Written by Corie Maguigad (American University), Student Correspondent for CET Jordan: Intensive Language, Fall 2019
The reason I picked CET Jordan was because of the intense focus on language acquisition. I knew that the best thing for me on my language-learning journey would be to do life in Arabic for 15 weeks and take 16 credits of Arabic. They don’t call it the Intensive Language program for nothing. It is not easy, but it’s worth every ounce of effort.
Before arriving in Jordan, I was absolutely terrified of the language pledge. I am a relatively chatty person, and the thought of not being able to fully express myself freaked me out. Now that I am over halfway through the program, I am already reaping the benefits of this challenging endeavor.
If you are considering doing a CET program with a language pledge, here are the things you need to know about living with a language pledge.
Perfection is not the goal.
I think a lot of people, myself included, get self-conscious when practicing a new language. Even several weeks into the program, my classmates and I tend to speak quietly because we are scared of being incorrect. The point of the language pledge is to improve fluency in the language, of course, but that doesn’t happen overnight. If you don’t talk, you can’t fix your mistakes. The only way to learn a language is to mess up every once and a while.
You have to stick to it.
The language pledge can be incredibly frustrating. More often than not, I feel like I am talking around the point I am trying to make because I never seem to have all the words I need. Additionally, if I am not making sense, I feel like I have to use 100 different ways to say what I mean. It’s exhausting, and I am confused at least 92% of the time. However, the more I stick with Arabic the easier it gets. If you make a habit of breaking the language pledge, it can be difficult to get back into it.
Little wins become big wins.
Whether it is successfully buying something super cheap at the Friday Market, understanding chit-chat with the taxi driver, or only making a handful of mistakes during fluency activities, I take any chance I have to celebrate my progress. Functioning in a foreign language is a challenge, and it can be easy to doubt your abilities. Celebrating wins, even the small ones, helps me remember why I am putting myself through this in the first place.
English becomes a luxury.
This is kind of weird, but whenever I need to text my family or friends at home, sometimes, I think about what I need to tell them in Arabic before I realize that I can speak to them in English and they wouldn’t understand the Arabic if I sent it to them anyway. This always comes as a breath of fresh air, especially if it is a hard language day. As important as it is to keep the language pledge and not spend your semester abroad focusing on the U.S., using your family and friends at home to release your thoughts in English can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health.
It gets easier.
The more time I spend immersed in Arabic, the easier it gets to speak Arabic. Seems kind of obvious, but the proof comes in ways I wasn’t expecting. I find myself thinking in Arabic a lot, even though no one can hear my thoughts. Along the same line, I will often write myself reminders or write my to-do lists in Arabic. The best part, though, is I spend a lot less time rehearsing what I am going to say in Arabic before I say it. An object in motion, stays in motion, and the more I learn Arabic, the easier it becomes to function normally in Arabic.
It’s about more than the language.
It is crazy to me that most of the people I talk to in Jordan have gotten to know me in Arabic. My teachers, my roommate, and my language partner have never talked to me in English. Obviously, I am improving my language when I talk to them, but I am also developing relationships and getting to know people of different backgrounds. The point of learning a language is to learn how to communicate with others, and over the course of this semester I have been lucky enough to learn about Jordan from Jordanians in Jordanian Arabic.