“No matter how well implemented, a classroom environment can only teach you so much about a language …programs such as Banaat Connect offer a chance to fill those gaps.”
By Anela Malik (Fall ’16, Winter ’17, Summer ’17 Participant)
Arabic is a difficult language, nobody can deny it. In part, it’s incredibly frustrating for the very same reason that it remains so fascinating. Classical Arabic is different than Modern Standard Arabic is even more different from dialects that vary by region or even city. Most US based college Arabic programs offer a chance to learn Arabic using an established method. Namely, in a classroom, with structured lessons that utilize textbooks and online resources. No matter how well implemented, a classroom environment can only teach you so much about a language. After months in a classroom language students often find themselves at a loss during their first face to face interactions. Classroom language education has an important place, but it quickly becomes evident that there are gaps in comprehension and production that cannot be filled in a classroom. Those gaps are quite acute in Arabic, given its dialectic nature and diversity.
Language partner programs such as Banaat Connect offer a chance to fill those gaps. Stumblingly, haltingly, and at times laughingly, students can connect with a native speaker, practice a dialect widely understood in the Middle East, and start to utilize those dusty fragments of the language that they’ve learned in their classrooms. Over two sessions with the program, my ability to understand everyday speech and interact with fluidity and flexibility improved dramatically. I went from dreading everyday social interactions in Arabic to embracing them, knowing that I could wade through without too much embarrassment. Arabic will always be an ongoing journey for me as a non-native speaker, something I can work on and improve upon. Throughout that process I’ll just keep chatting, as language partners catalyze progress in a demonstrable and quite rewarding way.