May 09, 2013

Faraj, Reem Silver_nugget
[MDESW1214] Second Year Arabic 1

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Here is a small fact: Arabic is horrifically tough. No, I don't mean, "Ugh we have 800 pages of reading but if you just skim the summaries we can get done in four hours" tough, but "Oh my god I have taken this language for 15 months straight and just now learned the word for 'bad'" tough. Your friends taking Spanish and Italian will get to study abroad using what they learned in class, and you will go to Jordan and speak MSA (because Columbia stubbornly refuses to allow dialect classes) and look weird. Do you know what the jussive case is? Do you want to know? This language is not for the faint of heart.

All this being said, you're going to want Reem to be with you through the tough times. She is demanding in terms of wanting students to understand what a lifelong commitment learning Arabic is, but empathetic in that she understands that the textbook will sometimes suck, that you will cry if you end up having to conjugate the dual form on the fly, and that you've probably got four other classes to deal with in addition to this 5-credit monstrosity. This does not mean that she's going to give you an A+ for showing up for every class, but she's been flexible with letting us turn in second drafts of writing assignments, turn in homework for new grammatical concepts after we go over it in class, etc. Arabic grammar "rules" have so many exceptions that they're hardly rules at all, and Reem understands this and is perfectly happy to go over concepts multiple times, sometimes even admitting that she has trouble as a native speaker remembering all the nuances (I'm looking at you, numbers, counted nouns, and case endings). You cannot get through this class skipping work, but she understands the workload. My advice? Do all your homework (probably about 10 hours' worth) on the weekend and save the week for re-writes and reviewing. Will this amount of homework suck? Yes. Are you taking Arabic? Get used to it.

My one gripe with this class is the lack of speaking, but honestly every introductory or intermediate Arabic class I've been in has been very grammar and vocab heavy, which leaves very little time to speak, so this is not a criticism of Reem's teaching style but more the nature of the beast. There's a huge base of information you need before you can even begin to properly form sentences that go beyond "I ran", "She ate", "They went to Jordan", and I'm hopeful that higher level classes will have more speaking.

Perhaps my feelings toward Arabic come off as rather snarky, and this attitude is pretty prevalent among learners wherever I've been (http://arabicproblems.tumblr.com/), whether abroad or at other universities. At the end of the day, though, Arabic and Reem teach you how to learn something completely different than anything you've experienced before, and I think that's a handy skill to have throughout life. You've got to be diligent, it helps to have someone who understands that things are tough but doesn't give you an excuse to give up or slack off, and I can honestly say that my past two classes with Reem have been the best Arabic instruction I've ever received.

Workload:

About 10 hours of homework a week (essays, worksheets, reading, listening) in addition to just straight studying new concepts. 4 tests per semester, 1 final with writing/listening/reading/grammar.