We met with Francesca, a PG Arabic alumni from Italy who has completed a Master’s degree in International Relations of the Middle East with Arabic at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department, University of Edinburgh.  In an interview with Francesca, we asked the following questions:

Tell us about yourself (name, origins, current degree/studies, academic background, university & graduation year, professions, etc.)

My name is Francesca, I’m 26 years old and I’m from Italy. This year I completed a master’s degree in International Relations of the Middle East with Arabic at The University of Edinburgh, after having studied English, Arabic and Spanish in Italy. Last year, I spent the compulsory semester abroad in Palestine, where I improved my Arabic at Birzeit University and volunteered in al-Amari refugee camp.  

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

I’ve been studying Arabic since 2010, when I started my BA in Rome, after which I reached an intermediate level of MSA and translated literary texts from Arabic to Italian. After the completion of my master’s in Edinburgh, I became able to read and write MSA to an advanced level. I also learned to speak the Levantine dialect very well and translate various kinds of texts from Arabic to English.

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

I’ve always had a deep interest in learning foreign languages, but I especially chose to study Arabic because it represented a fascinating challenge to me. Learning the language would give me the chance to understand an extremely diverse culture which I knew nothing about. I felt I could not accept the Western simplistic image of the Arab World. Reading Said’s Orientalism and the novels of Nagib Mahfouz encouraged me to continue after my BA.  

Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

I’ve been through many ups and downs while studying Arabic. Sometimes I felt like I would never be fluent in Levantine Arabic, especially when in Palestine native speakers switched to English to talk to me. Also, while studying MSA, I often felt frustrated because of the many exceptions to the already complicated grammar rules.

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

I’m looking for a job in the humanitarian sector. I would like to use my Arabic language skills and my experience as a volunteer in Palestine to work for organisations which aim to integrate migrants and refugees in Italy.

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

I think that in order to become an excellent Arabic student you need perseverance. I would recommend to allow yourself time and practice as much as you can with native speakers. Don’t get frustrated if they speak English to you and reply in Arabic. Also, don’t waste time learning grammar exceptions by heart, but read books and newspapers. Immersing yourself in the language is the best way to become fluent!              

“My Journey to Arabic” is a blog to capture learners’ stories and their fascinating journeys towards mastering the Arabic language and culture.