We met with Emily Lewis, a Journalist from the UK. Emily is a UG Arabic alumni studying for Arabic and French at the University of Edinburgh. In an interview with Emily, we asked her the following questions:
Tell us about yourself
I’m Emily Lewis, I graduated from Edinburgh in 2018 with an undergrad MA in Arabic and French. Following graduation, I moved to Beirut to undertake an internship at a Lebanese national newspaper, which happily turned into a full-time job.
How long have you been studying Arabic? What is your current level?
I have been studying Arabic for four and a half years now, and I’d say my reading and understanding is pretty fluent. I’m learning a lot more dialect by living and working in Lebanon, but I still definitely have a way to go!
What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture? What & who inspired you? What were your motivations?
I really chose to study Arabic for the challenge. I’d studied European languages at school and had always enjoyed, but I thought it was time to take it to the next level. As I learned more of the language, I became more and more interested in the region’s politics, culture and history. Honestly, my classmates at Edinburgh were pretty inspiring- we were constantly encouraging each other and nerding out on new vocab. I also had some extraordinary teachers both in Edinburgh at when studying abroad in Amman, Jordan who increased passion for the language.
Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?
I think the biggest shock that came while learning Arabic was when I arrived in Amman and realized that Fusha (the formal, standard version of the language that we studied in our first two years) was basically useless when communicating with most ordinary Jordanians. It felt like we had to learn an entirely new language in order to communicate. But I actually now think that that’s what makes Arabic so amazing and interesting to learn, an adds to the challenge!
What careers are you planning to pursue (or have embarked on) using your Arabic language skills?
I count myself very lucky that I found a job straight out of uni where I use Arabic every day. My job as a journalist in Beirut means that I am translating local media reports and official statements on a daily basis and conducting interviews in Arabic.
What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic? What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?
If anyone is thinking about learning Arabic, all I’d say is don’t be intimidated and just dive in! It’s a really rewarding language and I think choosing to study it at university is one of the smartest decisions I’ve taken in my life. Also, the alphabet is the easiest bit, so don’t let that put you off.
What’s your favourite Arabic word?
الليلة – night. It’s simple but beautiful
What is your least favourite Arabic word? Why?
ضخ, meaning pump
Who’s your most inspiring Arab personality?
Emily Nasrallah, a Lebanese poet and author
What is your favourite place in the Arab World?
Baalbeck, East Lebanon
What is your favourite Arabic quote?
من دون الألم, لن نعرف السعادة “without pain, we’ll never know happiness”
What is your favourite book? Why?
نار في الجنوب, Fire in the South by PierreRoufayel. The book was given to me a by a good friend and tells the story of a village in south Lebanon when it was invaded by Israel. I love it because it interweaves history with a story of romance and familial love.