Written by Cecilia Pou Jové (Williams College), Student Correspondent CET Jordan: Intensive Language, Spring 2018
I have frequently thought of giving up my language learning. Whenever I seem to get stuck on a lesson or see myself falling behind my peers, I wonder if learning Arabic is a worthwhile venture. However, my recent trip to Egypt allowed me to see improvement outside the classroom. So here are a couple of ways in which I noticed my progress.
1. I spoke confidently with people from service industries.
This may seem like a fairly simple task, but for me this bore a significant meaning. As someone who grew up in a tourist laden country and worked in the food service industry, I knew how uncomfortable it was when tourists assumed that me and my coworkers would know perfect English in order to cater to them. Although I never expect visitors to speak perfect Spanish, it is significant when I see effort put into my language, because I perceive respect for my culture.
Furthermore, I believe that outside of the CET community, these are some of the individuals I speak to the most, and to make our transactions easier it is clear to me that as the language learner, I should put in the work. During my trip I was able to speak in Arabic to employees in dining services, travel agencies, and stores with few miscommunications, which for me meant that I could navigate a country in my target language with relative fluency.
2. I engaged in new cultural activities.
Although CET only has only so much time to expand my vocabulary, I was astonished to see how well I could engage with historical monuments. One of my favorite ventures in the trip was to the Ahmed Shawki Museum, in which I had a full tour in Arabic. While in the past this idea would have horrified me, I was now able to understand the entire experience and was able to talk to the tour guide on Shawki’s works 20 minutes after the excursion (and finessed a free book).
3. I understood sooo much more media.
This was by far one of the most exciting aspects of my trip. While before CET Jordan I could pick up on only a few words in audio, during my trip I realized how much more refined my listening had become. For example, instead of listening to non-Arabic media when waiting in the notoriously congested Cairo traffic, I listened to radio shows and new songs. Being able to comprehend most of what was said was important to me because it meant that I was present and that I could engage with the culture deeper than before. After I leave the program I will not have constant exposure to Arabic as I do now, so it is of great comfort to know that I can stay connected to the language with entertainment.
Learning Arabic is a challenging process that is even more difficult in a rigorous program like this, but I am convinced that my quick progress is proof that I can reach full (or pretty decent) proficiency.