We met with Afshin Shahi, a PG Arabic alumni from Iran who has completed an MSc in Arab World Studies at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department, University of Edinburgh. In an interview with Afshin, we asked the following questions:
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Afshin Shahi, I am a senior lecturer in Middle East Politics at Bradford University, I am also associate editor of the British Journal of Middle East Studies.
How long have you been studying Arabic? What is your current level?
I lived in Iran until I was 16 years old. Arabic was a mandatory subject during the secondary school. Although I studied Arabic for a few years, I hardly could speak it. Fortunately, in 2008 I started studying Arabic again. I was very lucky to receive funding from CASAW which enabled me to study intensive Arabic for 9 months at Edinburgh University. CASAW offered an excellent teaching programme which followed by a few months of studying Arabic in Cairo. I was very lucky with all my Arabic teachers.
What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture? What & who inspired you? What were your motivations?
I always liked Arabic language and given my academic interest in the Arab world, I was motivated to learn Arabic.
Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?
Learning Arabic was not easy, I did find the Arabic grammar particularly difficult, but after a while it becomes a lot easier. Once you start expressing yourself in Arabic it becomes very enjoyable and motivating.
What careers are you planning to pursue (or have embarked on) using your Arabic language skills?
I try to use my limited Arabic following social media in the Arab world, I also try to use Arabic sources for my work from time to time.
What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic? What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?
You need to be patient with Arabic, it might be hard at the beginning, but it is a very good language to learn. I would also recommend finding friends who are native speakers so you can practice your expressive skills. Don’t jump from one dialect to another, find a dialect that you really like and then try to master it