Tell us about yourself

My name is Samantha and I’m currently a Masters student at the University of Edinburgh. I graduated in 2014 with my Bachelors of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and Near Eastern Language and Culture fron the University of Washington (Seattle) where I studied Arabic for two years. During that time I spent a summer studying in CIEE’ Intensive Arabic Program in Amman Jordan. I then went on to study Arabic with Middlebury Language Schools during the summer of 2018 & 2019.

Why Study Arabic? What made you decide to study Arabic? What & who inspired you?

My Arabic journey is not the typical story. I originally was an anthropology student,  which required me to study a language.  I had wanted to study Gaelic,  however my University didn’t offer it.  Spanish didn’t seem exciting, so I chose a language I knew nothing aboutArabic!  That first day was terrible,  I will never forget the sheer terror I felt discovering that Arabic is written from right to left.  I can honestly say that was the hardest class I have ever taken.  I listened to the alphabet 24/7! However the more Arabic I learned, the more I feel in love with the people and culture that Arabic opened to me. Long story short I changed my major, changed my life plans, my future. It was an easy decision though, and I don’t regret it at all. Because for me Arabic has always been about the relationships that I have discovered.  I now hope to become an Arabic interpreter, and continue to create new friendships.

How long have you been studying Arabic? What is your current level?

I started studying Arabic in 2012, but had taken time off studying after undergrad. I would consider myself to be at an intermediate level.

Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

I’ve had lots of ups and downs. I can remember the first week of Arabic, when I thought we had to remember the alphabet by the end of the week, I listened to a kids song 24/7 on YouTube trying to remember it. Arabic has never been easy for me and when I first started I had a hard time balancing my work load, I had to learn that I couldn’t stay up till 3am on Arabic every-night. You have to balance your studies and your personal life so that studying Arabic doesn’t become a chore, and you don’t get burnt out. However for every difficulty I’ve had, learning Arabic has been an amazing experience. I remember in my second year, I was walking to class, and I ran into a professor from my first year. She asked me how I was doing in Arabic, and without missing a beat, or even thinking about it I responded perfectly. I could see the surprise in her face at how quick and confident I was. It’s times like that, the small instances when I fell natural speaking Arabic that makes it all worth it.

What careers are you planning to pursue (or have embarked on) using your Arabic language skills?

I’m unsure of what the future will bring me, but I would perhaps like to work as an interpreter with refugees or the UN.

What is your favourite Arabic word? Why?

Surprise مفاجأة ! I don’t remember exactly why I learned this word, I think we needed it for a skit. However it quickly became my favorite word, because me friends and I would use it for everything. Okay students we’re studying grammar today, Suprise! Lunch tastes terrible today, Suprise! You failed the test, Suprise! Such a simple word but when you’re constantly stressed over tests, and getting ahead it’s little words like this that really help you stay positive, and have fun.

What is your least favourite Arabic word? Why?

My least favorite word is poetryالشعر, because I constantly mispronounce it as hairشعر, I avoid using either word at all cost!

Who’s your most inspiring Arab personality? Why?

I’m not sure who is my most inspiring Arab personality, but I really like Muhammad Munir. His music has really helped me not only with my listening comprehension, but is honestly just so relaxing to listen to.

What is your favourite place in the Arab World? Why?

My favorite place is Jordan. Kind of a general answer, but Jordan was the first country I visited, literally the first country in the world I visited outside the US. I was a young scared 18 year old, who discovered Arabic only months before. Jordan will always be a symbol of my journey, of my beginning, and I hope to visit the country again in the future

What is your favourite Arabic quote? (in Arabic & English if possible)

إنْ لَم تَفعَل ما تُحِب,فأنتَ تُضيع وَقتَك

If you aren’t doing what you love, you are wasting your time

What is your favourite Arabic book and why?

لم أغرد بعد ؛ نتف في العشق والشعر والشعر والذات

I found this book by chance, but I really enjoy it. It’s a book of tweets. I haven’t been able to read the whole thing, but I enjoy reading Arabic as it’s used by everyday speakers on social media.

What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic? What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic? (e.g. Studying Vocabulary, Grammar, Script, Spoken Arabic, Arabic Culture & Literature, etc…)

My biggest recommendation to any Arabic student is to have fun. I lived in a 24/7 Arabic environment, I didn’t hear,speak, or read English for two summers and what made that experience so fulfilling was the fun I had. You will learn more when you are enjoying it, improv a silly skit in Arabic and don’t worry if every word is perfect, learn a song and sing it in front of all your friends, look up funny Arabic memes online-i recommend Arabic Problems on tumblr, learn the word for surprise and yell it every chance you get. You will remember the vocabulary you use. Create a club and meet every week, I was in a TV show club and let me tell you I can discuss Grand Hotel for hours in Arabic. If you want the typical advice I’d say use quizlet, and read everyday. However if you want what really worked for me, buy the myndology notecards, they are on a ring and perfect for flipping through while walking. Instead of buying stickers for your keyboard, make your own. I put little sticky notes on my keyboard, it looked silly but making my own helped me remember them more than just buying stickers. Don’t just listen to music, listen to music you enjoy! I love the Sharmoofers, and Cairokee, I understand and remember more of their lyrics because I honestly love listening to them.Go the extra mile and live the language don’t just learn it. My Arabic is where it is now because I live it, I gossip with my friends, and look up my horoscope. Learning Arabic is an amazing experience, enjoy it!

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