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Meet Michelle! | My Journey to Arabic #06

We met with Michelle , a PG Arabic alumni from USA & Sweden who has completed her MSc in International Relations of the Middle East with Arabic back in 2015 at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department, University of Edinburgh.  In an interview with Michelle, we asked the following questions:

 

 

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

  • Michelle Lonnquist, Washington, DC, USA (Swedish origins)
  • MSc International Relations of the Middle East with Arabic, 2015
  • Studied International Relations, Islamic Studies, and French at Boston University

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

  • I have been studying Arabic since 2011 when I studied at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon for a full academic year. At AUB I learned to speak Lebanese Arabic and studied pure Lebanese 3amieh so my speaking level is high. I learned to properly read and write fus7a at IMES.

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

  • I always had an interest in learning Arabic so I jumped at the chance to go to Lebanon for a year. I arrived with an open mind and not knowing one word of Arabic and I immediately I knew that this was the right choice. It was going to Lebanon that actually inspired me to get where I am today. I worked with and learned about Palestinian refugees and the hardships they faced in exile in a country that doesn’t recognise them or their basic human rights. Through this experience, I learned about Palestine, its history, and the current political situation, and this motivated me to get involved with human rights advocacy, eventually leading to an internship with Human Rights Watch, which is where I now work.

Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

  • The biggest challenge for me was learning to read and write Arabic after I learned how to speak. I was taught (Lebanese) Arabic in transliteration so my reading was quite slow at the beginning of IMES and it was easier for me to make notes and write in transliteration. It took a long time and a lot of hard work to ween myself off of relying on transliteration.

What careers are you planning to pursue using your Arabic language skills?

  • I currently work at Human Rights Watch in the Emergencies division so I use Arabic when our work brings us to an Arabic-speaking country. I’ve worked with researchers on reports documenting human rights violations in Yemen and Syria, including chemical weapons attacks on civilians, targeting of civilian infrastructure, and high civilian casualties following coalition bombing campaigns. I had the opportunity to work from our office in Beirut for two weeks over the summer and would love to eventually end up back in Lebanon or elsewhere in the region!

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

  • To become an excellent student of Arabic, you have to be ready to go beyond simply memorising vocabulary. It’s about understanding the lifestyle and culture of the people with whom you are trying to communicate, and putting yourself in it. My advice is to immerse yourself in Arabic language and culture. Listen to (and love!) Fayrouz or another singer who sings in 3amieh, study abroad or live in an Arabic-speaking country, make friends who speak Arabic, and be ready to dedicate a lot of your time to your studies. It takes a lot of time and patience, but it is definitely worth it 😊

 

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

 

Meet Marvin! | My Journey to Arabic #05

We met with Marvin, a PG Arabic student from Germany who is a Master’s student in in Middle Eastern Studies with Arabic at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department, University of Edinburgh.  In an interview with Marvin , we asked the following questions:

 

 

 

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

 

I’m Marvin and am currently on the MSc in Middle Eastern Studies with Arabic programme. I’m originally from Germany and have spent the last four years at the University of Aberdeen receiving an MA in Politics and International Relations in 2017.

 

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

 

I have studied Arabic for two years and am now at an intermediate level in written Arabic.

 

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

 

My first encounter with Arabic was accidental. I had spare credits to fill in my first year of study and I decided to do “something different”. After a while I began to enjoy studying the language and realised how useful it could be when studying politics in the Middle East, an area where your research could actually make a difference.

 

  • Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

 

Unfortunately, I have had a two year break in which I could only occasionally use my Arabic through self-study.

 

  • What careers are you planning to pursue using your Arabic language skills?

 

I’m hoping to start an academic career focusing on the Middle East and in order to conduct original and independent research it is essential to have a high command of the language both written and spoken.  

 

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

 

If you’re interested in learning Arabic try to learn a dialect rather than MSA, find people you can practise your Arabic with. There is nothing more satisfying and motivating about learning a new language than applying it in the real world.

 

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

 

Meet Camille ! | My Journey to Arabic #04

We met with Camille Sonderegger, a PG Arabic student from Switzerland who is a Master’s student in Middle Eastern Studies with Advanced Arabic at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department, University of Edinburgh.  In an interview with Camille , we asked her the following questions:

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Camille Sonderegger, I am 25 years old and a Swiss national. I am studying for MSc International Relations of the Middle East with Advanced Arabic at the University of Edinburgh.

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

I cannot remember exactly what made me decide to study Arabic as it was a combination of many things. My parents worked for the ICRC in many Arabic speaking countries (such as Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Yemen) before I was born and hence there were always books around at home about the Middle East. When I was fourteen, I started reading books about Palestine and started getting involved in Palestine Solidarity Campaigns. This made me want to learn Arabic in the first place. Hence, I decided to move to Syria after High School to see whether I would also like living and working in Arab speaking countries. I found a job in Damascus and had an amazing 15 months in Syria which confirmed my wish to study Arabic in order to be able to work and live in the ME.

Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

Of course, I have had ups and downs as I reached a point of stagnation where I felt like I just needed to live in the ME to improve my Arabic instead of continuing my Undergraduate with Arabic.

What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic?

It takes something, which I unfortunately lack, which is not being scared of making mistakes and just to speak Arabic when in Arabic speaking countries.

What careers are you planning to pursue using your Arabic language skills?

I would definitely like to work and live in the Middle East in the humanitarian setting. However, as I have had experiences with some NGOs, I think I would rather do something that is really hands on with the people from the area or be a field delegate with the ICRC.

What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?

Immerse yourself with the people from Arabic speaking countries, practice it as much as possible and don’t be afraid of making mistakes!

 

 

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

 

Meet Marc! | My Journey to Arabic #03

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

My name is Marc Owen Jones. My father is originally from South Wales, and my mother from Derbyshire. I was born in London but moved to Saudi Arabia when I was very young due to my dad’s work. From there I moved to Bahrain where I spent much of my formative schooling. I then did a BA in Journalism at Cardiff. Following my graduation in 2006 I undertook a CELTA, and worked as an English teacher in Sudan for a year in 2007.  After that I did a Masters in Arab World Studies at Edinburgh/Durham, and then a PhD at Durham University. I finished my PhD in 2016!

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

I have been studying properly since 2007, when I began teaching myself. Technically speaking I am advanced, although sometimes I feel I have no idea what’s going on 🙂

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

My motivation was not being allowed to learn Arabic while growing up in Bahrain, but really wanting to. This was school policy, and a common practise in the Gulf until recently. Wanting to learn Arabic shaped my decision to go to Sudan, and also informed my decision to study Arabic at Masters level. I was also fortunate that when I was working in Sudan the amazing CASAW program was advertised. The program really was an excellent way to get competent in Arabic. I also felt because I had grown up in the Middle East, it was very much part of my identity. My social life was very international, but influenced heavily by Arab friends and family. Thus my need to learn Arabic felt very fundamental.

  • Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

I think the most difficult point was doing an advanced class in Damascus. At one point I felt the teacher did not really have any expectations of what was an appropriate amount of work , or much knowledge of pedagogy. In one three hour class he narrated an overview of all Arabic grammar in one go. If you have good teachers as I did in Edinburgh then your expectations change, so be prepared to be shocked!..Also real development can come when you’re immersed, and that can be a tiring but rewarding experience. It’s good to stick with it, as the rewards are obvious.

  • What careers are you planning to pursue using your Arabic language skills?

I work as a Lecturer in the History of the Gulf at Exeter University

  • What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic?

Perseverance, hard work, and a willingness to be wrong.

  • What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?

Don’t be intimidated! It will seem so alien initially but before you know it you’ll be amazed that you’ve learned a whole new script

 

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

Meet Bruno! | My Journey to Arabic #02

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. 

Meet Yasmine! | My Journey to Arabic #01

We met with Yasmine Luqman, a PG Arabic student from Washington, USA 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 Yasmin, we asked the following questions:

Tell us about yourself? 

  • Hello! I’m Yasmin; I’m a first year Master’s student and I’m from Seattle, Washington, but was originally born in London. Currently, I am taking a Master’s student in International Relations of the Middle East with ArabicI studied French, Political Science, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Washington and decided to come to Edinburgh last year when my brother studied abroad here and absolutely loved it. I’m happy to be back “home” in the UK (both sides of my family live in London) and feel so comfortable in Scotland. I love photography, hiking and food.

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

  • My dad is from Yemen and speaks the Yemeni dialect of Arabic. He’s always wanted to teach it to my siblings and me, but found it difficult with our other studies. I grew up listening to him speak in Arabic to his family back in Yemen and in London and would love to communicate with my family! Additionally, I am passionate about the Arab-Israeli conflict and want to dedicate my career to finding a diplomatic and peaceful solution, and feel that a degree in IRMEWA would be ideal for that.

Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

  • Mostly ups! I’ve only been frustrated a few times when I don’t understand a grammar structure, but it’s all part of the learning process. It’s exciting learning words that I’ve grown up hearing from my dad, like “dajaj” and “mashAllah!”

What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic?

  • Patience, a LOT of practice, and good study partners!

What careers are you planning to pursue using your Arabic language skills?

  • I plan to work in diplomacy, and my ideal job would be working for UNRWA.

What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?

  • Patient teachers are a must! Additionally, people who are excited about teaching Arabic (I.e. Jonathan) and are willing to explain concepts in different ways depending on students’ learning styles are so helpful because people learn languages differently.

 

 

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