Learning Arabic – Milestone 1

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Learning Arabic with Egyptian Tea

Learning Arabic in the everyday things

Learning Arabic has been a long journey for me.  As I share resources, tips, and insights on this blog to help people in their own journey to speak, understand, read, and write Arabic, I thought I would share some of my milestones that I passed.

If you are getting to know me, I arrived in Egypt in 1991, on a year abroad from the University of Toronto in Canada.  I was studying in a linguistics program (which later shifted into the Department of Near and Eastern Civilizations, since I overloaded my credits with Arabic courses!) and wanted to learn a “different” language.  My friends were taking years in places like France, Spain, or Germany.  I though through the places in the world that interested me, and decided to study in Egypt.  I’ve been here since.

Thinking back over how I started learning Arabic, I can think of a few milestones in my progress.

New in Egypt

On my first day in Egypt, I went from my apartment to the place I would study:  the American University in Cairo.  I was signed up for a year of learning Arabic in their Arabic Language Institute (now the Department of Arabic Language Instruction).  I walked through some crazy traffic, found my way to Tahrir Square, and eventually discovered the old campus of AUC.

Tahrir Square Continue reading “Learning Arabic – Milestone 1”

Arabic Without Walls Online Course

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Arabic Without Walls

Arabic Without Walls

This is a full fledged online course in Arabic by the UC Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching that is designed around two textbooks with accompanying DVDs: Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic Sounds and Letters and Al-Kitaab Fii Ta’allum Al-’arabiyya Part 1 by Kristen Brustad, Mahmoud Al-Batal and Abbas Al-Tonsi.  Its program includes sections on: Continue reading “Arabic Without Walls Online Course”

10 Amusing Approaches to Arabic

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This is a fun article that gives 10 Amusing Approaches to Arabic learning, by Meredith Cicerchia.

Quick summary:

1.  Write and draw what you see.

2. Immerse yourself in authentic language.

3. Say your ع ‘ayn out-loud. Continue reading “10 Amusing Approaches to Arabic”

Article: Why learning Arabic is so hard

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Trying to learn Arabic

Here’s a great article from Slate called “I’m Trying To Learn Arabic.  Why’s it taking so long?” by Robert Lane Greene.

Summary of the article:

1. Arabic script is complicated and hard to learn

2. There are a number of sounds that are hard to pronounce for English speakers Continue reading “Article: Why learning Arabic is so hard”

Egyptian Arabic: Five Important Things

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Egyptian Arabic Teacher

At the request of one of my Arabic learning acquaintances on Twitter, أمريكية صعيدية @AmericanSaeedi, I am re-posting here the text of an interview made back in 2003.  The interview is with Dr. David Wilmsen, who was at that time living in Egypt and working at the American University.  Dr. Wilmsen is now, according to my quick google search, at AUB, the American University in Beirut.  You can check out his academia.edu page, or his research publications.

Egyptian Arabic expert Dr. David Wilmsen

The article was originally posted on my old website, egyptianarabic.com.  That site was where we showcased our software Egyptian Arabic Vocab Clinic®, and Modern Standard Arabic Vocab Clinic® and Verb Clinic®.  They are now no longer being distributed, as AUC Press decided to not continue publishing them.

On a side note, AUC Press is a fantastic publisher and puts out some of the best Egyptian Arabic course books, as well as other publications about Egypt.  Check out their website.  I don’t blame them for not continuing with distributing the Vocab Clinic software, as it was on CD-ROM and that medium kind of is a dim memory for most of us now, sort of in the cassette tape zone.  If you used that software or are interested in an Arabic learning course, I am dropping a small hint here:  stay tuned here for some upcoming news about something we are putting together.  Or sign up for my newsletter over on the right sidebar.  That’s all I will say for now.

Here’s the interview: Continue reading “Egyptian Arabic: Five Important Things”

Learning Arabic can take time

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Learning Arabic at the Cairo Airport

Learning Arabic at 2:00 am

It’s 2:00 am and I am checking in at Cairo Airport Terminal 1.  Heading out of country for a short trip to the US and Canada.  Gearing myself up for some COLD weather in Canada!

Airports have a lot of verbal interaction, as you deal with porters, check in agents, drivers, security people, and other passengers.  Arabic definitely comes in handy.

Some people learning Arabic that I have come across here in Egypt seem to feel that the usefulness of Arabic is that it saves you from having to give tips, or lets you pay local prices.  Personally I don’t care as much about this one, although it is in fact helpful for living on a budget.  One trip’s worth of tips in a place like the airport can blow your whole monthly budget. But what I appreciate the most is the fun and sometimes humorous interactions it brings.  For me, humor is good.  And Egyptians love to joke and laugh.

Arabic conversation 1 – Porter

A porter lifts my carry-on bag onto the security belt.  I don’t actually need his help, and I don’t want to tip him because I’ve given out lots of tips already.  So instead I joke with him, and get him smiling.

Porter:  إنت بتكلم عربي كوايس.  بقالك كم سنة فى مصر؟

(You speak Arabic well.  How many years have you been in Egypt?”) Continue reading “Learning Arabic can take time”

Learn Arabic – then and now

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Learn Arabic like this

Wanting to learn Arabic, way back in the 80s and 90s

Learning Arabic is something I get a lot of questions about.  I started to learn Arabic in 1989.  That was when I took my first course in Modern Standard Arabic.  I have spent many years since then studying, learning, and using the language.  I have helped people who want to learn Arabic by creating and publishing Arabic language learning apps.

Learning Arabic in Toronto (where I grew up) back then was not very easy.  But it wasn’t really until I arrived in Cairo, Egypt, that I began to really move forward in being able to function in the language.  I had come to Egypt with one purpose – to learn Arabic.  It was August 27, 1991, and I was a brand new arrival in Cairo, on a year abroad at the American University in Cairo during my third year of a degree at the University of Toronto.

Why did I choose Arabic?  And why Egypt?  I chose Arabic because I was in a linguistics undergraduate program at the University of Toronto, and wanted to study a language other than the usual French, Spanish, and German that my fellow students were studying at the time.  I chose Egypt because it was the only place I knew of that would allow me to transfer credits back to my university in Canada.  Amazing how seemingly small decisions can change the rest of your life.  I’ve been here ever since.

Things that have changed in learning Arabic since 1991

Many things have changed since I arrived in Cairo that day almost 25 years ago.  Here’s some of the big ones: Continue reading “Learn Arabic – then and now”