Monday, June 13, 2011

Oohh, been away too long!

Sorry folks! Life carried me away and I have been gone a long time but I am trying to come back. Hopefully, I can make this blog interesting and log in at least once a week. Anyway, I had really been slacking in my Arabic study and it became a drudgery for me; to the point, I didn't want to study it anymore but I loved Arabic and I refused to give it up. I tried going to Spanish for a break, and my love for Arabic kept overriding my wandering heart! So I read articles, blogs and realized that I was not the only one who gets frustrated, bored or overwhelmed by the language they are studying. So I sat down and looked at how, what and the way I was studying to see what the problem was.

I realized that my main problem was my sporadic, unorganized way that I was learning, or should I say NOT learning. I would study one or two times a week, very intensively for hours and then the next day, didn't even want to look at another Arabic letter. I would be so burned out, that i would sometimes skip a week or two and then when my interest came back, I would have forgotten what I learned and have to do review all over again. Misery. I got frustrated because it seemed like I wasn't learning anything at all and to some extent, nothing was making sense. I actually started looking at the other languages I wanted to learn and thought about skipping Arabic for a while. I tried concentrating on learning Hindi but my heart kept wandering back to Arabic. I got mad because I told myself, I know I can do this!! What is my problem? Arabic was fun and special; but now, it was more like a chore and that made me madder because I loved it so much and didn't want to give it up.

So I decided to find a way to fall back "in love" with Arabic. I had to fix my main problems: study habits, disorganization, and materials I was using. My rationale has always been I don't have time, so study here, there, everywhere. I sat down with a piece of paper and made a list of my day and everything I did all day long. I was shocked; I had LOADS of time. I had at least 3-4 hrs of wasted time, every single day; some days MORE. I couldn't believe it. Ok, so after that, I tackled my disorganization. I never studied at a particular time or the same courses each time. I was splitting it up between two courses and other supplements in between. It was a mess. I had to make a better plan. I cut out all the supplemental books, i.e. phrase books, grammar booklets, etc. and decided that for now, to follow the K.I.S.S. rule--Keep It Simple Stupid. Use the one course that I liked the most and felt I could benefit from and make my plans around that. I could use my second course after I finished the first one or use it in between when I needed a day of switch up. As for time, I use my huge blocks of time I have going to work and dropping my son off at daycare, to do some serious study time.

I changed another one of my study habits as well: amount of time. As much as I LOVE studying languages and Arabic in particular, there is a such thing as doing too much. I am breaking up my study time, so as to not devote so much time, I get burned out or bored. I try not to study more than I want to and I do it in small increments with things in between. I will give you an example in the next bit, when I show you my daily ritual that I now do.  I make sure I study every single day but not like a crazy person like before. On days I feel like studying less, I cut it down without feeling like I am abandoning my studies completely. On days I may not feel like studying at all or am busier than usual, I make sure that I get at the very minimum 15 minutes in; thats a promise I made to myself. I need to get at least that 15 in.

My current study schedule is: My son and I get up to start our day and wait for the bus, early a.m. While we are waiting for bus #1 (first of a few), I lock and load my Mp3 player and listen to a few Arabic tunes on the way to daycare. After I drop my son off, I go for bus #2 and either I keep listening to some tunes or I start my Pimsleur Egyptian Arabic lesson or my Teach Yourself lesson. While waiting for bus #3, I listen to some more Arabic music or I read my Arabic phrases and decide which ones i am going to memorize for the week. On my bus ride into work, I either continue on with my Pimsleur or TY or I spend my time going back over the lesson or the next lesson I am going to learn. After work, on my way home, I give myself a break--no study. I may listen to some music, however or Quran. On my days off, if I feel I want a bit of a change up, I will study a lesson from the University of Medinah course. I listen to the dialog, read the lesson, read the lesson again, out loud and then I re-write the whole lesson, word for word in my notebook. Then I make flash cards for the lesson I am on and go over them at the end of my lesson. Later in the day, I will go over the flash cards again a few times. I don't study too much on my days' off; I try to keep it lighter. I am also going to do what Laoshu5500 suggests and that is to make a Youtube video so I can get constructive criticism but for now, my ego and feelings are a little too fragile for that right now! lol! I'm also going to use chat and language groups to practice with native speakers. I can always practice on my soon-to-be ex as well but he is not very cooperative sometimes.

And that's my current routine. Its not written in stone and it is very much open to change but for now, it works. Oh, I forgot to mention, that I am also teaching my son, too and have started a separate blog about teaching him on He seems to love Arabic as much as his mummy and that makes me happy. I hope by the time he is 5 yrs old, we will not speak any English at home, at all, insha'Allah. That is another reason I am trying to kick my learning into overdrive but I have learned that if that means too much stress and pressure on myself, then its not worth it. Insha'allah, I will come along and I am doing so well already, in my view and have had some cool breakthroughs to keep me going. For example, last week on the bus, I realized that finally the words of the music I have been listening to forever, made since and I could hear every distinct letter instead of it just having a good tune and catching a word I may know here and there. I was so shocked! It means that my brain has now wired itself to distinguish the Arabic as part of me, so to speak. Its the small triumphs that will keep you going in your language.

Well. I'm off. I am sorry I have been away so long. I will try to post at least once every 1 or 2 weeks and I hope this is helping someone else who feels they can't do what I am doing. Thanks ever so much for the positive comments! I really appreciate them! Next post, I will list some of the resources I am using and how I use them. Cheers!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My very first post! Ahlan wa sahlan!

Hello! I know that just about everyone has a blog, so I thought, why not me, too? lol! I wanted to do this blog for a variety of reasons; as we go along, I will share them with you. One of them being, that I have always wanted to learn another language, even in high school. I took 2 yrs of Spanish and like most Americans kids, realized at the end of it, I couldn't even order a burrito at a Mexican restaurant. I loved Spanish, it was the only reason I went to school sometimes. I dropped out of school my sophomore year and just chalked up my failed Spanish attempt as me being an idiot and let it go but deep down, I still had a yearning that never quite went away. In 1995, my whole life changed; I converted to Islam, much to the surprise of my family and friends. A short time later, I found out about the Arabic that I needed to learn. At first, I felt a trickle of fear and daunted. I thought, Ok, God, I am gonna seriously have to fake it because I know I won't be able to learn that in a million years. I actually expressed that out loud to several people and they just smiled and said, of course, you can do it. A wonderful woman and her daughters started teaching me how to say prayers and parts of Quran and I was amazed that I didn't screw it up! Even the family that was teaching me were surprised. She said, "Masha'Allah! You sound like a natural and you speak this way your whole life!" Poof! My simmering language embers burst into flames and ignited me. It was then that I knew I wanted to learn Arabic for real and not just for learning prayers and Quran.

After that, it was not easy. Arabic resources were next to nil and the only way I could learn was to enroll in college at the University of Utah, which I didn't have time for because of work. I enrolled anyway and went to class on my lunch breaks. Long story short, I failed that class. Mainly, because I could not get there on time, the additional course load that I stupidly bogged myself down with and the fact that the class was great in the beginning and then became grammar intensive. I could never understand grammar even in my own language and so thus, it became a drag. Plus they wanted us to commit to 2 hours of study every single night and language lab every week. With my job and being on call every night; it wasn't gonna happen. I squeaked by with a D and he was being nice giving me that. I have no qualms; I deserved that D grade but it also discouraged me from feeling like I would ever be able to learn Arabic ever again. That special feeling I had when I learned a new word or could understand what had been said to me, had been taken away. I just felt stupid and ordinary again. I dropped the idea of learning it to speak to people and just learned it as part of my religion and that was that. I did try a few half hearted attempts on my own but always gave up in the end or let something else get in the way. That yearning feeling, however, just went into remission and simmered again as embers, waiting for the right time to ignite again.

Move ahead to this year....I kinda said, ok, I really want to learn again, maybe I can do it now. I am older, I can devote some time to it (ha ha, not really) and plus, I have a young son, who is of Arab decent and I want him to learn Arabic; so that he can learn of his other heritage and speak to his father and grandparents. I slowly started getting more and more excited about learning Arabic again. I started daily looking online for resources and things I could buy or use for free. I found a website that I thought was just a little message board for people who were trying to learn a new language; boy, was I ever wrong! I had stumbled upon and once there, was really shocked! I couldn't believe this site! So many people learning another language! And also, they were not just learning ONE language or did they only know just one language! It was several! It was the first time in my life, that I heard the term "Polyglot". The first time I was there, I read post after post, topic after topic, for 13 hrs! I loved it! Fast forward to about 2 months ago....I was just kicking around in  the "how-to-" forum and came on a post that said, "You gotta check this guy out!" The post was about a young man who had a real love of learning languages and he learned a lot of them and on his own! I was intrigued. I said, I gotta see this! Maybe he can teach me something about how to go about this Arabic learning bit. So I go there and see this young, tall skinny Black guy talking on Youtube about languages and in some of the languages he leaned and I was utterly blown away. Not only because he was black but because of his situation; and by situation, I mean, he lives in an area where there is absolutely no one he can practice languages on other than his wife and his buddies, who are also studying languages. That's it! He is learning totally at home, on his own, with language courses from books, mainly the Teach Yourself series, among others and internet chat! How many people can say that? He truly inspires me like no other. He may not realize it, but he is a role model for other black people, like me, who never think they can learn a language, given where we are and our circumstances. Poof! Ah, yes, there came back my old friend. By the way, his name is Moses and goes under his Youtube name, Laoshu505000. You have got to check him out; he is really nice and his advice in his videos has really super helped me. Whatever language you are learning, chances are, he is either studying it now or has studied it so you can get great advice from his videos and if you email him, from Moses himself. That brother can break off some serious Chinese and Japanese, so if you need help with those, he is definitely your man!

I couldn't get enough at Youtube; for hours and hours, I looked around and found polyglot after polyglot after polyglot and I was truly amazed. I never knew there were, now, so many people interested in something outside themselves and had the same burning desire to learn, communicate and make friends with people all over the world; to learn a language, just for the sake of learning, even if they never set foot in the country of origin of the language they were learning. It has truly inspired me to know that if they can do it, so can I! And with that, I am embarking on my own journey of discovery and learning, starting with Arabic. God willing, if I can get fluent enough by next Summer, Hindi is my next stop! I am gathering things and looking at resources now, because when I am ready, I just want to start; not wait for materials to come in the mail. So if you want to see my failures and triumphs; learn some things of what and what not to do then sit tight! I hope you enjoy the ride!