Sprint Two

Start: Monday 4th of August
End: Monday 18th of August

Habiba - my favourite place for Knafe in Amman, Jordan

Habiba – my favourite place for Knafe in Amman, Jordan

Hey, now wait a minute…weren’t they called missions before? I’ve decided to changed the name to sprints as I’m a geeky software developer. If you’ve never come accross the term sprint look up agile development or check out this post from I will teach you a language – how to get sh*t done.

In this sprint I want to focus more on language exchange to practice the Arabic I have already learnt. I have a lot of phrases, words and grammar but haven’t had the chance to use it.
I have been looking into what other people do in their language exchange sessions and noticed they use subjects as opposed to just random chatter. This mission I will pick a few subjects and learn how to talk about them and practice.
A great example of this is my Mum, she could talk for hours in Arabic about food or shopping but would be stuck for words talking about a subject not relevant to her interests.

The subjects I am picking to learn to talk about are:

1. Hobbies
Ask about a person’s hobbies
Talk about my own – watching football, doing Brazilian jiu jitsu, learning arabic
Going to watch Manchester city at the stadium
Watching UFC
how many years I have been doing a hobby
Why I enjoy doing the hobby
What grade I am in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

2. Television
The programs I watch every week
The genres
My favourite actors
A basic story line of a film (pulp fiction)

3. What I did last weekend
What I did
Where I went
What food I made
Who with
Did I enjoy it?

4. Plans for the weekend
What I will do
Where I will go
Who will I go with

5. Work
Ask how a person’s work is going
Talk about my own day at work

I’m aiming for the following amount of hours:

  • 5 hours language exchange – this might be a little high as I struggle to get free time at home due to my wife being heavily pregnant and having a very active toddler. I’m going to see if I can get people to language exchange at lunch times or in the morning
  • 4 hours studying from the killmani shway book
  • Daily practice in my car using Michel Thomas
  • Daily immersion of Arabic music
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Mission One – Complete

In this mission I aimed for 4 hours study, 4 hours language exchange, daily Arabic immersion and to find out how to say certain phrases.
During thes two weeks I have had a few set backs which included four days of staying at my Parents to see my nephew and niece before they go back to Saudi. The following weekend I had to drive to Newcastle for a wedding and now my brother is staying with me a few days until he flys back to Saudi.
Despite all these set backs I still managed to get a lot of Arabic studying and practicing done. It’s also been a huge relief not studying for GCSE Arabic.

I did 5 hours of study from the killmani book. Most of that was done during my lunch breaks.

Me in language exchange using the Skype app. Its such a cool app!
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I found it difficult to get started with language exchange as it was Ramadan and few people were available in the evening. However, I managed to do 2 hours of Language exchange. Thirty minutes of that included speaking to my family in Jordan wishing them a happy Eid and catching up.

For language immersion I listened to Arabic music everyday in work for 15-30 minutes, sometimes longer as I enjoyed the music. One album I really liked was “Dabke Party” by Fares Karam.

During my drives to and from work I listened to Michel Thomas Arabic Advanced as I needed a recap over some vocabulary.

Overall I’m feeling good with my first language mission. Having this site is pushing me to learn and study as I had a deadline and objectives. My next mission will be coming soon.

Mission One

Start date 14/07/2014
End date 28/07/2014

Benny Lewis recommends that a language learner should create mini missions as opposed to one big goal such as “be fluent one day”. Benny has a great article explaining this here. The missions will be two week missions. If it’s a month I can slack off! The mission will start on the 14th of July as I am away for a week on holiday next week.

1. Learn an introductory script:

I know some of these already but it’s good to create an introductory script.

My name is
I am 31 years old
I am from Manchester
I work as a software developer in Manchester
My mum is English, My Dad is Palestinian
My family live in Jordan
I am married
My wife’s name is..
I have one daughter..her name is..her age is..
My wife is pregnant…X amount of weeks

Could you repeat that please?
Could you speak slower please?

what do you do for a living?
Are you married?
Do you have any children?

2. Dive in the deep end for language exchange – I need to get over my shyness and jump in the deep end and converse with native speakers. In the past I have done this but it has been on a small scale. Now this needs to be the priority! Infact in this mission the target is a total of 4 hours. Of course I can’t talk for for hours continuously but a total of four hours would be great to achieve over the two week period.

3. Learn the following to say to my Aunts in Jordan:

I miss you
My wife is getting very big
She is X amount of weeks pregnant
My daughter is very good, she is very cute, funny, active and growing very fast, she is always hungry
I am looking forward to having another child

4. Start learning the book I have ordered – Here it is: Kallimini ‘Arabi Bishweesh as recommended on the Mezzofani Guild site. I aim to put in 4 hours of study.

5. 15 -20 minutes a day of immersion – this can be tv or music

So in total 4 hours study, and 4 hours conversing with native speakers online in total

Now the course is finished – what do I do now?

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As I mentioned in one of my previous posts I had done a GCSE Arabic course at the Manchester College. The course is over now and it’s time to move on in my Arabic learning journey.

Aftet doing the GCSE course I have decided that courses are not for me. I have found that courses don’t tailor to the students needs. They consist of complex grammar rules and lists and lists of words. Language courses try to teach in the same way as Mathematics or History. I don’t believe this is the most effective way to learn a language. Courses also take the fun out of learning a language as they are regimented and you have to study for an exam at the end. They also cost a lot of money!

Thankfully Benny Lewis has released a book Fluent in three months. Benny’s book is highly motivating and states clear what I need to do. I need to find native speakers and practice with them. Its as simple as that. This method is the answer as opposed to doing painful expensive courses. Benny has used his learning method to gain fluency in a number of languages. So if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

I have also been doing a lot of reading around online for people who have learnt Arabic successfully. The best one I have found is Mezzofanti Guild. I felt like I struck gold when I found this site as it is the only good site that helps with learning an Arabic dialect instead of MSA. The site has lots of great links and resources for learning Arabic. I have also been told by the person who runs it that there is going to be lots of new Arabic learning resources coming soon. I have already ordered one of the recommended books.

So where now?
No more courses. The only way to learn Arabic is for me to practice with native speakers. I need to get over my shyness and simply practice with native speakers. It is as simple as that. Benny has a great article about getting over this shyness and also mentions it in his book. All successful language learners have said that in order to be successful you need to practice with native speakers.
In the past I have used iTalki to practice with Native speakers but didn’t put too much dedication into it as I have found it very daunting.
I will be formulating mini language missions that I will be posting on this site along with if they were successful or not.
I will also be supplementing my learning with grammar from books as I find this helpful and enjoyable.

Here are the links I have mentioned:

Benny Lewis – Fluent in 3 months book

Mini-goals are the path to achieving fluency — Fluent in 3 months – Language Hacking and Travel Tips

Benny Lewis on getting over shyness

MezzoGuild – Learning Levantine or Iraqi Arabic? These Are The Books You Need

MezzoGuild – Learning Arabic? Here Are 5 Books That I Highly Recommend You Own

GCSE Arabic course – Review

My last post was quiet sometime ago when I enrolled on a GCSE Arabic course at the Manchester college. I was so busy I didn’t have the time to update this blog. Well the course is now finished and here are my thoughts.

The course ran from last September until June this year which consisted of weekly three hour classes every Tuesday. The course cost just over £300 and had four exams: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Overall I feel the course did not meet my expectations. In fact I was looking forward to the course ending at around the half way point. The course was so bad that I hated doing any of the work and revising for the exams. I also hated doing any Arabic for some time due to the stress of the course. I have outlined why the course was so bad below:

1. Lack of teaching – The so called teacher of the course did not seem to teach us anything. Each class consisted of her providing us with print outs with many words on or complex grammar rules. We would have to read the words out loud taking turns whilst she wrote the words out on a board. One student told me at the end of the course “I don’t think she’s taught me anything”. On the final exam we all agreed that teaching was not for her and we would never do a course she was in charge of.
The teacher was not patient with students and just expected students know and remember everything straight away. For example, in many classes she would give us a list of words then we were told to put the sheet away and recite as many words and sentences we could remember. If you could not remember a whole tonne of words you would be made to feel like an idiot.

The teacher also had no interest in us learning Arabic. All she cared about was us passing an exam. For example, the speaking examination consisted of a pre-prepared description of a picture of our choice. Each student prepared their description each week and showed the teacher. As none of us were fluent in Arabic we all struggled with grammar and building complex sentences. Each student was required to re-write their description using sentences she had constructed. We were all using words we had never heard of. I would love to be able to construct sentences that she was writing myself by being taught to. But instead we were all being told exactly what to say without explanation to pass the exam.

Most of my learning, if not all was done by reading books as one other student told me the teacher is just making photocopies out of Mastering Arabic part two. The book was better at explaining grammar and had fun exercises that were more interesting than the classes.

2. Dull classes with no engagement – As mentioned the classes were three hours long. They dragged on as the teacher made the lessons extremely boring. Instead of listening to the teacher show us words and grammar it would have been great to interact with other students using the language.
Each class felt like the teacher was trying to cram as many words in our heads as possible. Like I said, she didn’t care if we could speak Arabic or not.
I don’t think the classes needed to be three hours long. I honestly believe that she made them that long to earn extra money.

3. MSA only! – As mentioned, the Arabic I have learnt has a Palestinian dialect. Each time I said a word that used the dialect the teacher would go crazy at me telling me how wrong it is. There was another student who was fluent in Arabic with a Palestinian accent and would suffer the wrath of the teacher on a weekly basis.
Now I understand that MSA is what is being taught in the course but surely telling students not to use dialects they know and have studied can’t be right.

4. Grammar charts and photocopies – Each student was given sheets of charts showing the complex grammar of Arabic. The charts looked as if they were suited to teaching maths as opposed to Arabic. The teacher expected us to learn the complex grammar rules using these charts without fail. Trying to learn the rules felt like I was having my teeth pulled out. I wasn’t fun at all!
As for the words, it would be a case of here’s a list of words now go and learn them and you should know them all off by heart!
I would use tools like Anki which are fantastic but there’s only so much my tiny brain can absorb in a short time.

5. The exams – this was the worst part of the course. I hated every exam no matter how hard I studied. Each exam was a struggle as the teacher was such a bad teacher. The revision for the speaking exam felt like extreme agony as I was forcing myself to memorise a whole sheet of Arabic written by the teacher. This was the case for all the exams as she was such a bad teacher.
The exams don’t reflect anything from the course apart from how poor the teaching was.

Conclusion

Overall I am angry about how the course was taught and the end result. I feel the teacher was a complete failure to the course. She is a terrible teacher and should not be teaching.
Although there are many bad points to this course I am glad that I did it. Growing up in North West England there was no option for doing a GCSE in Arabic. Since I was a little boy I have always wanted that chance to do the course. Now I have done it I feel happy I got the chance to do it.
Another positive to take away from this was the push for me to study. Although the teaching was poor and the classes were extremely dull having signed up to a course forced me to study. I would study at 7am before work, at lunch times and on weekends.

Due to all this self study my Arabic skills have greatly improved. I can now write text messages to my family in Jordan, have better reading skills, can write better, have a better understanding of grammar and have a better overall understanding of Arabic.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this course due to all the negative points I have raised.