Some great resources from Donovan Nagel

I’ve been a fan of talk in Arabic and Donovan Nagel. Here is a great link with some great resources for learning Arabic with different dialects. 


Where have I been? Again….

As John Lennon once said “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans“. Well…alot of stuff has happened that has not really derailed me but put my Arabic studies to the bottom of the pile. My last challenge was to have many language exchange sessions which started off well then priorities changed.

Since then I have left a job, learnt a new technology, joined a new company then left that company and joined a new one…oh and also had the wife and three kids and doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu every week and playing a little bass in there aswell.

Anyway, things have calmed down and I am looking to get back in the swing of things as I am planning a trip to Jordan to see my family in the coming months. This is a huge incentive for me to get my arse in gear!  From now until then I’ll be getting my shit together and working hard back on my Arabic studies. šŸ˜€

My next challenge – 50 language exchange sessionsĀ 

I have completed Pimsleur Eastern Arabic beginner, intermediate and advanced. I have created a flash card deck of thousands of cards. I have put hours and hours of time into studying arabic but there is just one problem, I’m not practicing speaking Arabic enough! 

What use is it me learning all this vocabulary without actually speaking?  Benny Lewis, my all time language hero says you should speak from day one. Yes, I have been having language exchange sessions, but not very many. It has been on and off and inconsistent. Sometimes I do a session a week with many weeks doing none in between. This is not good enough. This is an honest assessment. 

My end goal is to be reach fluency, I can’t do this without having regular practice. So, as I have completed the pimsleur courses it’s time to set a new challenge to up my game.

From August until the end of 2016 I will have 50 language exchange sessions. That is 5 months and will mean I am practicing all the vocabulary I have learn from Pimsleur and other sources. Of course I will be reviewing my flash card decks to keep learning but the end goal is practice speaking more and more. Of course speaking with natives means listening to natives. This will also be very beneficial. 

So there you have it, my next challenge. It’s time to put the work in.

How to waste time

I’ve been learning Arabic for a while now and alot of that time has been trying different methods and sad to say a waste of time. 

Here’s the biggest ways to waste your time learning a language :

  1. Attend a course – pay lots of money for some one who calls themselves a teacher 
  2. Invest a lot of time in making a huge set of flash cards that contain “high frequency” words in the hope that you will be able to memorise everything. I love flash cards but using a high frequency list is a waste of time. If you try and learn random words they won’t stick in your memory. If you take a set of words which are linked to sentences you will have more success. 
  3. Sit and watch programs in your target language – I think this is useful in small amounts but spending an hour or so just watching a program does nothing for me. Maybe once I’m 100% fluent it will help but for now it’s a waste of time. 
  4. Learn modern standard arabic – I hate MSA. Every single arabic teacher tries to force you learn MSA. Nobody speaks it so why would you want to learn it? You might as well learn Latin if you want to learn English. I have been down this route and it is a complete waste of time. 
  5. Pay for language lessons – I think this is a complete waste of time and money. Why pay someone to read a list of words and grammar to you for an hour when you can get more content from an audio course that you can listen to over and over again.

Pimsleur Eastern Arabic – done

I have been away for a while but I have been very busy with life and my arabic studies. Since my last post I’ve had another child, that’s three now! In ten months I have finished all three pimsleur courses. Here are the stats:

10 months, 90 tracks, 45 hours, 3 courses 

I have also added courses one and two to my flash card decks. 

This is the best set of courses I have ever done. I highly recommend them to anyone wanting to learn the dialect of Bilad I sham (Palestine,Syria,Jordan,Lebanon). Since studying these courses my Arabic has improved greatly, even my relatives in Jordan have noticed how much better my Arabic is now. 

As I am usually very busy I have been able to complete these courses on the journeys to and from work. Each track is only thirty minutes long which breaks things up nicely. 

I highly recommend Pimsleur so check it out!!!

Why buying a course (Pimsleur, Michel Thomas) is better than getting a language teacher


I’ve been learning Arabic for a few years now and tried many different routes and methods. For quite a long time I would pay for Arabic lessons with a tutor from iTalki. I’ve tried a number of teachers and found they all do the same thing, teach modern standard Arabic. This is highly annoying as learning modern standard Arabic is completely pointless. Why learn a language nobody speaks?
Each teacher says the same thing “you will be able to understand Arabic from the news and TV”. Why would I want to understand Arabic from the news? None of my family speak modern standard Arabic, in my opinion it is a language about a language. You might aswell learn Latin instead of English.

Another waste of time from having a teacher is they are teaching you words and phrases. There are only so many words and phrases you can learn in an hour. I have found that having a course is much more beneficial as you can listen to the tracks as many times as you like. A course is also created by a reputable firm with a proven method, where as a teacher is using their own method. A course has hundreds of words and phrases structured in a proven method. Making a one off payment as opposed to making regular payments to a teacher is a much better option.

It is cheaper and better to have a course such as Pimsleur or Michel Thomas than have private lessons that accumulate to a hefty cost over time. Most of the teachers online are not proper teachers, they are native speakers who think they can teach Arabic.

I believe having the odd lesson occasionally with a good teacher whilst studying a course is the best option. This works best for me, which means it might not be the best option for everyone. Having a private lesson once in a while puts you in the right direction and can offer you guidance and corrections on your current vocabulary.

Yes the courses can be expensive but if you go to your local library or on eBay you will find them much cheaper. There’s always a second hand copy somewhere at a a cheaper price.

My system – what works best for me


Another happy day in work

After spending alot of time learning Arabic I have found one simple system that works for me. I have tried many systems and methods over the years but have now found the best one for me and my situation. I say this because I am married with three children, have a regular job, train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and do some studying for my job blah blah blah. Everyone is different so this may not work for everyone.


Arabic Spinach yummy

My language system:

1. Listen to the audio course – I have found the most success with the Michel Thomas and Pimsleur audio courses. All the other ones have not worked for me. By working through an audio course everyday to and from work this is better than sitting down looking through a book.

2. Add the course content to my flash cards – I can’t state enough times how much I love using Anki flash cards and the benefits.  The guys at Anki are awesome and Benny Lewis is too for introducing me to it. After finishing a course I listen to each track and add flash cards for each phrase or word. I will then review the flash cards on a daily basis. I usually do about 100 at a time, sometimes more. This works wonders for me and ensures the words stick in my head.

3. Immersion tracks – the Pimsleur course comes with a very useful small conversation at the start of each track. I use a tool to clip this conversation into mini tracks I use to listen to for immersion. This way I know what the content is as it relates to the Pimsleur content. It also greatly helps my listening skills. I can do this at work or driving in my car or whilst making dinner playing in the background.

4. Language exchange – we all know this one is essential. Benny Lewis recommends this from day one. I find that it’s best to accumulate vocabulary for a period then exchange with natives. There’s no point in just saying the same things over and over to the same person. So maybe speaking once a week is better than constantly speaking with the same vocabulary.
Having language exchange is the best currency but it’s best for me to first study then do language exchange sessions.

It’s that simple, all the other stuff I have tried does not work for me. This system is easy and works without disrupting any of the other stuff I have going on in my life.