Arabic language learning is about the journey
Arabic language learning is about the journey, not the destination. For most long-time students of Arabic, studying the language is a journey that will have many ups and downs. You’ll have months to years where you take great strides forward, swear you’ve mastered the language, only to be interrupted by life and feel that you’ve lost everything you worked for. The key to studying Arabic and reaching professional proficiency is to understand that there is no final destination where you can claim complete native fluency and mastery. Moreover, stages in which you can claim fluency are fleeting, you’re really only fluent for periods at a time, rarely for your entire life. These moments, where you feel you’ve lost all the hard work you’ve invested, are completely natural and an unavoidable part of your Arabic language journey. However, if you allow yourself to remain complacent because the task of picking up where you left off seems insurmountable, then your journey will end. After more than a decade of studying Arabic, I’ve experienced the highs of fluency followed by the lows of stagnation. The keys to fluency are maintenance and progress and the solution for stagnation is a series of small steps to pull yourself out of a rut. Below are my tips for when you find yourself in one of these situations.
Maintenance and Progress
Maintaining and improving your Arabic language level requires action. Everyone’s schedule is packed but you must carve out some time during your week to exercise your Arabic muscles. I break these Arabic muscles out into three different skills: Reading, Listening, Speaking. Usually, I practice one hour of Reading and Listening every day by going to Foreigncy’s Arabic lessons, using our Dashboard Progress Tracking Tools, setting a timer, and studying our flashcards, watching the lesson videos, and reading the lesson articles until the timer on my iPhone goes off. I view my Reading and Listening practice as preparation for my Speaking lesson, which I’ll have with an Arabic tutor on italki.com two to three times a week. I structure those Speaking lessons by discussing topics that were covered in the Foreigncy Arabic lessons because I’ve spent my week mastering that vocabulary. In order to hold myself accountable, I put my Reading, Listening, and Speaking practice on my phone’s calendar and make it part of my daily morning ritual before I start my day. I’m also sure to book my Speaking lessons at least a week in advance on italki.com, which holds me even more accountable now that money has been put down. Some more useful tips about Arabic maintenance and progress are covered in our blog post on studying for the Interagency Language Roundtable Exam (ILR).
Tips to get back on track
Maintaining and improving your Arabic language skills is an investment, both in time and money. More likely than not, you will burn yourself out and need to take a hard-earned break. However, that break should not be indefinite and the more time that passes, the harder it will be to get back on track. When you find yourself in this situation, the key is to start small and take it slow. Instead of studying Arabic every day and doing a speaking lesson twice a week or more, try studying for one hour followed by a brief 30-minute speaking lesson and then don’t study again for a week. You’ll find that your speaking lesson will go better than expected and that confidence boost will restart your momentum. After a few weeks, you’ll feel motivated to ramp up your study schedule.
Focus on the journey
Periods of Arabic mastery are fleeting. When you find yourself speaking fluently, do all you can to maintain that level but do not beat yourself up when it passes, and it will. Even though people say “if you don’t use it you lose it”, I’ve found that to be far from the truth. You never truly lose your Arabic language skills, they’re just muscles that haven’t been worked out in a while. Like anything else, after a little practice and self-discipline, you’ll get right back on track and continue your journey. Foreigncy is committed to helping you achieve your Arabic language learning goals and a subscription to our monthly courses and tools may be the solution you’ve been looking for.