course
Elementary Arabic I

Dec 2013

Tarik is very sweet, easy-going, and understanding. He doesn't make you feel bad if you don't know something, and makes the classroom environment comfortable. That being said, a one-hour class for Arabic is not enough to really learn new things, but simply to solidify knowledge and go over things students are having trouble with. This means that you are responsible for dedicating 2-3 hours every night to Arabic (homework, vocabulary, grammar, etc.) While Tarik is a fair and relatively lenient grader, he does expect you to speak in class, consistently attend and participate, know your vocabulary, turn in your homework, etc., which makes it hard to get an A as a final grade.

Dec 2012

This was totally the best intro arabic class. Taoufik would come into class, full of energy and always make sure we speak in arabic in the class. He also held a meeting with each of us after one of the tests to discuss weaknesses and how to improve. Probably because he knows so many language, he is brilliant at articulating the use of certain words and how to formulate thoughts into arabic. He also has a nice handwriting and goes over all the quizzes in class and gives extended vocab sheets. Basically a great teacher, loved this class. Speaking and writing skills are fairly good now.

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.

Dec 2010

I'm surprised no one has waxed lyrical about this man yet! He is a fantastic professor: very easy-going, very friendly, makes a very comfortable environment for learning such a difficult language, and certainly a very effective teacher. Though he doesn't tally participation, speaking is a daily activity. While it's scary at first, you relax into it. When the final oral exam rolled around, it felt very natural to answer interview questions (from a different professor) -- there was minimal stuttering and umming and wild gesticulating. The nightly drills are fairly standard language exercises, covering listening, writing etc. that definitely help. Definitely review the grammar and vocab every night. Just a good habit that will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. (Quite honestly, I did not form this habit and managed to scrape by; but I definitely regret not spending more time on the language...you get as much out of it as you put in, I suppose.) The biweekly quizzes are straightforward and fairly low-stress. Expect to never be surprised by what is on these: they're "cumulative," insofar as each chapter builds on the last. For example, you might be expected to recognize past grammatical constructions but if it wasn't a focus point in the two weeks leading up to the quiz, you probably won't be expected to use them yourself. If Arabic seems like an impossible language, have no fear! Tarik makes everything very clear and doesn't move too fast through the material.

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

Aanissa Rym was a phenomenal professor, entirely devoted to facilitating your study of the Arabic language. Her Arabic accent is one of the clearest I have ever heard, which is a true blessing, especially for first semester when it's helpful to have each sound so distinct. This probably has to do with her vast knowledge of languages - I think she speaks 5? She expects you to do a lot of work outside of class, but I think every professor does, as the syllabus is quite rigorous, but it's to be expected in a 5 credit course. She was very clear in explaining grammatical concepts, and when she didn't answer questions, at least in my section, it was usually because the questions didn't make sense in an Arabic framework and were a result of people thinking in English and trying to speak Arabic, which she told us not to do from the beginning. Apart from this, she is a wonderful person. She really cares about her students and wants nothing but success for each one, and only employs strict rules about homework, I'm guessing, because it's tough to grade/keep track of that much paper each night and she doesn't want us to get behind. One of the best parts about her is that she speaks in Arabic almost all of the time, which is perfect for learning to hear the language better and getting down some vocabulary.

May 2009

Don't even think about taking this instructor if you want to learn Arabic. Inconsistent, permits regular use of dialect including her own. Dialect is really wonderful when learning how to understand this magnificent, beautiful language, but the standard for all other Arabic professors, and the Department, is MSA (modern standard arabic). She favors certain students (regardless of how hard anyone works) and lets some do homework in class, and ignores others altogether. Don't expect her to be too available for you. You'll find yourself relying solely on the book, a tutor, other Arabic speaking-- or learning-- friends, the grace of the heavens or some other spiritual source, or all of the above. When it comes to Arabic, you will need all the things she is not. One good thing - if she likes you, she'll let you do anything you want.

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.

Mar 2009

Fall 2008 was Rym's first semester at Columbia, but she knows how to teach. She's doing her doctorate at Drew University, so I don't know how long she'll be here. If you're willing to put in two to three hours of homework each night and if you're not afraid of speaking in class, Aanisa Rym will be very nice to you. She constantly encourages participation in class, and she will put you on the spot; if you're unprepared or confused, you'll be very embarassed. There were a lot of awkward moments (Rym can be somewhat moody), but also a lot of laughs. She answers questions clearly and patiently, which is important since you go through the material so quickly. She speaks in Arabic most of the time, but her accent is easy to understand (she's Tunisian). The syllabus follows Alif Baa' and al-Kitaab to a tee. As in all Arabic classes, you have to do a lot of work at home. The quizzes and final are difficult, and you have to work pretty quickly to get them done on time. As part of the final we did a ten-minute oral presentation (which you can do with one other person) in class. She grades pretty easily; as long as you do all the homework and participate in class, you'll probably get in the A range. I loved the class. It was a s**t-load of work, but it was all worth it.

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.

Apr 2008

May is an unbelievable professor. She is (in my opinion) the best and most capable professor of this specific class, and our class has consistently out-performed all of the others on standardized tests, etc. However, do not take her class if you are not prepared to work extremely hard. She is HARD. She is a fair grader, but tough, and she does not make exceptions when, for example, you forget to turn in the daily homework. She is very good at explaining the material, however, and truly wants to bring her students up to a level of understanding and competency in Arabic that. If you're not afraid of a challenge, take her class. I plan to take her classes for as long as possible.

Jan 2007

Suad is a tough teacher. She is very cheerful and enthusiastic, but she can also be impatient. She has no mercy on your homeworks. She marks all the mistakes and grades them with check (minus, just check, and plus). You can only get a plus if it is perfect. AND they count a lot for your overall grade! Participation is no joke either. If you don't have a loud voice or are shy you're screwed because she will take it out on your average. The tests are much easier than being in class with Suad. They surprised me, because she makes you expect the worst. Also, if you forget something and ask her about it later, she will scold you for not remembering. It is very easy to feel stupid in this class. Yet, Suad is not a bad teacher. She includes outside songs and videos and also loves to get to know her students. If you care enough (and by caring I mean putting in 3 or 4 hours of work a night), you can do well in the class. If you don't work hard though, you can bet on having your GPA slaughtered.

Jan 2007

Jeff is a good professor as language classes go. While it could be immediately difficult to understand certain concepts due to time constraints, he made sure that the class mastered the concepts over the next few days. Writing assignments recieving low grades were allowed to be rewritten for full credit, quizzes and the exam were fair if you'd been paying attention all semester, and class was generally fun and understandable. The only problem was not having work returned promptly, so be prepared for month-long stretches in which you have no idea how you are doing in the class.

May 2006

I found Jamil Daher to be one of the most exasperating, incomprehensible, and unkind teachers in my entire Columbia career. The man refuses to follow the teaching schedule of the Arabic department at Columbia, making his own exams that are far too fast paced for first year students in Arabic. In addition, Jamil is incredibly prejudiced against many groups of people, including Muslims and Turks. I found that his class was confusing and frustrating; it ended up being a battle with his personality rather than an endeavor in learning Arabic. Switching out of his section is the best decision I ever made.

Dec 2005

Arabic is no joke. Having no bachground in the language, I found myself struggling to keep up at first, then later blowing off my other classes to study Arabic. If you don't have a good instructor, life can be hell, because you end up going to class to just feel dumb, and the learning process grinds to an unpleasant halt. Suad is like the hip Yemeni grandmother you never had. She smiles a lot, she's friendly, and gently makes fun of you from time to time. There is just one problem: she is a bad teacher. If you already speak Arabic or have a background in a similar language, then you might not have problem, but if you actually need to lean arabic from the ground up, go elsewhere. Suad is very friendly, but she is terribly unhelpful. When I would try to go to Suad's office hours, she smiled, was very nice, and totally blew me off. It was like she didn't think it was her job to teach me anything. In her mind, her job is to present the materials. Figuring it all out is left up to you. Of all the studying I did, I'd say that classtime was the least helpful part of the day.Very little learning happened in class, and maybe that's normal, but I don't think so. I ended up hiring a private tutor for $20/hour, and it made such a huge difference.

Oct 2005

If you think that a language class should be comfortable learning environment, I would highly encourage people to stay away from this professor. Although he clearly understands how to teach Arabic, his classroom demeaner is counter-productive. He belittles students for their mistakes and seems to expect everyone to immediately grasp all of the concepts (occasionally even ones he hasn't taught yet). By the end of the semester, I was terrified of having to speak in class. I have taken four other languages at Columbia, and this class was by far the worst. That said, Suhail can be very amusing, so if you're thick-skinned you might enjoy his antics.

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.

May 2005

Jamil is a very kind and interesting and understanding professor. He dedicates a portion of every class to conversation via partnering students up with students. Although you learn standard Arabic, he devotes some time to teaching slang that would be used in other countries and explains how the Arabic differs in other countries. One day, he even brought in some fresh baked bread (can't remember what kind) for all the students in the class. He's tough on you if you don't hand homework in and don't practice, but he's fair also.

Jan 2005

Jamil is a wonderful man who truly cares about his students. He wanted us all to do well and often stated that he was tough on us only because he wanted us to learn arabic. He would often sidestep questions or answer them with a nonsequiter, but his responses were always so odd and entertaining that I couldn't help but laugh. For example, when asked an either/or question along the lines of "is this word pronounced this way or that way" he simply responded with a "yes," without specifying which way was correct. After a moment of akward silence, he continued with one of his best nonsequiters, saying, "do you like lettuce or tomato--yes?" Then he went back to teaching without further explanation. All in all, Jamil is an excellent and entertaining professor. I'm putting my money where my mouth is, as well: next semester i am going to take Elementary II with him.

Jan 2005

Suhail is... well, he reminds me, frankly, of a child. Certain days of the week, he is pleasant and personable, and others, he will be dark and raging, as if some kind of dark cloud had descended over him. He can be hilarious and friendly, and suddenly be very cautious and slightly cruel. An extremely odd character, and one against whom you simply must steel yourself and decide that you are dedicated to learning the language, despite the kind of day the professor has chosen to have. Maybe he'd be more pleasant in the afternoons, after he's had time for caffeine and a bagel? Hard to tell.

Dec 2004

There are two things you need to know about Dika. First: HE ROCKS! He is the nicest, funniest (OH MAN!), cutest little Lebanese man you've ever met. Second: He is not a very good Arabic teacher. He is a man with a PhD in sociology who just happens to speak Arabic. That said, it was a very hard decision for me to choose whether I should stay in his section or swtich to El-Hage's. Dika is awesome, and I looked forward to every class (even when it was 10am Friday morning). But if you are really serious about Arabic, go for El-Hage.

Dec 2004

What can I say about Dr. Dika except that he is the best! His hilarious anecdotes and side comments will have you laughing during the entire two hours. He's an extremely warm man and is a great teacher. He is not to be missed.

Dec 2004

Jamil is certainly an odd bird, as professors go. He adopts a very strict persona to teach class, but breaks out of it every so often to make jokes, whose hilarity is what keeps me coming back. He is a good, engaging teacher who makes sure that everyone participates, and therefore everyone has a chance to screw the language up at some point. Our class always included a "conversational" period at the end, which allowed people in the class to get to know each other and we all felt very comfortable by the end of the semester. Jamil's personality could be very abrasive, especially given how demanding he is on his students. I would not reccomending taking the class if you're Turkish, as he seems to be particularly hard on that nationality. He sometimes made fun of people who asked questions, especially in his worse moods. However, I found him to be a good enough teacher that I hope to take class from him again.

Nov 2004

Suhail is a nutcase. He's hilarious, sometimes scary, sweet, kind of sketchy--overall hilarious. As a teacher he's alright. He cares about his students and he's very personable--really wants to be friends with his students. I dont think I'd have learned as much as I did had it not been for an amazing TA, but Suhail's not bad

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.

Dec 2003

If you are lucky enough to make it into Taufik's section, consider yourself VERY VERY lucky. He is incredibly nice and patient, yet posesses the ability to run an intense and enjoyable language class. You will be putting in a LOT of work if you want to do well in this class. Most of the class fell into this category, and the ones who werent as motivated ended up with poor grades and a weak grasp on the language. Personality wise, he is very hip, personable, but slightly hard to read. He focuses a lot on the script, writing, and reading -- as opposed to speaking. But if you do the drills, you will grasp an accent and idea of how the language sounds. Of course, real proficiency isnt achieved in one semester, but the amount of material you learn is astounding. Nothing but praise for Ustedh Taufik!

Aug 2003

He is very intelligent, has a good sense of humor, and a good grasp on teaching Arabic. I really learned a lot and enjoyed it at the same time. He's also really hot, if you like the Middle Eastern type, and that's always worth waking up for. But that aside, he and El-Hage are the best Arabic teachers in the department, so take it with one of them. I reccomend Taoufik for first semester of Elementary Arabic, because his handwriting is amazing, and if you copy him, you'll have beautiful handwriting as well.

Apr 2003

a wonderful teacher. he is a skilled linguist and is very capable. made learning adifficult language so easy and fun!

Dec 2002

So the class will take over your life, because thats what learning Arabic does... its a lot more work than the four credits its worth, and its friday classes, so that really sucks. Samir is really nice, and not very hard, but he's not a very good teacher. He speaks really slowly and writes even slower, and doesn't really understand the idea that Arabic is different than English and expects everyone to grasp pronunciation and grammatical form immediately without his explanation. He also forgets what he teaches, and teaches straight from the book. As long as you ask a lot of questions when he contradicts himself, things are okay, and it wasnt a hard class.

Nov 2002

This guy is amazing! He brings in such a cultured view of the Arabic language and is passionate about it as well. The way he describes the significance of the letters is beautiful. He however, can be a little insensitive at times, but he is nonetheless, a nice guy. You'll get a kick out of making fun of Maha and Khalid! He is approachable, but be careful of what you say!

Apr 2002

Taoufiq is focused but relatively easygoing and makes class an enjoyable experience. He has a good sense of humor and responds well to students' questions. High points of the class include group conversation exercises and the various tidbits of cultural information he works into grammar lessons. Most of my class enjoyed his teaching methods but wished, in retrospect, that he had put slightly more emphasis on speaking over reading and writing. Regardless, Taoufiq is a good professor and provides an excellent introduction to the Arabic language and culture.

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.