After spending so long focused on proper grown-up writing that requires research, synthesis and endless drafts (i.e. a PhD thesis in the form of a book and a clutch of journal articles), I’ve decided to start this little project where I can punch out random, sometimes half-formed thoughts as they occur to me, just like during that golden era of the internet between LiveJournal and Twitter. So, welcome to 2007 and Welcome to My Blog. I’m going to publish these semi-regular Arabic Diaries to reflect in real time on something personal that is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life.
I’ve been learning Arabic on and off (mostly off) since 2009, although notes and links I can’t remember emailing to myself since 2007 suggest I was thinking about it for a while before that. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure why I decided to learn Arabic. I do know that I’d always wanted to learn a second language because I was (and am) embarrassed that I speak only one, and I’d long been interested in the Arab world which at that time for me was an exotic abstraction. I guess that was enough.
I started as an absolute beginner in 2009 with two back-to-back short courses at the Centre For Adult Education in Melbourne, and by the end of that year I could read and write the Arabic script, and hold a basic conversation (greetings, food and drink, directions etc.). I spent much of 2010 travelling, including to Arabic-speaking countries like Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, although my language skills weren’t yet good enough to do much beyond deciphering signs. I then lived in Qatar for almost a year, although the ubiquity of English in that country combined with my work and social situation meant I wasn’t really immersed in Arabic at all.
After returning to Australia at the end of 2011 I knew I really should get learning again, especially because by then I’d lost essentially all of the vocab I’d learned in 2010. Eventually, in 2012, I did a short course at the ANU, and shortly afterwards I resolved that if I was ever going to make any real progress I needed to find a tutor and take regular classes. In mid-2013 I made contact with Mohanned Qassar, a local Canberra educator and businessman, and barring some breaks for travel, childbirth (my wife, not me) and the like, Mohanned and I have been meeting for 90-minute lessons in a quiet corner of a local community club every week since.
I’ve learned *a lot* in the three years since then, and it’s mostly down to Mohanned’s teaching because I’ve not exactly been a diligent student — it has been hard to find time for homework in between writing the PhD, teaching, working on AMEJE, and home duties. But that’s an excuse. Recently I realised that if I truly want to learn Arabic I need to get serious otherwise I’ll just spend the rest of my life treading water. So, about a month ago I started seeing Mohanned twice a week and (probably more importantly) trying really hard to do at least 30 minutes of Arabic study on most days. I also have ~~~plans~~~ … but more about that later.
Anyway, here is a picture of all the Arabic stuff I could find sitting around in my study.