Arabic Lessons Should Be Planned Out
Shababeek does not offer “Arabic conversation partners.” Our Arabic program is exactly that; a program. It’s divided up into six phases of approximately 1600 hours of structured lessons.
The beginning Levantine Arabic phase is the “foundations” phase. This is where your foundation for colloquial Arabic is built, so it is important that each lesson is planned out.
When you think about the early phase of language development, you spent some time listening to adults speak before you had to produce speech yourself. In Phase 1, we’ll give you a shortened version of that stress free time so that you can focus purely on listening and absorbing all the new sounds and vocabulary before you are asked to begin producing your own sentences. Our approach to learning Levantine Arabic is comprehension led; first you must hear Arabic speech you understand in order to eventually feel like something “sounds right.”
That’s how it works in your native language, isn’t it? You don’t need to be able to name grammatical rules or ace grammar tests in order to know if a sentence is correct or not. It either sounds right, or it doesn’t. A comprehension led Arabic program can produce similar results. You need not be worried about memorizing grammar charts in order to properly form Arabic sentences. You’ll do it because your brain is being trained to comprehend a new language and language structure. This is one of the reasons why we refer to people learning Arabic with us as “participants,” rather than “students.” We want everyone to be regularly reminded that the goal of learning colloquial Arabic is to participate in life and human relationships, not just study a language.
Language doesn’t exist in a self-contained sphere divorced from culture. They are inseparably intertwined. The program you choose to begin learning Arabic should focus not only on the Arabic language, but on Arab culture. You need to know a lot about the people who use the language and how to interact with them in respectful and winsome ways.
For example, after you are beginning to learn Levantine Arabic, you will quickly come across the words for bread, garbage can, and the verb to throw away. Your teacher or nurturer may offer the cultural advice to never throw bread in the garbage in Jordan. Why might that be? Where you’re from, you might not think much about throwing bread away, particularly if it has become hard or moldy. But in Jordan, if you throw bread in the garbage that action says something. It says you have a low regard for the gifts of God. Bread is a tangible manifestation of God’s grace. If someone is seen throwing bread away, however well intentioned they are, it will say something about their character. Whether you choose to study Levantine Arabic with Shababeek or somewhere else, your Arabic program should include cultural insights such as this so that you can avoid offending local people.
People who begin studying Levantine Arabic come from a variety of backgrounds. Most are starting from ground zero, not knowing a single word in Arabic. Others who begin to study āmmiyya Arabic (the Levantine word for the colloquial dialect) may already know how to read and write quite well. Some have studied MSA, but still need phase 1 to transition to the local dialect. For these reasons, and because it’s more important to train your ears before your eyes, we recommend Arabic learners don’t focus too intently on learning the alphabet in depth during phase 1. That should be saved for phase 2, where a nurturer can give more attention (or less) to this skill. If you already read and write well, make sure you inform your support staff before going into phase 2 as it may shave off some time for you.