Learning the Lingo in Egypt!
The best bits of the courses that I took were for me the very thorough drilling of sounds/letters, controlled oral practice ‘chains’ around the class, the slightly freer oral/aural pair work information gap activities we had from time to time, the use of visual aids to reinforce meaning, the use of very targeted task-based simple listening on audio CD, the very targeted letter recognition and copying exercises, and the relaxed concentration of trying to copy exactly the flowing pen strokes of my calligraphy teacher, Ahmed, who was a really neat and exact scribe.
There was a very useful PowerPoint introduction to living in Egypt delivered by the friendly school manager at the start of the course for new students. The social programme at the school was lively and included – while I was there – a Valentine’s Day dinner at the school, as well as the usual weekend sightseeing visits. (The weekend was of 3 days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – which was good in order to be able to see a bit of Cairo.) There was a good-sized computer room with a number of PCs available and free wi-fi access at the school too, so it was very easy to stay in touch with family and friends (and work too when necessary) via email.
Teachers at the school were very pleasant and approachable, gave clear models and used very transparent instructional language, and fellow students were very friendly and motivated. The people that I met in Cairo were all extremely friendly in general too.
The school is located in a reasonably quiet residential area with a coffee shop and restaurant within easy walking distance. The cafeteria inside the school was very pleasant, the food there was tasty and good value too, and staff there were very friendly and helpful when I wanted to practice my Arabic with them. The bookshop downstairs was an added plus and the staff there were very pleasant also.
I did not use the school accommodation service this time, but next time I definitely would – in order to get reasonably priced accommodation close to the school.
All in all it was a wonderful kind of ‘brain gym’ for to study a new language like Arabic over a fortnight. Of course one never really finishes learning a language, and in future I will aim to study Arabic for at least a month at a time, since there is really a lot to process during a two week time-frame which was – unfortunately – all I had available for this first visit!
Bill Bowler (UK)