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Best Practices in Arabic Comprehension image

by Jozeca Lathrop Learning to read is an important part of learning language within a literate society. Just like children learn to understand and speak before they learn to read, as language learners we want our communication ability to lead our reading and writing ability. Arabic literacy presents unique challenges. The script is very different from Roman script in shape and direction, letters that look similar have completely different sounds, letters change shape based on location in the word, and dots fall above and below the text line. Apart from that, vowel markings that impact pronunciation, meaning, and grammatical function are rarely written. The challenges associated with the script are minimal in comparison to Arabic’s diglossia, the use of two ...

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Undershirts and Tuna: 5 Behaviors Foreigners Should Avoid in Jordan image

Do you ever wish someone would just tell you directly if you’ve embarrassed or offended them? In Jordan, you will rarely find that someone. Chances are, they will discuss our behaviors with others, but most would rather not share with you directly if something you have done is considered disrespectful or socially unacceptable. As a foreigner who has lived in Jordan nearly a decade, I now know that there have been dozens of times my knowledge of local culture was inadequate and, consequently, I did not behave in culturally appropriate ways.  It wasn’t out of malice, but rather lack of awareness on my part. Working in an intercultural development center that emphasises cultural awareness as an essential aspect of language ...

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5 Questions to Ask when Choosing a Language Center image

Last year I bought an oven.  Cooking healthy meals for my family is a high priority for me, a huge part of the way I love my family.  I knew it would be the oven I would have for a good many years and would affect every meal we would eat.  Making an informed choice required that I visit many stores to compare brands, warranties, and the reputation of the manufacturer.  In the end, it was not the least expensive oven that I chose.  I purchased the oven most likely to yield the best possible muffins and chicken pot pie one could bake. The same careful process should be followed in order to select a language center.  True, some things ...

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The Marathon of Language Learning image

When running the marathon of learning Arabic, try not to look at runners that are ahead of you or gaining traction beside you and grow discouraged. Those who win the race are those who simply keep running. By this I mean, continue to spend lots of time with people in Arabic. There is no medal for finishing first… because you’re never finished, just further on the path of being known more authentically and understanding more deeply.

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A Window into your Brain image

Let’s start with a common question: What’s the best way to learn a new word? Great question!  But to give you an answer, I’ll need a little more information, because there are actually many questions in that one simple sentence. What exactly do you mean by ‘learn’ it?  Do you mean you want to understand it?  Or speak it?  Read it?  Write it?  All four would be nice!  You process hearing, seeing, writing and speaking in different areas of the brain!! “Understanding it,” “speaking it” and “reading it” are completely different brain functions.  In fact, if someone has a stroke, one of these abilities can be completely wiped out while the other remains fully intact, leaving someone able to comprehend ...

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Arabs: A Fresh Perspective standard

By: Jonathan Henderson Ever been so embarrassingly ignorant about something or someone? If you have then you’re in good company. Before interacting and then befriending my first Arab friend in the States, I didn’t have much of a concept of Arabs. To me, they were all dark skinned, Muslim, ate weird food, and if they weren’t Saudi or a prince of some kind then they were poor and lived in tents. As you can imagine I was in for a few surprises. The first came in Michigan when I met a Syrian college student who was paler than any Scotsman I know. In my head, I thought, “Where’s my tutor?” Thankfully, I caught myself before I insulted my future language ...

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How has Interacting with Arabs Impacted your Time in Jordan? standard

By: Wesley Denham This is my first time in the Middle East.  I come from America, a wonderful country.  It’s also the land of a thousand stereotypes.  Arabs there are no different.  The images we see on TV are not always flattering.  To be fair, this is not specific to the US.  This takes place on television sets, and around dinner tables, all around the world, time and time again each day.  We fear what we don’t understand, and unfortunately, we don’t understand much of each other.  Stereotypes have power.  They can shape narratives, and narratives can shape the way we see each other, which can shape the way we relate. I walk into a shop.  The owner offers me ...

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Open the Window standard

By: Riley Wall A disheartened Iraqi refugee sat across from me in my office looking for help to find a job. Any job.  As a single mom new to America, Nadia was desperate to support her family. In very broken English, she told me how she could cook and clean and style hair. After 2 hours of fumbling a CV into existence, she left beaming with hope for a new beginning in a world entirely different from what she once knew.  I left the office wishing there was more I could do for her. Who were her friends? Who else could speak her Arabic heart language? Who would take the time to listen to her painful story of leaving Iraq, ...

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Finding Fluency through Friendship standard

By: Justine Jacob Studying Arabic is hard. Some say Arabic may even be one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers. Because it’s hard, Arabic has developed a reputation for being anything but fun, especially after the first few “easy” years of learning the language. This reputation certainly doesn’t help curb the hostility that exists towards Muslims in America and the lack of familiarity most Americans have with Muslims and Arabs. In fact, it may even make divisions more pronounced because less people are inclined to study it.  I’ve been in and out of the Middle East for work and study since 2010, and have seen my fair share of Arabic students and Arabic language programs. I’ve studied ...

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