Thursday, April 25, 2013

It all started with this:

Back in late October/November, I was studying in the basement of the college library when a spider started to crawl towards me. Naturally, I panicked, and asked the first guy I saw to kill it. The spider squasher happened to be a really nice guy from Libya, named Abdelfatah. He told me all about his wife and two daughters, and then we started speaking about his native language...Arabic.

Whenever I meet someone that speaks a foreign language, I usually say something like, "I would love to be able to speak that!"
Usually this ends with the person teaching me how to say hello, or something useful, and I forgot about the small desire I had to learn that language. Abdelfatah didn't let me forget, though. Immediately after expressing interest in learning his language, he sat me down, and showed me how to write my name. After that, every time I saw him in the library, he would teach me several letters from the Arabic alphabet- how to write them, how to pronounce them, etc. It wasn't long before I had the alphabet memorized.

My teaching has pretty much been taken over by other Arab friends of mine now, and I'm happy to say that at this point, I can both read and write in Arabic. I'm currently working on building up my vocabulary. Learning a second language is really a fascinating thing. It is amazing how simply learning a new way of speaking can open up your mind in a lot of ways. I have the settings on all of my electronics set in Arabic, and I try to introduce myself to Arabs whenever I can, so I can get some language practice in.

If you are interested in learning a second language, here is what I have to say to you:

•Don't let anyone tell you that you are choosing the wrong language. If you pick a language, no matter what you reasoning for learning that language is, just do it. I had a lot of people tell me that I was making a mistake by choosing Arabic, and I'm really glad that I didn't quit and try to learn Spanish instead. Learning ANY language is valuable.

•Try to find native speakers of the language that you are learning. Practicing out loud with native speakers is really the best way to learn a language. I have yet to find an Arab that hasn't been thrilled to help me practice. Most people are delighted that you are taking an interest in learning their language. I already have offers from people from all over the world that are willing to help me learn their language once I am done with Arabic.

•You really don't have to spend a lot of money on something like Rosetta Stone. Buy a vocabulary book or two, and just go at it. There are a lot of free language learning sites that are really great- but nothing will help you more than trying to converse with native speakers.

My favorite free sites for learning languages are:

This is my absolute favorite site. It has really helped me to store words in my long term memory- plus, it is like a super fun game.
You can use Mango for free through most libraries. Just put in your library card number, choose a language, and you're good to go!
If you can't find native speakers to help you practice, italki is a really helpful site. You can find people from all over the world that are willing to help you learn their language for free. I've Skyped with some very helpful Egyptians through this site.
Duolingo is really fun and is really easy to understand. I am not currently using it, as they don't offer an Arabic course, but their other language courses are really great.
Livemocha is also a super helpful site- I love all of the different options within the courses.

Have you ever wanted to learn another language? What is stopping you? I'm a full time college student who works multiple jobs- I know what it's like to be busy! If you are really interested in learning a language, you can always make enough time. I'm super thankful for free resources- without them, learning would be really difficult for me!

Do you speak more than one language? What was helpful for you while learning?
What languages would you like to learn? My list of languages to learn keeps getting longer and longer- I'm considering diving into Hebrew next. =)

ETA:  I'd just like to note that I know that the above picture is not actually how you write 'Autumn' in Arabic. It actually says, 'Kharif' which means fall. Most of my Arab friends call me Kharif as a joke. =)


  1. Thanks for this! I needed inspiration to study my Arabic this evening...

  2. I know biblical Hebrew (and I understand some modern Hebrew, but can't really speak it). I'd be happy to help if you decide to learn Hebrew.

    My current project is learning classical Greek. I just tried Mango after reading your post and it is amazing. Thank you so much for the recommendation!

  3. Thanks for the Mango Languages recommendation. I tried it through my library and I love it!

    I'm currently learning classical Greek. I don't really speak modern Hebrew, but I know Biblical Hebrew and I'm happy to help with that if you decide to start learning.

  4. My name is Sam Bleakly, i'm the community manager for italki and I want to thank you for the positive mention. Please try taking a professional lesson with one of our teachers at

    also if you have any questions you can always email me at

    Thanks again! :)


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