Egyptian Arabic Week 1 Summary

olly berlinSo here I am, at the end of my first week of learning Arabic.

To say that it went by quickly would be an understatement!

My first thoughts are that I wasted the week. It’s funny how we have a tendency to focus on the negatives when it comes to our own accomplishments!

Instead, I’m going to focus on the positives.

Here’s what I did this week:

  • Learnt some phrases in Arabic, made them into a short self-introduction, and recorded it (video below).
  • Used an online Egyptian Arabic dictionary to generate a list of vocabulary about myself (video below).
  • Started my first flashcard deck by copying a selection of words and phrases across and starting to learn them (video below).
  • Wrote out an extended introduction on iTalki using this new vocabulary and had it (extensively) corrected.
  • Arranged a 30-minute speaking session with a native speaker on day 5 (but teacher didn’t turn up!)
  • Listened to Pimsleur Egyptian Arabic 1-4 in the car everyday.

Tools used

Video 1

Speaking on day 1

Video 2

Preparing a self-introduction and getting it corrected

Summary of the week

The entire aim of this week, as I outlined here, was to make a start learning Arabic and have a first conversation with a native speaker.

I certainly made a start, and I would have had a conversation with a native speaker on day 5… if they had turned up! 🙂

Anyway, I was able to practise a few phrases with some colleagues in the office, so I still got to speak a bit!

So, mission accomplished – I learn a few bits and pieces and spoke Arabic! 🙂

Getting started is something that lots of people procrastinate over, so the fact that I’ve taken action and done something is good. Now’s the time to put this week behind me and look at how to improve things for next week.

What did I learn?

I’ve been looking up words and phrases in Arabic and exporting them to flashcards, as shown in video 2 above.

I’m finding it very difficult to learn this vocabulary. The reason? Well, it’s a new language. My brain’s adjusting. That’s OK.

But there’s another issue. Everything is out of context at this stage – I’m essentially trying to learn things that I’ve plucked out of the dictionary.

Now, I don’t think this is too big a problem, because after all, it’s only week 1. But, it’s probably the biggest thing on my mind at this stage – I’ve not really seen or heard any language in context, making it all very piecemeal.

So picking out vocabulary from various websites and trying to learn them with flashcards has been a little unproductive.

The Pimsleur course, however, has been really useful. I won’t get into the details of Pimsleur yet (I’ll write a full review later), but suffice it to say that it’s essentially a phrasebook approach (entirely in audio) that teaches you useful phrases with a lot of repitition.

Although you don’t cover a great deal of different material with Pimsleur (this will probably end up being its main disadvantage), the stuff that you do cover is well-chosen, useful and effective.

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Arabic Grammar

I can already see from learning a few phrases that Arabic grammar is really complicated! (I already knew that, to be honest, but this has just confirmed it!)

My reaction to this is that is two-fold:

  1. I’m not going to worry too much about studying the grammar and certainly not about making mistakes
  2. It’s essential that I stop this piecemeal approach to learning and start to see as much language in context as possible. (At this level, that equals short texts and dialogues.) The reason? Even if the grammar doesn’t make sense to me, the context will tell the story and my brain will start to make sense of it behind the scenes.

If the grammar is proving to be hard, just keep everything in context, carry on, and you’ll be fine. [TWEET]

Lack of foundation

So, overall, what I’m feeling right now is a big lack of foundation.

There’s too much I don’t know – no, too much I simply don’t have a clue about – at this stage, and so it’s time to hit the books.

I need to follow a structured beginner’s course of some kind in order to cover the basics. I don’t have one, but I’ll have to track one down.

The main benefits of this will be:

  1. to give me some context for learning – dialogues are memorable
  2. to allow me to start learning vocabulary that’s taken from that context, rather than isolated words.

The plan

The plan for the coming week is:

  • start working with a textbook of some kind in order to start getting regular input and exposure to language in context
  • continue with vocabulary SRS flashcards
  • have 2-3 sessions with a native speaker (and hope they turn up)
  • continue with Pimsleur Egyptian Arabic whilst driving (there are at least 20-30 minutes of useable time per day spent in the car)

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Summary of the week

So, to summarise everything above, two important things have happened this week:

  • I got started!
  • I had a few “sort of conversations” with native speakers

In that sense, not bad for week 1!

Linguistically, I feel that my learning has been limited to “phrasebook Arabic”, and I feel uncomfortable with such a shaky foundation.

To balance this out, I’m going to start working with a textbook to develop a more rounded knowledge of Egyptian Arabic.

So, what do you think? What would you have done differently in your first week? Like this post on Facebook, and then leave me a comment below! 

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