Arabic for beginners

It’s funny how life works sometimes. A few weeks ago, I agonised over the decision about which language course to take at Oxford University’s Language Centre. As an employee of Oxford University Press, we are considered ‘staff’ of the university and are therefore eligible to attend these courses and get a heavy discount on them. I toyed between Advanced Spanish, because I have really neglected my Spanish since graduation; intermediate Italian, because I learnt a lot very quickly at university and have since forgotten even more, and Beginners’ Arabic, because I’ve always been curious to give a completely different language a go.

Some of you might be wondering why I didn’t mention German, famously my favourite language! However, since moving back from Berlin in January, I listen to a trashy Berlin radio station every day to and from work, leave German friends WhatsApp messages a lot, visit the country a fair amount and have recently set up a German conversation class at work – so I feel German comes so naturally to me now that it almost doesn’t count. (And I don’t mean that to sound as obnoxious as it might!) For that reason, I didn’t let myself choose a German course, as much as I’d love to expand my vocabulary and torture myself more with complex German grammar.

But, in the end, I sadly had to decide against them all because none of the class times really worked around my actual job and all the erratic badminton matches I play in. I was quite gutted, because I could have had two terms’ worth of classes for about £70. The type of class I was interested in wasn’t assessed, and so probably wouldn’t be as serious as the other, assessed type, but I had been really looking forward to reactivating my language-learning brain again.

A few weeks passed, and then I got a notification email from Yammer, our company social networking site, to say that someone at work was offering Arabic lessons for absolute beginners on Wednesday lunchtimes! This seemed almost too good to be true: £5 a lesson, pay-as-you-go and right in my workplace! Of course, I signed up straight away!

So this lunchtime I have my first lesson to look forward to. We are using the above book: Mastering Arabic 1, third edition (Palgrave Macmillan.) Much as it pains me not to be using an OUP or Routledge book (!), I am very excited to get started and get my grey matter moving again! I hope to report back on my forays into what I have always believed to be an incredibly difficult language. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, largely because my grandma was from Basra, Iraq, but never passed her language down to my mum which I always thought was a huge shame. The lady who will be teaching us also wrote this very interesting post about Arabic on the OUP blog, so I am even more intrigued having read that!


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