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“A different language is a different vision of life." Learning Arabic ab initio at a UK university

“A different language is a different vision of life." Federico Fellini.

Learning Arabic ab initio at a UK university.


Here, one of our recent graduates offers thoughts about her experience.


السلام عليكم


The health benefits of learning a second language are well documented. Physiological studies prove that bilingualism (or, more precisely, speaking two or more languages regularly) has numerous cognitive advantages. These advantages include an improvement in multitasking skills, better decision making and sharpened memory.

In addition, bilingualism also brings a vast number of personal benefits. It opens up the door to free communication, enables us to meet new people, share ideas freely, and understand a new (and sometimes alien) culture without hindrance. Many linguists argue that learning a new language is not merely a study of different vocabulary and grammatical structures, but rather a deeper analysis of the socio-political makeup of a country, its culture, people and religion.


From the many reasons above came my personal decision to read Arabic ab initio (meaning “from the beginning” in Latin) at university. Arabic has consistently been ranked within the most important languages to learn.


The first year of learning Arabic at university was mainly focused on learning the Arabic alphabet. The Arabic alphabet is considered an ‘abjad’, - it only uses consonants. It comprises 28 letters which vary in shape depending on their position within the word. At the end of the first year, students were able to form short phrases in Arabic in the present and past tense. It was rather a slow process!


The second year of Arabic tuition was an intense one, with the complex nature of Arabic grammar presenting tough linguistic challenges to the non-native speaker. However, the reward for all the hard work paid off when, in my third year of university, I lived for a year in Fes, Morocco for nine months. (Most UK universities send students studying modern languages abroad to be immersed in their language in either the second or third year of university.) In Morocco, I was able to enjoy a spectacular year of cultural discovery which was so much enhanced through my ability to communicate with the locals.


I write now as the holder of a first-class degree in Arabic & French from Edinburgh University. The challenges of learning a complex language from scratch at university are not for the faint-hearted – but the rewards are significant.


For anyone who is currently considering learning a foreign language, be that at iGCSE level, A level or beyond, I could not recommend it more.


Minerva Tuition is proud to offer tutoring in modern languages. For more information please contact Valerie Weston on:

Email: valerie.weston@minervatuition.com

Phone: +852 6156 5705.

We would be delighted to hear from you.



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