1. Identify what you need to prioritise
You may set yourself multiple goals for your stay abroad (especially if you’re going away for a long time). Make sure you categorise your goals into primary and secondary goals. This is so you know what to focus on the most. This will help you avoid feeling deflated for not achieving something that may not have been in your capacity anyway.
To help identify what should be prioritised is to recognise what is attainable on your year out, and not as easily achievable when you return home.
2. Learn all the common words and RECYCLE
Preparation is important if you want to make the most of your limited time away.You need words in order to make sentences in order to communicate. Learn the most common words (aim for about 100 words) and common grammar structures (past, present, future!). Broken Arabic is acceptable in the first few months.
Learn how to say ‘What’s this … in Arabic?’ (show them a google image if anything) and ‘How do I say —?’.The more you know, the more you can work with.
3. Do things, be active
It’s easy to fall into the routine of going to the language centre and coming home. Try to have one or two things that you do on the side. This could be volunteering with a charity, voluntary teaching (even if it’s teaching your native tongue, the aim here is to meet and get to know locals), going to extra curricular classes e.g. horse-riding, a martial art, pottery (see what’s available near you). Visit local universities and see what open events they have.
4. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes hold you back from speaking
Otherwise you won’t get far. As long as you’ve prepared and learnt words, you’re good to go.
5. When you’re not talking, read and listen
It’s very important to input as well as produce. Watching Arabic documentaries, programmes, children’s programmes and the news is very useful. You’ll notice this is what will increase your fluency and accuracy when it comes to speaking. Don’t expect your Arabic speaking abilities will increase exponentially until you have spent time listening to the language as well as time memorising words. Don’t worry about understanding everything, just enough to get the gist of what’s going on.Watch and read things that interest you, so you look forward to it. If nothing interests you, try and read/watch things regularly with a fellow Arabic student so at least you’re consistent.
Here’s a saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
6. Make efforts to learn the local lingo
Each Arab country in the Middle East has its own dialect – known as ‘Aamiyyah. It’s what is spoken in the streets. If you don’t really want to learn the dialect, at least just learn common words so you can get around easily.
7. Make friends who want to speak to you
Not all the friends you make in your chosen country are not necessarily your all-time friend who is suited to be your language partner. If you want to practice fusha, make sure your friend enjoys speaking fusha and can speak fusha. As it isn’t the language used in everyday conversation, you may find some mix fusha with dialect or start speaking to you in dialect completely after some time.Also, invite your native speaking friend to hang out with you and your classmates, so you’re all forced to speak fusha. If you aim to learn dialect, making friends with a group of natives is great as they’re prone to speaking in dialect all the time.
*University students, especially those in the faculty of languages and Islamic studies, usually love fusha Arabic and are good candidates. There are often foreign students in the Islamic Studies faculties who speak good fusha especially as some have been living in the country for longer.
*People are generally busy with life so it’s a good idea to have something to offer back to your Arabic-speaking friend, whether it’s an hour of English speaking practice for them for an hour of Arabic speaking practice for you or just speaking on topics that interest you both very much. This way you’re both drawn towards meeting each other. If it’s a hit, you can carry on this relationship through video conferencing when you return home.
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