Observant reader (hi, Mum!) may have noticed the lack of learning diary for the past two weeks. Mostly, the lapse was because I’ve just been too busy. In week 10 it was both my wife and my daughter’s birthdays; I’ve recently been trying to finalise a journal article; I’ve been doing remote work for a semester one unit at University of Canberra; and things have started to ramp up again for this year’s AMEJE activities. Even without all of that going on, Arabic classes and study and trying to be a good dad and husband leaves me with very little spare time to start with, and with all of that piled on top I had no choice but to jettison the learning diary for a couple of weeks. Sorry, Mum.
In terms of Arabic, the past fortnight was a rollercoaster ride. Week 10, I think, was the low point of the course so far. My confidence completely collapsed and I was consumed with a feeling that this whole exercise is futile. I couldn’t seem to make any headway with vocab, I was coming up against all sorts of brick walls in class, and the loss of confidence was disastrous for my speaking attempts out in the Real World. I guess this had to happen at some point, and I doubt it will be the last slump, but it was pretty unpleasant nonetheless.
At the end of the week on Thursday afternoon I had a long chat with Penina about how I was feeling and getting it all out in the open helped me identify exactly what was going on. One of the main drivers, I think, has been my shift to private classes which means I no longer have any point of reference in class for my progress other than my teacher. Previously, in group classes, I could bounce of my classmate and we would do an informal debrief after every lesson. Constant, low-level reinforcement like that made a lot of difference and I’m really missing that in my private class. So, a bit of an attitude adjustment was going to be necessary on my part, but I also resolved to raise the need for more feedback with my teacher.
I spent the weekend hammering my new vocab so I could hit the ground running on Sunday morning and it worked. My mid-month test was supposed to be at the end of the previous week but had been delayed until Sunday because my teacher had been unwell for a day. When I got the results back on Monday I was surprised to have done so well. And then I cleaned up on the vocab quiz as well which always sets me up, confidence wise, for the rest of the lesson.
While discussing the test results I took the opportunity to point out to my teacher that it may take me a while to pick up new vocab but vocab from the previous two months is cementing really nicely. I do 300-400 flashcards each day and my retention of the older words is excellent. I felt like I really needed to point that out and — yes — get some recognition for what I am doing along with feedback on what I need to do better. My teacher was great — took it on board and gave me some encouragement by talking about how we’ve broken the back of grammar over the past two months how the focus now needs to be on vocab building, and she laid out a bit of a roadmap of where we’ll go from here. This was just what I wanted to hear: signposts of progress and achievement.
And then the rest of week 11, in contrast to week 10, was great! Everything started flowing nicely for me, I had fun playing with written and spoken language, my flashcard stat graphs starting pointing in the right direction, and I found myself looking forward to class in the morning again unlike the previous week when I was dreading it. In lessons we started focusing on listening far more than we have previously and it is still a big weakness for me. I spent a lot of my study time listening to recordings with the accompanying transcripts but something I’m noticing far more now than I ever used to at home where I’m not surrounded by Arabic speakers is how *weird* fusha (Modern Standard Arabic) sounds — it’s nothing like the Arabic you hear on the street. My ears have become tuned to the sounds of people speaking aamiya (colloquial) and when I hear all the case markings being pronounced in my study recordings it’s almost like a different language.
Anyway, I promise to lift my diary game again from this week. In the meantime, stats!