We met with Kai, a PG Arabic alumni from the UK & Japan who has recently completed an MSc in Advanced Arabic at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department, University of Edinburgh. In an interview with Kai, we asked the following questions:
Tell us about yourself
My name is Kai Kamei and I’m half English/Japanese. I’ve obtained a BA Arabic and Politics from SOAS (2011-2015) followed by MA Advanced Arabic from the University of Edinburgh (2016-2017). Currently, I’m working at Ground Truth Solutions, which is an NGO in Vienna, Austria.
How long have you been studying Arabic? What is your current level?
I’ve been studying Arabic since 2010 when I completed a language course in Damascus, Syria and I’m reached an advanced level.
What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture? What & who inspired you? What were your motivations?
I was interested in Middle Eastern politics, literature and culture and I decided that learning the language would give me a better understanding of these fields. I initially began with an Aamiyah (speaking) language course in Damascus which focused exclusively on learning through speaking the living language. Living with a host family during the course also triggered my enthusiasm for the living form of Arabic. I subsequently enrolled in the BA Arabic and Politics course at SOAS which also had a strong focus on being able to engage in Arabic in a natural and practical way.
Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?
Being able to function in a language which you started from scratch is extremely satisfying, and does make all the hard work feel worth it. A particular highlight has been conducting telephone interviews with refugee women in Vienna which otherwise would not have been conducted as there were no other female Arabic speakers available. It definitely made all the role plays and conversation practise classes worth it!
What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic? What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?
To become an excellent student of Arabic, I would say that remembering why you chose to learn the language is a great way to stay motivated. If you’re interested in Arabic literature, then join a Arabic book club. If you want to be able to communicate, then get a language buddy. The point is that remembering why you are learning the language will keep you make all the complex grammar rules and extensive vocabulary a little easier to digest.