About a year ago, I decided to go for a new linguistic adventure, to try something harder than English. I am 48 and I thought “it’s time I challenge my brain a bit, put it through some exercise while learning a whole, totally different language than the ones I know already”, namely: English, Spanish and Portuguese.
I chose Arabic.
With no one to speak to, no material readily available on the radio or the TV — you see, when you are in countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay — you just turn on the radio and eight times out of 10 you will hear English music playing. When it comes to Arabic, it’s a totally different story!
It felt like I was going to climb the Everest wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sandals. And notice that I avoided Japanese or Mandarin for I knew it would be like going to the moon with the same previously mentioned apparel, so no. (Maybe next time.)
Challenge accepted, I went to Amazon.com and I was very lucky to come across a book on the importance of the Arabic alphabet — the first thing I learned was that studying the alphabet would take some time in the beginning but save a lot later on. Which is true. Knowing the alphabet well has allowed me to read words I don’t even know the meaning of yet and makes it easier to retain them when I finally find their meaning out. You can learn a lot through transliteration, but if you only use this means of learning when you do travel or talk to natives you will feel like an illiterate person.
I decided to read the Quran in a bilingual version (Eng/Arb). A friend from Aqabar in Jordan said he would send me one. Her name is Orayb Keel and she decided to send me a bilingual Holy Quran as a gift. I got to know her and many other people from Aqabar in a Foreign Trade and Logistics Show in Sao Paulo Brazil. With her and her colleagues Mr. Nabil, Mr. Tamer, Mr. Ala’a and Mr. Jamal, I learned that people from Jordan are very friendly and that Jordan is a very nice country, actually a very pleasant place to travel to on vacation, business, or to study.
A good point here is that when you are learning a new language you have to be open and make the best of every opportunity to learn how to practice and interacting with native speakers is just top. You have to be open to the culture and trends. I am a Christian. I have read the Bible many times and in at least three languages, nevertheless I am reading the Holy Quran with all due respect to learn more of the Arabic language, religion and culture. I am sure there will be many nice insights all the way through this open mind linguistic journey.
Because I was open and met these people I learned about Jordan and Aqaba. I also found out about the American Peace Corps and I came across a wealth of material to study my target language, not only Arabic, but also Kazakh Russian, Bambara in Mali, French in Mali, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, and Ukrainian. All of which I will leave for another opportunity, but I mentioned them here because you or some other reader of this article may be looking for help in some of them, right?
Well, although there will be more material in English than in any other language, I found good material in Spanish and I bet there is more in other languages too. I will prepare something in Portuguese myself pretty soon. Next year BBC will have an Arabic course at their language teaching portal. At least they told me that…
As you can see, learning a new language is a great adventure. Pick one yourself and start right now. Let’s go!
1) On YouTube search for Arabic Alphabet.
1.2) There are lots of free lessons at YouTube which are easy to find.
3) At Amazon there are many books if you are going to buy some I suggest you buy one about the alphabet and one with your first 100 words in Arabic4) This is one of the best Web sites I came across packed with nice material for students of all levels.
5) Be curious and respectful of the culture so you do not get in trouble.