Scott Bridges

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Week 1 learning diary

Monday

My first full day of class this week was Monday since Sunday was devoted to admin and an entrance exam. Overnight, one student who felt the level of the class was too high for her had dropped down to a class below, so we were now only two students. A nice small group.

After exchanging pleasantries our teacher launched straight in and asked in Arabic what we had done the previous evening. As we stumbled through our answers, she compiled a list of vocabulary on the white board that we then copied down and discussed. This would be a constant feature throughout the week as she kept the pressure on us to build our vocabulary.

While my classmate and I are relatively close in ability, we obviously have different learning histories, strengths and weaknesses. So, the planned component of the lesson began with some simple revision of prepositions and adverbs of place to warm us up and help the teacher determine what the focus of our learning for the month should be. While I was already pretty solid on this stuff it was good to go over it again to refresh and cement.

We then moved onto talking about the theme of recreation. We started by reviewing a list of relevant vocab and then using it in various situations. The pace was good — challenging but not overwhelming — and our teacher employed a variety of methods including chalk and talk, role play, quizzes and individual work. She also made us stand up and move around the room at regular intervals which worked really well to kickstart our brains.

Suddenly, it was 1pm and the lesson was finished. Four hours had flown by and my head was spinning. But I was also buzzing with optimism and eagerly sat down for the afternoon in the language centre’s study area to review the day’s material and do my homework (write passages of text using the prepositions and adverbs we’d revised, and also using the recreation vocab). I also started thinking about the five minute presentation we’d learned that we would have to give on Thursday. I was a little bit anxious about it, to be honest.

Tuesday

I tried to start building good study habits into my routine today by making Arabic the first thing I did upon waking … after making a coffee, that is. I sat down with my brew and revised all of yesterday’s vocab and practised putting it into sentences. It felt good getting into the right headspace even before I started getting ready for the day — I was thinking about Arabic in the shower and didn’t need any warming up by the time I was sat in my chair at school at 8:59am.

After a round of good mornings and some small talk (in Arabic), our teacher launched straight into a vocab quiz, asking us to give her the Arabic for a bunch of words we’d learned yesterday. I felt a bit smug about having done some early morning revision! We then did a few activities related to yesterday’s topic of recreation before moving on to revision of question words, just like yesterday’s work with prepositions and adverbs.

By the halftime 20 minute break I really needed a coffee. My head was filling up with new vocab and I found myself extrapolating the learning pace out to the end of each 20 hour week, and indeed, to the end of the 16 week course. The maths just reinforces that I will have to work extremely hard to keep up.

In the second half of the lesson we moved onto the topic of the beach and the seaside, and spent two hours learning vocab and doing a range of spoken and written exercises. It was pretty funny talking about umbrellas and sandcastles and sunscreen in Amman in the middle of winter.

For homework we had to write a story about a trip to the beach using today’s vocab.

Wednesday

Last night I found myself thinking about Arabic words — how they are spelled and pronounced — as I fell asleep. And then I dreamt about them! Even after just a few days it’s being hammered into my subconscious which is great.

Today’s class started again with a fast-paced vocab quiz, but this time drawing on two days’ worth of words. There seems to be no real pattern governing which words stick in my mind and which don’t, and as usual some words just refuse to stick for whatever reason. Having said that, my revision routine does seem to be bearing fruit as I did better at the quiz than I thought I would.

We’d been instructed to buy a text book yesterday and today we started working from it. First up was a unit based on visits to the bank. We started with some vocab and then read through a few dialogues, picking up unfamiliar words on the way. Again, our teacher used a good variety of activities including role plays, games and worksheets.

When you’re so engrossed in the work it’s amazing how fast four hours can whiz past, and today I was again shocked when it hit 1pm. As is becoming habit, I bunkered down in the study area for the afternoon to do homework and prepare for my five minute presentation tomorrow.

Thursday

I feel really happy with my little study routine (afternoon of homework and revision, revision first thing in the morning over coffee) after this week and I can tell it’s paying off, even though I felt a little overwhelmed by this morning’s vocab quiz which drew on a week’s worth of new words.

We spent the first half of today’s lesson continuing with the topic of the bank, and then we did some quick revision of possessive pronouns. These topics (recreation, the beach, the bank) are pretty random but they’ve been great vehicles for learning. Alongside building vocab, and throughout everything we’ve done this week, our teacher has addressed grammar both by design and by taking advantage of teachable moments. I feel like my general Arabic skills have been enhanced at the same time as I’ve mastered how to tell my friends what to bring to the beach and go into a bank and open an account.

Finally, I had to give my five minute presentation. We were allowed to refer to notes but I tried really hard not to read from them. I’d written about my first week in Jordan: nice and easy due to basic vocab and simple first-person past tense verb conjugations. I think I did pretty good considering it’s only week one — I only triggered half a dozen grammar corrections. I recorded audio on my phone so I can compare it to the presentation I give in 15 weeks. I hope I have cause to cringe really hard when I listen back to this one.

2 Comments

  1. It sounds intense and invigorating. I like the idea of subject based learning(i.e. The beach) as a way to focus on new vocab. I’ll try that. Also recording yourself is a great idea. I’ve never recorded myself speaking Russian but I still now.

  2. Keep it up Scott! I tried learning Arabic some time ago but I gave up. Too complex, too different and too old (that’s me, the too old).

    Koen Ruymaekers
    Abu Dhabi

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