Elementary Arabic II

May 2019

Prof Bettaieb is absolutely AWFUL. Please trust me when I say she is extremely hard, mean, and downright cold. Some of the students in my class had taken her before and told me that she openly called students "stupid" and then continued to demean them throughout the class period. She doesn't give anyone the benefit of the doubt and wont hesitate to put you on the spot. If you're not prepared, be ready to deal with the wrath of Bettaieb. She will skin you alive if you dont know the answer to her questions. She ONLY speaks in Arabic so it can be very hard to understand her instructions. If you ask her to repeat or clarify something she said, she will assume you werent paying attention and then talk down to you the rest of the class. She is a very harsh grader and will take points off for every little mistake. Everyone in the class was absolutely terrified of Prof Bettaieb. No one felt confident or comfortable enough to ask questions- even if they were confused. She creates a cloud of anxiety that looms over the classroom- she will put you on the spot out of nowhere and if you don't know the answer, lets just're in trouble. Its up to you to learn the material (like i said, everything is in Arabic so you have to teach yourself a lot of the lessons). She won't take time to go over things in class you dont understand. Throughout the entire course there was an 'every man for himself' feeling. She is the meanest, coldest, most harsh Arabic professor I have ever had and I have taken Arabic for 8 years. I used to love learning Arabic but Prof Bettaieb made me want to switch languages. Prof Bettaieb was, hands down, the worst professor I have ever had at Columbia. Take her classes at your own risk.

Dec 2012

I could not disagree more with the post before mine. Her class was very, very good. The syllabus is departmental, so it's very well thought out and everyone in other classes are doing the same things at the same time. However, she makes sure not to move on unless everyone understands everything. Her priority is for students to learn and really know the language, so grades definitely fall behind that. She will edit and mark every assignment handed in, even if the purpose wasn't vocabulary or grammar, she'll check for it and follow up with you about it. At one point near the end of the semester before the exam, she even took a huge chunk of a class time to go over all of the mistakes made on a writing assignment, even though they were things we "should" already know or were sort of the foundations of the language that we missed or forgot about, something I've been denied doing in other Arabic classes I've taken. Reem genuinely cares about her students, has always made herself available to me and my classmates, and makes it clear when she is free. For example, she definitely won't check her email on Saturdays and Sunday, so don't count on that, but she'll always be free otherwise. She's very personable, is great at explaining the many difficult grammar rules, and if a student doesn't understand something, she will come up with a new way to explain it. I recommend taking Arabic with her.

May 2011

Ouijdane absolutely deserves the gold nugget. Arabic is a difficult language but she took the time to make sure we really understood what was going on, and because of that my class succeeded in grasping difficult grammatical concepts. She is friendly, approachable, and down to earth, and I would highly highly recommend everyone who is thinking about Arabic to take her class. It won't be easy, but with Ouijdane you will look forward to coming into class every day.

May 2010

Professor Bettaieb is a wonderful teacher. She seems to really understand the difficulty students' experience with learning the Arabic language with all of its complex grammatical structures and intense workload. She provided great context for all of the chapters, sharing more specific information and materials with us than were in Al-Kitaab. Sometimes this seemed like an overload of work, until I realized that she was only providing this extra information to help us understand, not to overwhelm us. Her homework corrections are constructive, and she makes a great effort to be available during office hours or at separate appointments if students need to discuss something. The written assignments were generally clear and helpful, but Professor Bettaieb and the MEALAC dept in general, it seems, need to work on their video selection. Greater efforts could be made to ensure that high-quality videos and audio clips find their way to the listening exams. Many times, the stress of taking an exam was compounded by the first few seconds of trying to make out Arabic through the garbled, low-quality videos we watched. Though it becomes easier to understand low-quality audio as the video progresses, on an exam where the video is played a limited number of times it would be very helpful to know from the start that the audio is clear.

Jan 2010

Ghada is a very nice teacher. She is friendly and tries to make the class enjoyable by making the class work in groups and trying different exercises with the class. The main problem I found with her teaching however is that it seemed at times she didn't understand student's questions (slight language barrier) so she wouldn't answer the question at hand. For the workload, it's pretty heavy like most of the intro arabic classes. It's especially heaviest the first few week, perhaps to scare off people when the arabic classes are way overfilled. I was already familiar with arabic letters (but nothing else about arabic) before the class so I could imagine the first month of class being extremely tough for people wholly unfamiliar with arabic. She does give the full syllabus with all the homeworks at the beginning so you could work ahead. For intro arabic I would definitely recommend her. This was one of the best classes I took at Columbia. The workload is unavoidable for learning arabic so given that, she is a great choice if you are set on taking arabic.

May 2009

Meh, I agree that Rym exercised a lot of patience, but it seemed as though she was often making a point to SHOW how magnanimous her patience was. And she most definitely has trouble understanding questions. She frequently gave the wrong answer to students' questions even though everybody else in the room knew what was being asked. Awkward. I don't know if it's because she has trouble understanding American English, or she has trouble hearing, or poor comprehension skills, or what. I disagree that she was clearer than the book. The book rules. She did put forth a lot of effort, though. Sometimes too much effort for ten in the morning. She was generally nice and a competent teacher. However, the teacher's individual merits have little bearing on the Arabic experience at Columbia for reasons that I've outlined below: Understand that if you take any Arabic classes at Columbia you will be dealing with the MEALAC Department, which worships at the altar of Soviet-style central planning. Your personal administrative and learning needs will be utterly disregarded for the sake of an amorphous student body. I was moved from one section for which I had already registered to another section, taught by a different teacher, for the sake of keeping an even number of students in every class. The reasoning was that "too many" students in one class makes it difficult for students to get individual attention, so they moved a PTSD sufferer who cannot fall asleep before 2 AM from his 3 PM class with fifteen students to a 10:30 AM class with twelve students. Did I complain? No, but I shouldn't have had to because the whole thing was ridiculous. Both Arabic teachers I had regularly referred to "The Department" as the arbiter of their shifting, counterintuitive rules. Isn't that creepy? When I tried to register for Second Year Arabic last week, they had changed the registration rules so that anyone could register online even though all were "supposed" to get the instructor's permission via email before adding the section. So, being one to follow the rules I asked and was given permission to join a particular section...only to find the class already full when I attempted to register. I sent a second email to the professor explaining the problem only to be told that I would now have to wait for the Fall and try to get into the class then. This after the person had already green-lighted me for their class. Thanks, MEALAC.

May 2009

Rym is...interesting. I learned a lot over two semesters, but her method of teaching is quite intimidating. She picks on people a lot, and if you don't know what's going on, she WILL embarrass you. You find yourself learning the language just so you don't become her next target. Sometimes it seems like she picks favorites, but some people are just more prone to messing up. She's funny at times, but her mood swings can get a bit annoying. She's helpful at times, but sometimes she misunderstands questions and answers what she thinks you're asking, which can lead to general confusion. At other times, she is sweet and approachable. She really is very intimidating though, so, if you're looking for someone who's consistently nice and forgiving and approachable, keep looking. If you're looking to learn Arabic, though, she WILL teach you the language, and you WILL become comfortable with the language since she forces everyone to participate. Your grade will accurately reflect your dedication to the class, but the dedication is necessary if you want to learn a language as difficult to Arabic. Go take Spanish or some other Romance language if you're looking looking to fulfill your language requirement with an easy A.

May 2009

Aanissa Rym is a wonderful, very gifted teacher, whose patience, kindness, and sense of humor made the class really enjoyable even when the material was quite difficult. Her enthusiasm and boundless creativity led to a wide variety of classroom activities and great lesson plans, which reinforced the grammar lessons and vocabulary well. Aanissa Rym always came to class with a very clear idea of what she wanted to accomplish, which meant that we were always busy, got the most out of our time each day, and left with a good idea about what was important from the section we were working on. She was much clearer than the textbook (which I did not like very much at all), she encouraged - required - everyone to participate frequently, and had very high expectations of all of her students, but again, has the patience of a saint and was very funny and sweet. Aanissa Rym is an outstanding teacher - a gem! I agree with the previous reviewer, who said that if you're not prepared to participate, you may be embarrassed and put on the spot, and it's also true that you can tell within the first few minutes of a class what her mood is like and how much you'll laugh that day. But her bad days seemed relatively few and far between, they're bearable, and she's usually back to her old self the next day. And the awkwardness was definitely more towards the beginning of the year/semester (I had her for both semesters) and lessened as the year went on and we all got to know each other better. I think she's wonderful - I'd highly recommend her to anyone.

Dec 2008

I didn't write a review about May for almost a year because I did not know how to explain her and did not know to what extent she had influenced my Arabic. She is an extremely capable teacher, and she knows how to teach Arabic to English speakers. I must say that the class is extremely challenging. May's class is probably about 25% harder than all other Elementary Arabic classes because she goes beyond the book in explaining certain grammar points, has us do much longer presentations, grades harder, etc. But because of this, our Arabic improved quickly and with much more precision than many. In Intermediate Arabic, May's alumni already knew most of the grammatical points that were supposed to be new. We also had done longer presentations and so were not afraid of the presentations that we had to give. She makes second year easy by comparison, which, depending on your constitution, can be either a good thing or a bad thing. May is quite demanding, and she expects you to learn on your own before coming to class. If you end up in her class, be sure to know the vocab before class because she will test you, and she will make a note if you can't form sentences with it. However, although she expects you to learn on your own, she is willing to go over difficult points with you (providing you make an appointment) and she has a knack for explaining things in a way that makes them easy due to her background in linguistics. Arabic is a difficult language, and May is a difficult professor. However, frustrating though it sometimes was, it is unbelievably rewarding to have worked for a grade and a grasp of this language and to achieve it. May really wants her students to succeed, and her tough love approach is the most valuable one she could take in this because she forced us to work hard and to get the very most out of our Arabic study. She is responsible for keeping my interest in this language high, and I am still in contact with her a year later. She is the one teacher at Columbia that I would recommend wholeheartedly because if you are willing to work hard, she is the best one possible to teach you.

Jul 2005

Professor El-Hage, in addition to being one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever had, is the nicest teacher in Columbia. He creates a familial atmosphere in class that makes it so fun. He is really an exceptional teacher. I have learned so much in one year and can't wait to continue this fall. I recommend El-Hage to anyone who is willing to work. If so, you will abosolutely love this class.

Sep 2004

i had suhail all year for first-year arabic. i had no prior exposure to the language, which can present major difficulties for a native english speaker. he was very understanding of this, as i'm sure he's seen more than his fair share of americans struggling through arabic. he tried to adapt teaching methods to target everyone's weaknesses and make sure everyone was as close to the same level as possible, but he wasn't always successful. the workload is very intense and the class is very fast-paced so it's mostly up to you to make sure you're learning everything you should be, especially because he doesn't like to meet very often during office hours. that said, he's very well-qualified, having taught arabic in his native syria and then at georgetown and the u.s. state department.

Aug 2004

There is no limit to the praise this man deserves- El Hage is more than a caring professor with a wonderful sense of humor; he is a devoted mentor and remarkable teacher who stops at nothing to ensure that students will get the most out of this class. Never have I had a teacher who is genuinely disappointed not to give you that A- he wishes you could have achieved. El Hage makes every effort to make this experience into one large and warm family, rather than an intensive language class.

Jul 2004

I could write a book on why El-Hage is the best language teacher I've ever had (and arabic marked my third set of language teachers), but suffice it to say that if you have the opportunity to take his class - whether you've been dying to learn arabic, you have the slightest interest, or you want an interesting way to fufill the language requirement - DO IT. If you're willing to work harder than you've ever imagined (and learn an unbelievable amount and have fun at the same time), this class will be one of your best experiences at Columbia. El-Hage is the most caring, involved, and kind professor I've met, and will go miles out of his way to make sure you are completely comfortable with the material, adding new office hours daily and even handing out his home phone number to students concerned about a quiz. Our class not only learned together, but became great friends though lunches at his apartment, dinners at faculty house, and classes that zipped by with laughter and Middle Eastern techno from the internet. The bottom line is that he really loves teaching and truly loves his students - and it shows.

Aug 2003

El-Hage is a sweetheart. He has a fantastic sense of humor, and makes the 2 hours of class fly by. He is probably the MOST DEDICATED professor I've ever encountered. He gives so much supplementary material and it is all really helpful. He TRULY TRULY CARES about how you do in his class, and about you as a person. He WANTS EVERYONE to get an A, and will work with anyone who needs help. He is a great teacher of Arabic. His only flaw is that sometimes he doesn't answer people's questions well cause I don't think he understands why we don't udnerstand something - but not in the nasty, abnoxious way. And he will continue to discuss the issue ad nauseum until he understands the problem and is able to answer the question. Therefore, this is a minor flaw and you should take this class. Oh, one other minor flaw - his handwriting is pretty shitty, but oh well.

Nov 2001

He was intimidating during the first week or two of classes, as we had to learn the alphabet almost immediately and he repeatedly told us how we must spend three hours on arabic a night. But the semester slowed down quickly and it turns out he's really a nice guy. He barks at you if you're behind, but if you're caught up he lavishes you with praise.

Oct 2001

Taufiq is worth waking up at 9 am for. He has a presence, very warm, lots of dignity, funny, which is absolutely incredible. Also he is nice to look at (this helps early in the morning). He goes out of his way to show his students that Arabic is a fascinating, beautiful language and sometimes he'll sing or read poetry so that while you're trying to struggle through the alphabet or mangling "I am very busy today" you can step out of the rut and hear exactly how gorgeous this language can be. He understands Arabic and is capable of explaining all the wacky ins and outs of it so that you understand better and are more interested. For comic relief, the book tells the sad story of Maha and Khaled and their somewhat pitiable lives which manage to be endlessly amusing.