On Learning Hebrew and Arabic at the Same Time
ללמוד עברית וערבית באותו הזמן
لماذا يجب عليك انت تتعلم اللغتين العبريه والعربيه في نفس الوقت
Join the BINA Tel Aviv + Nazareth track and you will be given the opportunity to do something unique, ambitious and important, that is learning both Hebrew and Arabic, at the same time. I suggest you seize this opportunity, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you will gain an insight into two very diverse and complex cultures. In order to really understand the mindset behind a culture, you must learn its language. I believe the Tel Aviv and Nazareth track is one of the most diverse tracks on the BINA programm. I spent my first 5 months living in Jaffa and working at Hayarden School for Refugees and the next 5 months living in Nof Hagalil and working at an Arab Muslim school in Nazareth. The transition between the two locations was definitely a challenge. However, learning the languages used by these two cultures, helped me to adapt, connect and empathies with the communities I lived in. Your experience is transformed by learning to speak these two languages. In Nazareth, you will be respected and appreciated for speaking Arabic. The people you meet will be keen to welcome you into their culture, befriend you and teach you about their way of life. Furthermore, Arabic is one of the official languages in the state of Israel and provides a genuine opportunity to create improved neighbourly relations.
This program offers two Hebrew classes and one Arabic class per week with two brilliant teachers, keen to share their language, culture and traditions with you. Our Hebrew classes consisted of thought provoking conversations about refugee immigrants in Israel, the Israeli Arab community in Jaffa and LGBT perspectives around the country. Our Arabic lessons included learning about Arab cuisine and Arabic music. We participated in cooking and conversation classes and learned songs in Arabic. Our apartment too turned into a language classroom, with Arabic/Hebrew posters plastered on our walls and post it notes labelling every appliance/object in both Arabic and Hebrew.
As a student of two languages, you are sure to become a better language teacher. You will understand that your students are likely to feel overwhelmed, confused and frustrated, when learning a new language. At the start of my teaching placement, behavior was a big issue. Many students refused to engage in the lesson and speak in English. One student, Radiah, was exceptionally loud, boisterous and rebellious. She refused to read in English, caused chaos in the classroom and I struggled to get through to her. Communicating with students via WhatsApp about classwork is normal in Israel and so after arriving home from class and feeling defeated, I received a WhatsApp message from Radiah:
This was a familiar feeling and Radiah’s words resonated with me. Many times in Nazareth, I too often wanted to speak in Arabic but felt insecure and worried that my Arabic was not good enough for conversation. The next day at school, I spoke with Radiah in Arabic, for the first time. I said ‘Ana aam btaalam ahhki Arabee… bas ktiir saab’ translated to ‘I’m learning Arabic… but it’s very difficult’. I tried to explain, in Arabic, that it is okay to make mistakes and fail, as long as you try. Sure enough, I made mistakes in my grammar and pronunciation, and so she took the role of the teacher. She praised me for speaking in her language and corrected my mistakes. Soon enough, we built a relationship and she gained more confidence speaking English. It was a great achievement when, by the end of my teaching placement, she read an entire self-written paragraph in English, in front of her year group.
Learning a new language isn’t easy. Learning two languages is definitely a challenge. Tell your friends and family and you might be faced with some criticism. ‘It’s impossible to learn two languages at the same time’, ‘You’ll never get there’, ‘You are setting yourself up for disappointment’, ‘You can only learn a language as a child’. I don’t believe you need innate talent or genius to learn a language, but you do need a passion and motivation to learn, understand and make connections with a new culture.
As I come to the end of my experience on this programm, I would like to share some tips, which helped me to learn Hebrew and Arabic at the same time :
- Duolingo is great to use, if you are a complete beginner.
- Watch TV in Hebrew and Arabic. Begin with English subtitles and then Hebrew/Arabic subtitles.
- Find a language partner. For me, this was the most effective and meaningful part of my language learning journey. Join the Facebook group, ‘Language Exchange Tel Aviv’. Or participate in a language exchange event at The Abraham Hostel! There are plenty of people who are happy to exchange Hebrew/Arabic conversation for English conversation.
- Talk to everybody in Hebrew/Arabic. Even if they talk to you in English, talk back in Hebrew/Arabic. Don’t worry about sounding perfect, make mistakes and allow native speakers to correct you.
- Keep a language journal. Scan through the internet and you will find many blogs or Youtube videos claiming ‘the best way to learn a language’. Indeed, there are many different methods to acquire a new language. You need to find the best method to suit your learning style and personality. You might prefer to spend 30 minutes every morning going over grammar notes or watch 1 hour of a series in Hebrew/Arabic with subtitles or speak with your language partner every other day! Try out different methods, discover what works for you and record this in your language journal.
// Nicole Abraham: MITF TLV + Nazareth