We met with Bruno Schmidt-Feuerheerd, a PG Arabic student from Germany, who is a Master’s student in International Relations of the Middle East with Arabic at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department, University of Edinburgh. In an interview with Bruno, we asked him the following questions:
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Bruno, I’m 25 years old, born and raised in Berlin, Germany. I am studying the MSc in “International Relations of the Middle East with Advanced Arabic” at the University of Edinburgh. During my undergraduate studies of Sociology, Politics & Economics at Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany, I began to study the Arabic language in both Germany and Morocco. Subsequent to my graduation I spent 4 months studying Arabic in Oman to be able to join the “Advanced Arabic” language track of the IRoME programme.
What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture? What & who inspired you? What were your motivations?
My interest in the Arab world was triggered by my background in political science as I – a then-high school graduate with a diffuse interest in international affairs – was interested to learn more about the region facing tremendous disruptions from 2011 onwards. However, as I began to study the Arabic language my interest in the Arab world broadened widely, to also include cultural aspects, literature and architecture. From early on, it was clear to me that I had to learn the language if I wanted to be able to access the region myself.
Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?
Studying Arabic is a challenging task, requiring a life-long interest in the language. However, from my point of view the single most important factor for studying Arabic is, to not interrupt the studies. I have learned that myself, as I began to study Arabic in 2012 but due to various interruptions had to re-start – in a beginner’s class – in 2015. So, “use it or lose it”, is certainly an appropriate term to describe it. At the same time, constant effort pays off, and allows for improvement.
What careers are you planning to pursue using your Arabic language skills?
Personally, I would like to work in a political context in the future, with a focus on the Arab world. I consider a career in academia, a think-tank or a ministry equally interesting. However, due to the high interest of politics and society in the region, I am sure that there will appear new types of jobs in both the private and the public sector requiring expertise of the region.
What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic?
In addition to the previous paragraph, I also would recommend to go abroad to study Arabic, for as long as possible. I have spent 6 weeks of studying in Morocco, but 18 weeks in Oman, and there was a stark difference of what I could achieve during these two experiences. Actually living in an Arab country allows you to not only study the language with locals (both MSA and Dialect!) but to also make cultural experiences, get to know locals and learn about culture, history and politics of the country. To keep my advanced level of Arabic, I am trying to read in addition to the course work for example Arabic newspapers, or to watch Al-Jazeera or BBC Arabic.
What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?
Be willing to invest time in studying. Go abroad. Use the language.
“My Journey to Arabic” is a blog to capture learners’ stories and their fascinating journeys towards mastering the Arabic language and culture.