab hits enjoyable, they’re educational.

4) Keeping in Touch with Jordanians: Thanks to every Desi (South Asian) and Arab’s staple, WhatsApp, I am able to keep in touch with my Jordanian host family. I message my host mom very frequently (only in Arabic), and although we’ve only been able to video call once so far, we send voice messages very regularly, and she always gives me corrections when I say or write something wrong. And also, aside from the linguistic benefits, it’s just so nice to maintain those bonds with the family I called my own for two months, despite the ocean in between us. Furthermore, I also use Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with some of my host cousins who are around my age. We message one another quite often, and it’s always great to hear from them.

Oh, and a random update: I received my OPI score!!! The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) test is an examination that all NSLI-Y students take after their programs, to gauge improvement and linguistic growth. The interview is about 30 minutes long, and is conducted over the phone by a native Arabic speaker. In my opinion, the exam was stressful, and I honestly didn’t think I did well. While I was told the test covered things like “your family” and other more familiar topics, my interviewer was more interested in knowing about my opinions on social issues such as “drunk driving” or current events such as “Charlottesville”. Although I love discussing such issues in English, it is really hard to talk about racism in Arabic when you don’t even know how to say the word. My commentary was made up of a large amount of circumlocution and repetition of words such as “problems” and “difficult”. When I finally received my score last week, I was pleasantly surprised to know that I scored “Advanced Low”.

Anyway, it’s now time for me to switch gears and direct my attention to my homework assignments due this week… I have a math quiz tomorrow! Inshallah kheir! (God willing, everything will go well!)

Until next time!

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