What is it like to learn Arabic via immersion?
Learning Arabic is a lot of fun. With the current political situation, being able to speak Arabic right now can be particularly rewarding.
We hear a lot of news about what is going on in Egypt, Syria and other Arab-spring countries. But this news is told to us by the West using western journalists. What do Syrians and Egyptians think? What is the news they are told? Do they know what we know or is their information different to ours? What is their perspective?
If you can read and speak Arabic, the answers to these questions are at your fingertips.
So how to learn Arabic?
The best way to learn Arabic is to immerse yourself in it. If you are travelling to an Arabic-speaking country, try to spend some time with the locals and away from other English speakers. Learning a language is all about practice. Practice is the best way to learn vocabulary, recognise and use grammar and structures, and to convert your textbook knowledge into actually being able to speak the language.
If you aren’t in an Arabic-speaking country, the practice principle still applies. Join an immersion class so you have time every week where you are completely immersed in and are only speaking in- and listening to Arabic. Outside of class listen to music, watch movies and get a language exchange partner. Once your Arabic is more advanced you can read books (starting with children’s books). These activities should be fun and enjoyable – and more effective than learning vocabulary and reading textbooks. Learning vocabulary and using your textbook are of course excellent things to do, but if you are struggling for motivation, start with the no-pain options first.
Learning Arabic should be fun. In order to keep your motivation, you need to feel you are progressing. Immersion classes progress faster than English-based classes, because you are exposed to 80 minutes plus of Arabic per 1.5 hour class, as opposed to around 20 minutes in an English-based class.
Arabic is more difficult to learn than a European language because it has a different script to what we are used to. However you can still make excellent progress in Arabic, and achieve your goals of reading, writing and speaking Arabic fluently.