Tuesday, February 03, 2009


My Arabic reading and writing class is going okay. Just okay. I so much liked the instructor I had for this same course three or four years ago. He was great. The instructor I have now? Not so much. She thinks she is great. Others may be benefitting from her method of teaching more than I am, I don't know. I've not asked. It is pretty clear for a certain reason which I won't go into - other than to say they are blatantly political - that I am not going to be best buddies with at least half the class. She has asked us how we like the course so far - and she specifically asked me if I like it better than the first course I took. Umm. No.

Arabic is NOT easy to begin with. I don't care what anyone says. Especially the older you are. When you are a child, learning new languages is not nearly the challenge it is when you are an adult. It doesn't make it any easier when several of the letters have no English equivalent. For example the "L" sound in Arabic has the same sound as it does in English, however for one particular Arabic letter, there is NOTHING equivalent in the English language. They call it the "ain" but it is pronounced nothing like "ain." It is one of several "gutteral" sounds made with your throat but not your tongue - or something like that. Not particularly lady-like, that's for sure. I'll never get it. Ever.

The instructor I have now is, in my opinion, argumentative and if you question something she cannot give you a reason. The books that we are using - both of them - according to her, are wrong. She says, "Do it this way, or you will otherwise may be confused." WHAT? Just the strong accent she has when talking to us is confusing. I am not faulting her English - she's got it down, for the most part, but her incredibly heavy accent does make it difficult to understand her sometimes much of the time. She is not from Saudi Arabia but she is an Arab. I pointed out a couple of times that the way she wants us to write certain letters is unlike anything I have ever seen in writing - and by that I mean printed writing - books, newspapers... "I will show you all the ways. You choose the one which you want. You are not children. I cannot force you to do one way or the other." Yes. She actually said that.

How about just showing us how to do things like the books - both of our books - show us? That is a lot less confusing. We are beginners. Later on when we want to expand our knowledge we'll write the "s's" and the "la's" ["la" is a combination letter - not really a letter - but a letter we learn - it is the "l" and the "alif" together] differently. She didn't appreciate me saying that none of the books in the class room we're in - an Arabic class for elementary students - have "s's" written the way she writes them, our two books we are using to learn from don't do it her way, and my two dictionaries do not write "s's" that way either. She says, "In print you will see it that way [the way I learned the last time I took this same class, and the way it is written in ALL the books], but in handwriting you will see it this way." Perhaps. But I'm not looking to be able to actually be corresponding with anyone using Arabic - I just want to read simple signs and be able to decipher some words. I don't think it is asking too much. Let's not even get into the fact that for someone that is teaching a WRITING course I have never seen such sloppy, messy writing in my life.

By the time I get home, two nights a week, after the two-hour classes, my mind is mush. We don't have assigned homework. We are not being graded. We have all paid to take this class for our own personal learning or enrichment purposes. As I have said before, my desire to learn this language is not so much so that I can say that I've immersed myself in the culture [it won't happen - I won't let it], but for more personal reasons. I want to know what is being said around me. I want basic knowledge with no intention of ever becoming fluent - in speaking Arabic or reading and writing Arabic. That said, Arabic is a beautiful language to write - and that aspect of it - but for an instructor that insists we should writing things differently than what the books show us - I am enjoying very much. So, to keep up - we're going at a pretty fast pace - I have to review both my notes and the work that we've covered in our books. Today I went to pick up my notebook and the books and just cringed. So did not want to work on my Arabic in preparation for class... Five days until the next one.

The same instructor teaches the more advanced reading and writing course. I really want to take it, but just am not sure I can handle another class with this woman!


  1. I'm just impressed you're making the attempt to begin with. An alternative to the rotten class if you're determined, (which you may have already considered):


    Good luck!

  2. Thanks, Shannon. I'm going to keep working at it.

    We've checked into the Rosetta Stone before. And, will look at it more closely on our next trip to the States. They have a kiosk in every mall for this... It isn't cheap, though!


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