How’s Your English?

Are you a non-native English speaker? If so, have you considered how your level of English will affect your studies of the Arabic language?

Here are a number of reasons why your proficiency in English will affect your Arabic studies:

  1. A good portion of your classmates at Kelsey may be native English speakers, so communicating with them during your first year will be difficult without a good level of English.
  2. Probably English is a much easier language for you to learn than Arabic, so the experience that you gain in learning it can be important for your Arabic learning.
  3. Written Arabic (not Spoken Arabic) is taught initially using a Grammar/Translation Approach at many institutions, including ours. This means that as you start out in your written Arabic classes, English will be used often in explanation of grammar and vocabulary. So if your English is weak, you might need to translate English definitions given in class to your native language at home. This can be very time-consuming and tiring!
  4. Most Arabic teachers in this region will tend to use English to clarify meaning of new vocabulary, especially in the beginning levels. Of course it is possible to teach Spoken Arabic without using English at all, but this is not common practice because it is not found to be an efficient use of class time.
  5. Local Jordanians typically have enough English to communicate very basic things with English speaking foreigners, but if your English is weak, living here can be very challenging and tiring until your level of Arabic is strong enough, since you may not always be able to find help from speakers of your native language.

So what level of spoken English would be enough to study Arabic with us? How can you know what your current level of English might be? Please see our new page, “Enough English?” for these answers!!!

Two Full Years?

  • “It doesn’t really take two full years to learn Arabic, does it? How long did it take you to get fluent?”
  • “My dad got fluent in French in like 10 months… so is Arabic gonna take longer than that?!?!”
  • “I only get to study at KAP for 2 or 3 semesters at the most. Is that enough time to learn the language?”
  • “Somebody told me that the 4th Semester at Kelsey isn’t that important…so I’m planning on starting work after the 3rd semester.”

Ocassionally we hear comments like these from students. So what do you think? Are two years too much, too little or just enough for this language? Is learning Arabic really more involved and time consuming than French or German?

Of course this question is a bit complicated since your personality, native language, natural ability, age, study habits, determination and more, all affect your language learning process of any language. But linguists will generally place Arabic in the HARD/HARDEST category of languages for English speakers to learn. See this link for more info.

Because of this you need to prepare yourself for quite a long journey if you plan to learn this language well. If the experts recognize that the length of time necessary for becoming proficient in Arabic for the normal person could be four times as long as for a romance language like French or Portuguese, then you need to take that seriously and set aside at least two years for full-time language study.

Lastly, if you plan to come to KAP, I want to encourage you to remain with us for all four semesters. Some students who have taken our fourth semester would consider it to be one of the most important in their language learning process. This is because proficiency in Arabic actually requires you to pursue fluency in two distinct languages, one for reading and writing and one for speaking and listening. However, Arabs use these two languages in a sense as though they were one language. Because of this one of the purposes of our fourth semester of studies is to help you to begin to see how locals use Fus-ha (written Arabic) and Amiyya (spoken Arabic) as one language and become prepared to use them in a similar way for the rest of your life.

Recent Kelsey Graduate

Do I need to take the Arabic ACTFL?

First of all, do you really know what the ACTFL is? Well…it’s an acronym, right? So, ACTFL stands for “American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages”. Basically it’s a standardized way to assess your oral or written proficiency in a foreign language. The ACTFL is offered for dozens of languages around the world, and there are certified testers right here in Amman who can assess your proficiency in Arabic. Already getting nervous? I’ll bet I know what you’re thinking:

“Eyyks!! I don’t wanna sit down alone in a room with a tester, a written exam and whatever else, so he or she can pick apart my Arabic AND I walk out embarrassed two hours later, AND I have to pay for it, AND nobody is making me do it!”

Wait a minute! Hold on! Whoever said that the test would be written? Whoever said that you’d get embarrassed? Of course you do have to pay a reasonable sum for the test, but how many thousands of dollars have you already paid to learn Arabic up to this point? Don’t you think a test like this would be worth it if its going to show you how far YOU HAVE GOTTEN until now?

But seriously, before I took the test I had the same feelings, so I totally understand. However, you need to think of the ACTFL test for spoken Arabic as an essential tool for you to begin using periodically to encourage you along the road toward greater and greater proficiency in Arabic. So this is how the test goes:

  • First you set up a date and time with a tester. We can help you with this right here at KAP.
  • Then you show up for your appointment with butterflies in your stomach and meet the tester.
  • Next the tester pushes the record button on his or her recording device… EEEK! =)
  • After that you have an interesting conversation with the tester about all the things that you like to talk about with your friends, about your life, where you were born, things that you like, your family, your hobbies, your interests and your goals, and anything else that can comfortably fit into a 25-30 minute chat.
  • Then you’re done! Two weeks later you get your results in a 2-3 page report about your offical level in Spoken Arabic as well as your strengths and weaknesses as an Arabic speaker.

That’s it? No pulling teeth? No embarassing comments? No red ink? Nope…just a nice conversation with a professional who’s helping you grow as a language learner. Sounds a lot better than you thought, right?

There are a couple of more things that might encourage you to take this test. One is that some testers can give you an official certificate that CAN help you get college credit at universities. Another is that the results will give you a specific level in Spoken Arabic that will officially tell you how far you HAVE COME. The levels someone might receive are:

  1. Novice Low, Novice Mid, Novice High.
  2. Intermediate Low, Intermediate Mid, Intermediate High.
  3. Advanced Low, Advanced Mid, Advanced High.
  4. Superior.

Any more questions? Come and talk to us in the KAP office or send us an email!

Recent Kelsey Graduate

MSA or Amiyya?

So which Arabic is the right Arabic to study? MSA or Amiyya? Today MSA is the most widely taught form of Arabic in the world…yet it is rarely used in real conversations with Arabs. At the same time, Amiyya in its various forms is used primarily in verbal communication…yet is it enough to learn by itself?

Here at Kelsey we teach both MSA and Amiyya, because in our long-running experience we recognize that people who want to live and work in Arab countries for the long-run need both Written and Spoken Arabic to function as normal residents of the Middle East.

Now you might be asking yourself, “Why do I need to learn to read and write MSA if all I really need to do is speak with people?” To answer your question, I’d like to ask you a question, “What would you be doing right now if you were unable to read this website blog?” In other words, have you ever really thought about and appreciated the kinds of “doors and windows” that automatically open for you as a literate communicator of the English language? Do you really think that its a wise long-term decision to short-cut around MSA just because its a challenging language to learn?

Not convinced? Let me give you a list of just a few activities that you will never be able to do in Arab countries if you side-step MSA:

  • surf the web in Arabic.
  • read road signs.
  • read a menu in Arabic.
  • read your rental contract or any other kind of contract.
  • read your kid’s note from school and respond to it.
  • participate in worship services at a local church.
  • participate in Bible studies at a local church.
  • understand sermons or teaching at your local church.
  • read the headlines of a newspaper.
  • apply for residency visas.
  • read your kid’s 1st grade reading book or help him/her with any kind of homework.
  • watch and understand the news.

Convinced yet? Let me try one more time. Are you (or do you intend to be) a serious student of Arabic? Would you like to someday be able to speak with people about the things of the heart, talk about and understand politics, history and culture, and have the opportunity to continue to grow in these languages for the rest of your life, wherever you are? If so, you cannot sidestep MSA. Rather let us help you to take the bull by the horns and ride!!!

Have you considered teaching experience?

With so many Arabic schools in Amman, how can you decide where to study? Looking at the options you might notice that some schools want you to focus on their facilities, saying that your personal comfort will definitely impact your ability to learn Arabic. But you want to learn a language, right? So are cushy chairs, new white boards, bay windows and a panoramic view of the city really going to determine your success?

How about teaching experience? How many schools in the area employ teachers who have plenty of real experience teaching foreigners in the classroom? How many schools in the area even mention this important factor on their websites?

We here at KAP employ the most seasoned, experienced and excellent Arabic teachers in the whole region. The 12 teachers on our staff together have more 150 years of teaching experience! These talented men and women are together one of the major keys to the success of this program through the decades we been here in Jordan, and they will be one of the major keys to your success in learning Arabic if you join us here at KAP.

We’re Number One!!

Well, so to speak.  Arabic is one of the languages at the top of the list of difficulty in learning, at least for English speakers.  It’s pretty tough for speakers of other languages too.  

Nevertheless, the Kelsey Arabic Program has assisted hundreds of people in learning to speak, understand, read and write Arabic.  Yes, it is hard, indeed it might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.  But it is possible.  With hard work, a good attitude, and the right tools (which we will help you with), we believe you can do it.  Why shrink back from a challenge?

The website on which this was found has a variety of resources for language learners.  There seems to be a wealth of iPhone apps and other resources for use of technology in language learning.

Arabic Dialects

It’s rather well-known that the Arabic language has a number of different dialects.  We often hear the question, “If I learn the Jordanian/Palestinian dialect and then move to a different Arabic-speaking country, will the people be able to understand me?”  This post, written by friends and former Kelsey students, can help one to understand the challenge of dialect, while giving assurance that others have faced the challenge and overcome it.