Simple steps to learn a new language as a family

3 basic goals and 3 simple first steps we’re using to learn Arabic as a family.

Levi Belnap
Sep 26, 2017 · 4 min read
Photo by Slava B., Unsplash

I believe in travel.

Discovering new people, culture, food, and language opens my mind and changes me for the better. I was blessed to travel internationally as a child and those experiences are a big part of who I am today. I want my children to have similar eye opening travel experiences.

Travel is never convenient, especially with young children (ours are 6, 4, and 5 months). It’s expensive and difficult to find the time to go. So my philosophy on travel is, just go!

My parents are living in Jordan for the next 4 months, and my wife and I decided to jump on the opportunity to visit them and take our children to Jerusalem.

We have three months to prepare for this adventure.

Learning opportunity!

How much can we learn?!

We don’t NEED to speak any Arabic. There is no test or grade to worry about. We are learning Arabic just to have fun and make our trip more exciting.

So what’s the best way to learn?

We looked on Youtube and found many videos but as we watched and listened to a list of random vocabulary we felt overwhelmed. We knew we were taking the wrong approach.

I researched different approaches and found Tim Ferriss’ approach to language learning. You can learn more about Tim’s approach in this video:

I then called my father, who is a professor of Arabic, to see what he recommended. He suggested a very similar approach, focusing on common phrases and learning some frequently used routines, such as talking about your family.

Tim’s approach and my father’s suggestions simplified the language learning process and helped me focus on what is really worth learning for our specific needs on this trip.

3 Goals

  1. Learn basic structures of Arabic grammar through Tim’s 12 sentences approach (this is mostly just for me not my wife and kids).
  2. Learn the most common phrases we will use and hear with new people we meet.
  3. Write a short bio about each of us, work with an Arabic speaker to translate it into Arabic, and then rehearse until we can each say our short personal intro in Arabic.

3 First Steps

  1. Worked with my father to translate the 12 grammar sentences about “the apple” into the Arabic spoken in Jerusalem.

2. Bought this book my father recommended to help us focus on common spoken phrases and vocabulary (includes audio!).

3. Found an Arabic tutor on Wyzant who is from Jerusalem originally. We have scheduled weekly 1-hour meetings until we leave for Jerusalem. In these meetings we will work with Alaa to translate and practice our personal statements and other common phrases. Here is a link to Alaa’s profile and I’ve included a screenshot below. I work at Wyzant and get $200 of free tutoring a year for any personal learning I want to do, so I’m excited to take advantage of it and have my family and I work with Alaa for weekly online tutoring sessions.

The journey

I also hope our experiences can be helpful to others who want to start learning a language but are overwhelmed by how to start.

Let the learning begin, and the fun 🎉

Yalla! (Arabic for “let’s get going”)


My purpose in life is to learn, grow, and help others. I write about what I’m learning. Want to learn with me? Join me here.


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Levi Belnap

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Learner. Starter. Ponderer. Father. Believer.

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