We met with Valeria Calderaro Papa, a language teacher from Italy. Valeria, studied Arabic at University of Catania, the University of Edinburgh. In an interview with Valeria, we asked her the following questions:

Tell us about yourself

I’m Valeria Calderaro Papa, I am Italian but I have been living in Scotland for the past 6 years and I consider Edinburgh my home. I moved here after graduating at the University of Catania where I have studied Languages and Cultures, specializing in English, Spanish and Arabic. I chose Edinburgh because of the MSc in Middle Eastern Studies with Arabic which I begun in 2016 and I finished in 2018. After completing the master I started some courses for teaching Arabic and English as foreign languages.

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

My adventure with Arabic started in 2011 when I started the undergrad in Italy. Over there the course focused only on MSA with a little integration of the dialects. It was in Edinburgh and especially during my summer abroad in Egypt, when I started to become fluent in speaking and being able to swap between MSA and Colloquial Arabic. I fell in love with Egypt and the Egyptian Arabic.

What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture?  What & who inspired you?  What were your motivations?

I have always had a huge passion for languages and my passion for Arabic was not expected at all. I once saw a former high school teacher of mine writing down the Arabic alphabet and I thought it looked cool and I wanted to learn that as well. When I begun the journey, I had no idea I would fall in love with the language! There are so many similarities with the dialect I speak back at home (Sicilian) and it feels I was always meant to study this beautiful language!

Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

Arabic is not an easy language at all! So of course I had some ups and downs, it was not always easy, especially studying it through English which is not my native language either! But my motto is مفيش مستحيل, nothing is impossible if you REALLY want to achieve it.

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

I have been teaching Arabic for a couple of years and I want to keep doing so. I want to show the world how powerful and beautiful this language is and hopefully I will manage to pass my love on to as many people as possible.

What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic? What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?

Perseverance is the key. Constant study because it ease to learn in a fast way but it is even easier to let it go with lack of practice. Also, we are pretty lucky nowadays because we have internet which offers so many resources to learn or keep practicing in a fun way!

What’s your favourite Arabic word?

I think حرية because of the meaning. Somehow it represent who I am.

What is your least favourite Arabic word? Why?

I cannot think of one.

Who’s your most inspiring Arab personality?

With no doubt: Dr. Nawal Al Saadawi. She is great for what she wrote and lived and did and for pursuing her ideas no matter what and where.

What is your favourite place in the Arab World?

So far is Egypt. It is a beautiful country and I would never have enough of it.

What is your favourite Arabic quote?

الخوف لا يمنع من الموت ولكنه يمنع من الحياة by Naguib Mahfouz


If you have studied Arabic before (no matter how little), we would love to hear from you. To share your story, please  go to SUBMIT .To find out more about the MyJourneytoArabic initiative, go to ABOUT


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