Tell us about yourself (name, origins, current degree/studies, academic background, university & graduation year, etc.)
My name is Marc Owen Jones. My father is originally from South Wales, and my mother from Derbyshire. I was born in London but moved to Saudi Arabia when I was very young due to my dad’s work. From there I moved to Bahrain where I spent much of my formative schooling. I then did a BA in Journalism at Cardiff. Following my graduation in 2006 I undertook a CELTA, and worked as an English teacher in Sudan for a year in 2007. After that I did a Masters in Arab World Studies at Edinburgh/Durham, and then a PhD at Durham University. I finished my PhD in 2016!
How long have you been studying Arabic? What is your current level?
I have been studying properly since 2007, when I began teaching myself. Technically speaking I am advanced, although sometimes I feel I have no idea what’s going on 🙂
What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture? What & who inspired you? What were your motivations?
My motivation was not being allowed to learn Arabic while growing up in Bahrain, but really wanting to. This was school policy, and a common practise in the Gulf until recently. Wanting to learn Arabic shaped my decision to go to Sudan, and also informed my decision to study Arabic at Masters level. I was also fortunate that when I was working in Sudan the amazing CASAW program was advertised. The program really was an excellent way to get competent in Arabic. I also felt because I had grown up in the Middle East, it was very much part of my identity. My social life was very international, but influenced heavily by Arab friends and family. Thus my need to learn Arabic felt very fundamental.
Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?
I think the most difficult point was doing an advanced class in Damascus. At one point I felt the teacher did not really have any expectations of what was an appropriate amount of work , or much knowledge of pedagogy. In one three hour class he narrated an overview of all Arabic grammar in one go. If you have good teachers as I did in Edinburgh then your expectations change, so be prepared to be shocked!..Also real development can come when you’re immersed, and that can be a tiring but rewarding experience. It’s good to stick with it, as the rewards are obvious.
What careers are you planning to pursue using your Arabic language skills? I work as a Lecturer in the History of the Gulf at Exeter University
I work as a Lecturer in the History of the Gulf at Exeter University
What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic?
Perseverance, hard work, and a willingness to be wrong.
What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?
Don’t be intimidated! It will seem so alien initially but before you know it you’ll be amazed that you’ve learned a whole new script.