Are you our Eastern learner?

By Susan Ali… and the team

The Arabic Institute Insights Series

That night of November last year, when we finished reading the absolute final draft of our Insights, the publication, I looked at Khalid and said: would not you say that those papers, entirely, were just a common sense?

Since it took us four years to come up with these insights. It was not the results we encountered that I was doubting, but the process of setting down, writing observations, collecting data, formulating theories, recording sessions, taking notes, testing those theories, drafting, editing, tens of times, proofreading, while we already have tons of other tasks to be done and deadlines to be fulfilled. Were we on the right path?

Yet the results would look to any skimmer as if they were mere reflections on paper, at best. But these exact findings have flipped our back-then teaching system upside down.

It all started with a group of North American students, who have joined to learn Arabic. I couldn’t sleep that night. I realised how ignorant we were about our own students, and how naïve we were to believe that we were actually teachers.

Through the following weeks, I lock myself up in the office, read, take notes, exhaust myself on the treadmill, then pick up where I left off, read again, interpret LMS data and students reports, turn on Jazz, reread their entire emails, pray, summarise, translate into Arabic or English, nap… Until the first group speak to me out loud.

This story is about them. The super learners. The Eastern Learner.

We had a window of one week to update the current curriculum before the registrars start their live sessions. We worked like never before. It is either now, to begin the journey of learning from our students, or almost never, as a new set of data will come and we will have to start the process all over again. I would have never allowed that to happen, not after those long weeks of researching. :)

The new curriculum comes up to light, and a student after another approve our observations, repeatedly, no matter how differently we approach them, how we twist the live classes, leverage the homework difficulty, or how we mix and mingle them within different groups of learners.

They maintain their identity. They ARE Eastern Learners.

So, who is that we call Eastern Learner?

He is that guy who adapts the Survival language* Hybrid-Arabic©**effortlessly once he landed in an Arabic-speaking country, in a matter of weeks, even without a formal Arabic education.

She’s that learner who’s naturally motivated to learn Arabic. She has it in her mindset, undoubtedly, since she is Indian, she has all that it takes to ace the language. And she surely does.

Geographically speaking, they come from or have lived most of their childhood where Indo-Iranian languages are spoken today.

Where the Eastern Learners come from or lived most of their lives

Let’s share some of our insights into this amazing learner:

  • While a learner of a German language (English for example) takes 720 hours on average to fully communicate in Arabic, the Eastern learner astonishingly cuts these hours into half (475 hours) in the majority of cases that we came across.
  • They are ideal social learners, social learners are better learning together, 3 to 9 students class maintains a remarkable sustainability throughout the 240 in-class hours.
  • 93.75% of Eastern Learners are Hierarchical Collective, it has been detailed here by OKONKWO VINCENT IKEM. That is one of the reasons why they achieve measurable goals better than any other group.
  • In contrast to the majority of schools methods of teaching, including ours back-then, more than half of Eastern Learners are visual (59%), then kinetic (40%). They would grasp the language using visual aids and body language better than listening to a recorded conversation.
  • If they share a similar writing system with Arabic (right to left writing direction, use close scripts, or share consonant sounds), then they can skip entire skills (such as writing and phonetics) and concentrate on the other skills which can reduce the hours required even further without compromising their overall language skills balance.

If you are an Eastern Learner you are naturally empowered to learn Arabic. Our experience with you has shown us that you can learn this language in half of the time that others pay. You are a super natural-born Arabic learner.

I believe now that I agree with Khalid who replied back to me: “It would have never been a common sense. This is what we have learned from them”.

Our current programmes, tracks and packages have been redesigned to match these unique learners needs, and so they will remain.

*Survival language:

Is the language that you develop when communicating in a new language while you know an insufficient amount of it. All of us have already or will pass through it until we reach a decent language proficiency (usually upper intermediate in the case of Arabic).

For example, among the most common structures of Survival language is. auxiliaries (helping verb) omitting, preposition omitting, and replacing subject pronouns with object pronouns.

For example in English:

  • Where you go?
  • Office. Me go office. Along with hand gestures :).

Usually you don’t get a feedback from your listener as this will disturb your story or conversation flow and they will try to translate what you say to the closest meaningful phrase and they get the meaning most of the times, unless they paraphrased the phrase using your surviving style to make sure that they got you right.

**Hybrid-Arabic ©:

While it is not uncommon to understand or to communicate complicated thoughts using survival language as explained above, Hyper-Arabic is really a mind-blowing one, due to the Semitic sentence structure, word order, connected pronouns (object pronouns in Arabic are represented in one consonant which is ALWAYS attached to another part of speech) and the ever-adapting prefixes and suffixes.

When you talk to an Eastern Learner, and again, without getting any kind of formal Arabic education, you will ALWAYS hear an identical tone and expressions when speaking Hybrid-Arabic. Whether the speaker is Turkish or Pakistani, both speak it fluently! How ALL eastern learners mentally agree on using it is flawlessly is a subject for an ongoing thesis and we are enormously fascinated about it.

It is a very interesting phenomenon that we are studying currently and building a whole programme around it. We shall talk about in another story.

The Arabic Institute

Arabic for non-natives… and natives whenever they read!