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In the last post we wrote about the steps you can take as a parent to learn Arabic however we did not detail for you the program which we followed, so we thought it may benefit some of you if we mapped it out for you.
Our journey began as we travelled to Cairo to begin our Arabic Studies. Although I had had some previous studies we were both at a pretty basic beginner level. In Cairo there are a lot of centers to choose from but after asking around we found one that seemed reputable and was referred to us by others. Their prices also seemed relatively reasonable compared with other centers.
Once we were in the Arabic Center we each had private one on one teachers. We both started out with Kitab Al Asassi. Although I had completed this book previously it was a good review and a good start for my wife but we soon became dissatisfied with the performance of our teachers. They didn’t come across as the most talented, and we began to feel a bit suspicious as there seemed to be an effort to slow the pace and drag the lessons out over weeks and subsequently our money which was short to begin with began to dwindle. For this and other reasons we decided to ask around until we heard of a teacher that would come to our house and teach us together.
Our new teacher came for an interview with me to test my level. He suggested we use the curriculum for Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University, and that we start with the Expression book from Level 1. Within the first week we were more than pleased with our switch. Our teacher was excellent at explaining new vocabulary without the use of a dictionary. He seemed all business, and he was less than half the price from the comfort of our own home. As we started the curriculum he requested that we get a large 5 subject notebook and leave a section for writing new vocabulary, a section for verbs and their conjugations, a section for grammar, and a section for writing practice. For the first level we only used the Expression book. Our original lesson schedule was 5 days a week for 3 hours a day.
After we finished the Expression book of level one, we moved onto level two where we used five books from this level; Grammar, Morphology, Expression, Writing, and Reading. Our teacher would help us get through the main section of each exercise and then leave us with the remaining exercises for homework. For about every hour we spent in class we needed about an hour for homework. Around the time we began this level we made a pact between the two of us that we would not speak anything but Arabic between us, and that we would put a chart up on the wall. Every time anyone was caught speaking English they would get a mark on the chart. The Person with the least marks on the board got to name our firstborn.
As we finished the second level and moved onto the third our speaking levels had begun to improve and we were feeling more comfortable expressing ourselves to each other as well as the world outside of our apartment. I remember the first time I was in the masjid and I understood exactly what the Imam was reciting as he recited the story of Ibrahim peace be upon him. It was a great feeling and a big encouragement. As our time looked like it was getting tight in the middle of the third level we asked our teacher if he could up the hours and we changed our schedule from 3 hours a day 5 days a week to 4 hours a day 6 days a week. This was a lot of work as for every hour we studied we spent about the same amount of time in homework and review but, at this point we were really moving and we could feel as if our goal was getting closer.
Soon enough our stay in Egypt was coming to an end. As we had only a few weeks left and had finished the first 3 levels, we discussed with our teacher that we would just take the 4th level of the grammar, and morphology book before we left. We left Egypt for a few months and then found an opportunity to return at which point we resumed studies with our teacher. We did a quick review of level four Grammar and Morphology books, and then added the Expression, Reading, Balagha, and Adab books. Alhamdulillah at this point we started to doubt the need for a teacher and felt as if we didn’t need to have someone come and explain the directions to us. We discussed it and explained to our teacher that we would no longer need him on a regular basis.
Looking back on our experience we took many lessons with us. The first was that as a couple it was an excellent bonding experience to be study partners. Secondly when it came to speaking the greatest resource that we had was not Egypt and the Arabs surrounding us but each other. The ability to have someone to be patient with your efforts, and have their language graded to your level was more beneficial than the many stressful situations of trying to stutter through a sentence while a local impatiently or sometimes even rudely dealt with your struggling efforts. Thirdly was that having a curriculum to follow and a good one at that saves lots of time. Many people want to waste your time with supplemental material that is not needed. Lastly is that if I knew someone was going to go somewhere to study Arabic, I would advise them to go to Egypt before any other place, because if you have the money you can get what you want and much faster than anywhere else, but that being said we also realized that if you can find a good teacher, you don’t have to travel across the world to learn Arabic, so long as you have a partner to study with and to encourage each other.
** All of the books that we used to study arabic are available for download on our download page.