Learning Arabic

I love languages. I love everything about them—their sound, grammar, script, variations across regions, its provenance, accents, colloquial usage, swear words… everything (and no, SMS language is not included here!). It’s no surprise then that languages were my favourite subjects in school.

My fascination with languages continues even today long after I have finished school and college. But somehow I did not attempt to enroll for any language course, Indian or foreign, after my formal education. There were a couple of failed, informal attempts to learn Urdu, but they never really took off.

Arabic Calligraphy on an artefact in the Islāmic Room of the British Museum in London

Around the time I started working, I got interested in calligraphy art and through that I got introduced to the beautiful Arabic script. Its flowing script, the fluid patterns it made, not to mention that it was written from right to left only fuelled my fascination for and the desire to learn the language. My attempts at trying to find an Arabic teacher in Mumbai were not really successful, in the sense that I did find teachers willing to teach me Classical Arabic (which would have helped me read the Qur’an), but not Standard Arabic (that is everyday Arabic), which is what I wanted to learn.

Then one day, in August 2008, the opportunity to learn Arabic literally arrived at my doorstep, or to be more specific in my inbox. I won a scholarship to do a Master’s programme in a London-based university. Among the various information packs that I was bombarded with received from the university, before I left for London in September 2008, was one on studying a foreign language there. And guess, which was one of the languages being offered? ARABIC:-)

After I had registered for the Arabic language course and on the eve of my first class, the long-awaited anticipation of learning Arabic wavered due to some serious doubts about my own ability and expectations. Learning a language as a child and learning it as an adult are two entirely different processes. Would I be able to manage? Would I have a good teacher? Would I enjoy learning Arabic? What if I hated it?…

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