Part 14: When it Comes to Learning Arabic, be Rocky

Dwayne Oxford
Sep 11, 2019 · 3 min read
One of the most moving a powerful scenes in the first Rocky film where he screams for his wife’s name Adrian. (ادريان)

There’s a lot we can learn from the Rocky film series and learning Arabic. If you haven’t seen the Rocky film franchise, there are a lot of spoilers in this article.

Arabic is by far one of the most fascinating and frustrating (I’d add another F, but I’m trying to keep it clean) languages to learn. However, it’s all milk and honey once you get comfortable with the sounds of the language. Right now, I know about 75–100 words in Arabic and will be moving to the next level in my learning process—which is having a basic 1–5 minute conversations with my Arabic language coach. I’ve been on this Arabic learning journey since I converted to Islam. If you’re interested, you can read about my conversion to Islam here. That was in 2007. Now some would say, “Look Malik, it’s time to give it up. You can save what little dignity you have left and we’ll just assume that Arabic is your kryptonite when it comes to learning”. I’m here to say: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. (Unless you are Apollo Creed in Rocky IV).

If you follow the Rocky series (at least up to Rocky IV) you can learn a lot about studying Arabic, or any language, from the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa. Sly Stallone in the movie Rocky is probably the best example of what it takes to learn a language. If you’ve never seen the movie, let these cartoon rabbits tell you in 30 seconds. Here’s the link to the video.

Rocky in 30 seconds re-enacted by Bunneis

Here’s the film synopsis:

Rocky Balboa is a struggling boxer trying to make the big time, working as a debt collector for a pittance. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a “nobody” to become a “somebody”. The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time. — Murray Chapman


In the first film, Rocky gave Apollo Creed one helluva challenge, but Rocky eventually loses the fight.

Watch out for the right Rocky.

As you can see in the featured image of this article, he gets beat up pretty bad. However, in the next following films, Rocky goes on to beat Apollo (Rocky II), Clubber Lang (Rocky III)…

Clubber Lang giving Rocky the Mike Tyson Punchout treatment

and one of his toughest fights—Ivan Drago (Rocky IV). Avenging the murder of his now dear friend Apollo Creed (Yes they become buddy buddy after Rocky II) via Drago, Rocky opens up a last minute can of whup a** and defeats Drago.

Rocky and Apollo are beasties after their Rocky II fight

Drago is not the most friendliest of individuals and he’s actually quite menacing in the film. Some choice quotes from our dear friend Drago. Funnily enough Drago only had 9 lines in the entire Rocky IV film:

If he dies he dies.

I must break you

In the end, Rocky (Arabic learner) persevered through Apollo (Stage 1 Arabic) to Clubber Lang (Stage 2 Arabic) and then eventually Drago (Stage 3 Arabic). At this point in the film series, Rocky has garnered the level of respect that he can now speak Arabic in Rocky V. Okay, that didn’t happen but if we were Rocky or صخري, that would be our ultimate prize, language fluency. No matter what happens, don’t get discouraged. I’m also working on a mobile app prototype for the The Arabic Lab, and I’ll include some of the ideas of the app in my next post. You can learn a lot through loss—they are just stepping stones to a larger mountain of opportunity.

Ma Salaam, مع السلام

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