Learn Arabic language on the job

Read More
Learn Arabic language on the job

People often say that when you dream in a language that you have been learning, you are really becoming fluent. For me, there is something that is much more practical and a better measure of reality if you want to learn Arabic language. That’s when you can work in Arabic. Not just study it, or have casual discussions in academic settings.

Four non-native speakers who used Arabic effectively at work

Over my past 25 years in the Arab world, I have come across four non-native Arabic speakers whom I have seen learn Arabic language effectively and use it in their day to day work. I have definitely met more than these four, but they are the ones that stick out in my mind.

Lisa White - able to learn Arabic language and use it at workThe first was an Arabic teacher of mine whose name is Lisa White. Lisa is a teacher at the American University in Cairo, in the Intensive Arabic Program. When I first met Lisa in 1991, I was shocked to see her speaking Arabic fluently despite the fact that she is American, and even more shocked to find her teaching it. I had previously had non-native speakers of Arabic as Arabic language teachers at the University of Toronto, but in my mind I knew that was different. Lisa’s Arabic was not limited to the academic texts she prepared in advance. She was comfortable in the language, could (seemingly, to me at least) talk about anything in it with her Egyptian colleagues, and could naturally teach and transfer the language to us, her students.

Egyptian Ministry of Education - not my recommended place to learn Arabic languageThe second person was someone I met while working as a consultant in the Egyptian Ministry of Education. I confess that I do not remember her name, but she was delivering a talk to a group of about 1000 Egyptian English teachers that we were training, and was very effective. She was also very outgoing and funny… in Arabic. Despite the fact that she was British. Although her content was about teaching English, she delivered it mostly in Arabic, and had the trainees captivated and engaged the whole time. She would launch into jokes, side stories, or political rants. This was just before the Iraq war in 2003, and I remember a button she had pinned on her jacket which said لا لضرب العراق (No to striking Iraq). Continue reading “Learn Arabic language on the job”

Study Arabic? Who and Why?

Read More
Arabic class

Interacting with those who study Arabic

Over the course of the past several months I have been interacting with people who want to study Arabic, as well as a number of Arabic teachers.  I began my own journey to study Arabic 25 years ago, and so it is really interesting for me to find out who wants to study Arabic now, and why.

Who wants to study Arabic? What are their motivations?

As an Arabic educator, knowing who wants to study Arabic is a crucial question.  Knowing your audience is a key part of teaching effectively.  And knowing their reasons for wanting to study can make your instruction much more successful.  Motivation not only affects the speed at which a student will learn, but also the subject material that they want to cover, and their ability to take in and hold significant amounts of new language.

This week I was reading a 2006 study by Ghassan HusseinAli, a faculty member at George Mason University, entitled “Who is Studying Arabic and Why? A survey of Arabic Students’ Orientations at a Major University”. The study was from the United States, and from almost 9 years ago, but the results are still widely applicable.

Ghassan Husseinali


Photo Credit

Husseinali, Ghassan. “Who is Studying Arabic and Why? A Survey of Arabic Students’ Orientations at a Major University.” Foreign Language Annals 39.3 (2006): 395–412.

The two most interesting parts of Husseinali’s study, for me, were his findings on the different ethnic groups that were studying Arabic, as well as the reasons for studying Arabic.

Continue reading “Study Arabic? Who and Why?”