The Arabic Student العربي طا لب

Hello All, or shall I say ” اهلا و سهلا ابا شيريز” 010Most of my teen years growing up was foster in Humboldt Park, a diverse Hispanic community on the north side of Chicago.  I attended several elementary schools and later graduated from Roberto Clemente Community Academy, a school respectfully renamed after a true pioneer and leader in the Puerto Rico community.  I was fortunate to have the chance to embrace the culture, attend many festivals, sample great dishes at the local restaurants and even tried to learn Spanish so that I can communicate with my Hispanic classmates.  At that time, the thought of being bilingual was all fun and games.  I loved being able to say short phrases and curse words in Spanish, however I lack the motivation to learn it seriously. So like a goal without a plan, it became a wish and my  hope to one day be bilingual disappeared, temporally. As years past and I began to branch outside of my comfort zone, I’ve learned of the career benefits of speaking Spanish in college and it was then I realized that I had robbed myself of a golden opportunity to learn Spanish early on.  017I started to noticed everywhere I looked, a context presented in some form of a language being Spanish, Polish, Urdu or Mandarin, the world had truly gone global.  I  still never lost the desire to be bilingual, it was on my to do list before I turned 50, but I will wrestle with reason.  Up until 3 years ago, I had never plan to leave the U.S., I had a good job,  so what’s the point of learning a new language now?  Besides 95% of my friends spoke English and many members in the African-American community couldn’t be bother with the task no matter what rewards they may reap in the end.  Why? well many have their reasons, for some it’s the ignorance to global opportunities, lack of resources,the time to put in and study, support from friends and family, motivation, fear and patience!!

001My first attempt at Spanish was very scary.  Although I hired a great tutor, her accent was thick and hard to understand at times.  Just learning to pronounce some terms were weird and because I chose not to put forth 110%, never studied and really felt awkward after every session.  I could tell my tutor was very passionate about her work, she had mentor in the community for years and I felt liked I had wasted her time.  Just graduating from college, I was a young adult very eager, but quickly cracked under pressure due to my lack of progress and laziness.  I dreaded calling my tutor to confirm our meets, in my heart I felt liked the world’s worst student.  Instead, I just stopped going to sessions and avoided her messages, til this day I still felt bad about giving up so easy.  Ironically since that time, I’ve become a teacher myself and one of my biggest pet peeves are when my students are absent.  I even hate when they come late and parents don’t have a good explanation its torture.

011I recently experienced my second attempt at learning another language here in Dubai, where I decided to give French a try.  I’m learning that being bilingual in the international community is very necessary for career advancement, especially for high paying positions in all fields.  So why French?  It’s a universal language spoken all across the globe, the institute had a great reputation, my neighbor tutored part-time and it’s one very sexy language.  I decided to complete an accelerated course offered on the weekends, that last three and a half hours, a decision that I later learned was a big mistake.  The instructor took a more immersion style approach to teaching the course, which killed my learning self-esteem from the very start.  I was not allowed to speak English in the class, until after it was over and he seemed impatient when you struggled to learn the new terms.  The vibe in the classroom was not warm, I didn’t feel comfortable which totally clouded my desire to stay focus.  As I matured being a life-long student, I realized that in order for me to retain information it takes interactive learning.  This situation was quite different from the time I tried Spanish.  Here I was in a class of 12 individuals with me being the only American and monolingual, it was very intimidating.  I struggled with the grammar, lost interest with the instructor, who talked for more than two hours and I again began to chip away at my motivation to speak it.  Although I studied, I couldn’t practice speaking it daily to anyone accept my neighbor taught it.  I had manage to attend 5 out of 7 sessions and completed the course, learning very little or nothing at all.

023At this point, the average person may have given up, but not me. For some reason, I believed that I was capable of doing this. A good friend of mine questioned my psych (ha! ha!) and wanted to know why don’t I just study the language for which I’m currently immerse in now, which is the most culturally language spoken today, Arabic.  A language currently in demand, has a rich history and is very difficult to learn.  It ranks among the top 5 most challenging languages to speak and now I’m being encourage to give it a try, why not?.  This time I decided to do a bit more research about the institute I had chosen to attend, the instructor, reviewed the syllabus and looked through the textbooks.  After touring the campus and observing the positives vibes from the students in the yard, I register for my first course in Arabic.  I again started off at a beginners level, but this time it was different, to say that my instructor was amazing would be an understatement.  She was MAGNIFICENT!!.  She was patient, intelligent, outgoing and witty.  She made my learning experience fun.  I was able to leave the class practically remembering everything taught, as if it engraved in my memory.  I even scared myself, when I began to write and join Arabic scripts and was able to decode what I wrote.  I guess my biggest fear of all was being able to recite basic Arabic words aloud and making mistakes.  My instructor informed us one of the greatest fear of learning another language was getting comfortable with failure it will take a while to master any challenge.


I recently attended a workshop on Dyslexia, where I learned that it takes the average primary student 3 years to master the Dolce Sight List, 3 years!!  She even challenge the crowd on the usage of the word “bat”, which could be used in several forms when constructing a sentence.  With all this said, I have decided to take the primary student approach to learning Arabic.  I made sure I attended each session and successfully completed the course with a high “B” average.  I enrolled in the next class, which I found moved too fast, so I decided to find myself a tutor.  I changed my schedule to meet my sessions and are now practicing and studying everyday.  With the benefit of living in an Arab country, I can now develop my spelling by reading everything in Arabic script.  My colleagues in the Arabic department were amazed and happy that someone from the U.S. has taken an interest in their language, they challenge me every chance they get.  I have fallen in love with this language so much, that I have already envisioned my future being able to speak fluently to my students and friends.005

I’ve achieved one of my greatest goal of reading a 1st grade Arabic picture book on fruits and colors. (Excuse me for a second while I jump and down!!)  So despite having to give this language thing one more try, I am now comfortable with my level and ability of learning a foreign language, الحمدللةاباحيد.

“Give me 3 days and I will give you Lebanon!”

I decided to take a trip to Lebanon and experience the beautiful City of Beirut.  Beirut is the most populated city in the country, with an estimated population of 1.5 million.   As my plane flew above the snow capped mountains, I got excited about the adventure that had await me.  So eager perhaps, I couldn’t resist taking photos from up above.  166 172 164 I’ve learned many great things about this country from my Lebanese colleagues and friends who had vacationed here over the past year.  Luckily to have a weekend free, I wasted no time packing away my camera, notebook , a bag and I set off to explore.  My first stop was the astounding Beirut National Museum. 046 045 041 035 025  I was able to view over 1300 artifacts including ancient Phoenician objects.  Who are the Phoenicians?  A group of semantic people living on the Mediterranean coast in modern Lebanon.  They were excellent sailors who traded all over the Mediterranean, including to Greece.  The Phoenicians are also the inventors of the alphabet, which was knowledge they passed on to the rest of the world.032  I visited the Corniche and the famous natural off shore, the Pigeon Rock arches.057 056 059 051 I captured a nice picture under the country’s symbol, the Cedar Tree.148  Next, I visited downtown Beirut, where I was very impressed by the restoration of old french colonial office buildings, tailored brick roads and one of the largest Rolex watches I’ve ever seen.  It was interesting to stand in the middle of the road and watch the children play and students hang out in the cafes.  There were families going off to pray at the mosques and shoppers who crowded the boutiques to find the best deals.   117 114 108 100 097 098 087 086 083As I explored more of Beirut, I learned that bits and pieces of the country’s history still lay beneath the restored and modernize structures.  Although Lebanon is a Muslim country, it was heavily colonized by the French, so the locals spoke both Arabic and French, how impressive!  Street signs, posters and menus were translated in both languages as well.  My first night in Lebanon concluded with a delightful stroll through the Hamra area, not far from my hotel.488  This area is popular amongst tourists for it’s many choices of restaurants, hotels and bars.  I decided to let my ears follow the music and found Beirut’s nightlife to be quite pleasant.  The next day, I toured the archaeological site, Anjar, a town located in the Bekaa Valley.  This historical site was filled with ruins of the Umayyed palace and is recognized as a World Heritage Site. 210 206  I had such a great experience wine tasting at the Ksara Winery, that I decided to bring a few treats back with me! 260 Then on to Baalbeck, the “Sun City” of the ancient world, where I stood among the Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians ruins in the Middle East. 294 287 290 286 292 On my final voyage, I toured Jeita Grotto, a place so delicate in its true natural design, that tourists where not allow to take pictures inside.  Afterwards, I ascended 700 meters by cable car to Harissa, to explore “The Lady of Lebanon” statue.  While up top, I was able to capture a fantastic shot of the Mediterranean coastline. 362 360 365 As I board my bus to head back to the airport, I slowly reminisce on some of the best  food ever prepared and cool places I visited as  my Lebanese voyage come to an end. 402 I can now add this unit to my Middle Eastern travels, while I look forward to many happy returns.