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

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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.