In week 1, I prepared a self-introduction, looked up some useful vocabulary to talk about myself, and started to learn some of the vocabulary by starting a flashcard deck.
I had planned a conversation with a native speaker, but they didn't turn up for the lesson… bad luck for the first time!
Anyway, I refocused and set my priorities for week two: start to build a proper foundation in Arabic by using a textbook to learn the basics.
How do you find the right language resources?
Impossible, actually. I haven't been able to find anything here in Doha!
Instead, I turned to online services. When I learnt Cantonese I used Innovative Language's Cantoneseclass101.com, which I really liked. So I checked out their Arabic version. Unfortunately, I didn't like what I found – mixed messages and a serious lack of content, but I won't go into that here.
I turned to another online product that a few readers had recommended to me: Rocket Language Egyptian Arabic (affiliate link).
I'd like to say that it was a strategic choice, that I heavily researched the best options etc etc…
…but to be honest I was a bit desperate! It was the only online equivalent to a textbook I could find!
When you find yourself stuck with something, just make a decision and move on.
I'll save the review of Rocket till another time, but suffice it to say that the foundation of the course is a collection of lessons based around dialogues.
Perfect. Just what I wanted!
How do you study a language at the beginning?
This has been simple.
Sit-down study: 30-40 minutes, 4-5 days per week
Flashcards: 5-15 minutes, every day
Here's my process:
- Start from lesson 1 in Rocket Arabic
- Skip the lessons themselves – they're 20-30 minutes each
- Instead, just play the dialogue from the lesson (less than a minute)
- Play it over and over, without looking at the translation
- When I've got used to it, keep listening, this time with the translation
- Look up words that I don't know using Lisaan Masry
- Transfer useful language to my flashcard deck
- Go away and revise my flashcards, little and often, every single day, multiple times throughout the day (even if it's only for 60 seconds at a time).
Now here's the key.
Most of what I exported from the dialogues to my flashcards were full sentences.
The foundations of speaking in fluent sentences
This is vital.
I've learnt from past experience that:
[Tweet “If you focus only on single words, then single words you shall speak.”]
If you want to speak more fluently and easily when it comes time to talk, you need to be practising full sentences, or at least smaller “chunks”, right from the start.
This video above shows you step-by-step what I was doing.
That's pretty much it.
It's simple, but it works.
Because this focus on phrases is working well for me at the moment I'll probably keep doing this now for a couple more weeks, focusing most of my energy on it.
I don't want to get distracted, and this is the best way to guarantee progress at this stage.
Did I understand everything?
Within the material on Rocket there were occasional grammatical constructions that I didn't really understand, and some words that I couldn't seem to find in the dictionary.
This is OK. I'm trying to focus on progress over perfection.
[Tweet “Accepting that you don't need to understand everything in a language is a liberating experience.”]
Just focus on what you think is “learnable” at whatever stage you're at, and keep moving forward.
So that's it – pretty simple.
Simple is good. It makes it much easier to maintain momentum and keep going.
Over to you – what do you think? What would you have done differently in week 2? Leave me a comment below to let me know.