Growing up, I was fortunate enough to pick up a second language in which I still currently speak fluently today. As a bilingual individual, Arabic has taught me to appreciate and value being able to speak such a unique language which is commonly spoken in many places around the world. Before I explain how this ties in with what I plan to learn in my Personal Learning Challenge Assignment, I will provide some more context to further elaborate on this topic. With my older brother, my parents decided to teach him Arabic as a first language before English. Unfortunately, this caused large amounts of confusion for him at a young age as all of his classmates and teachers at school did not quite understand his mumbling which was a combination of the two languages (predominantly Arabic). Since he was only 6 at the time, it was evident that his brain was not able to easily recognize when exactly he should be speaking either Arabic or English. As he got older, he was able to learn how to appropriately distinguish between the two languages, which lead to him overcoming this language barrier. From a neuroscience perspective (as explored in the readings), this example demonstrates how my brother utilized the semantic form of his declarative memory (1).
Luckily, my parents were able to learn from the mistake previously mentioned with my brother and made sure that I was taught English as my first language. As a fluent speaker, Arabic plays a key role in my daily life as it is the primary form of communication I still use with my parents. However, an enormous gap in my knowledge with this particular language is that I am unable to read and write Arabic. In similarity to languages such as Mandarin, Japanese and Hungarian, Arabic is widely known as a challenging language to learn in all aspects (2). Although I have been exposed to how this language is written in various instances throughout my life, I am unable to make sense of it all because to me it looks like a collection of squiggly lines neatly grouped in an artistic manner.
The skill of learning how to read and write Arabic has always been extremely desirable for me as I believe it would provide me with the opportunity to greatly enhance my current knowledge of the language. Upon reading this week’s assigned materials, I was able to personally reflect on what type of skill I wanted to challenge myself with and tackle. Throughout this thought process, one of the first ideas that came to mind during my initial brainstorming was to learn how to read and write Arabic. Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Is this guy crazy, how unrealistic is it for him to say that he is going to learn how to read and write Arabic over 4 weeks?” Of course, this goal seems entirely unfeasible so I will begin to explain my tentative plan for my Personal Learning Challenge Assignment.
To elaborate, I firstly want to stress that I do not intend to learn how to perfectly read and write Arabic over a month as this is definitely an unrealistic expectation to set for myself. Instead, the scope of my plan will be structured around two sections. Collectively, these plans will carry the main focus of helping me to reach a more achievable goal to adhere to the potentially steep learning curve of my Personal Learning Challenge.
- The Arabic Alphabet
For the first two weeks of my plan, my ultimate goal will be to learn how to read and write the Arabic alphabet. In doing so, the primary resource for my learning will be one-on-one sessions with my parents. I have asked my parents if they are willing to give me some of their dedicated time out of their busy working schedules to help me achieve this goal, and they both seemed very excited to do so. After explaining all of the details of my Personal Learning Challenge/Reflective Practice to them, I began to develop a tentative schedule which contains a rough timeline structured around 5 one hour sessions a week. However, since my dad works mostly night shifts at his job, my mom assured me that she would take on the role of teaching me the Arabic alphabet. Lastly, to further enhance my learning throughout these first two weeks, it will be my responsibility to practice on my own time and utilize other educational resources such as YouTube videos to benefit my learning experiences. In doing so, this responsibility will aid with the success of my overall learning as it will allow me to familiarize myself with other resources and prepare for instances that may occur if my mother is not available at all times during the week.
- Sentence Structure
As for the second part of my plan, this will be focused on the application of my learned knowledge in which I aim to attain from the Arabic alphabet (during the first two weeks) into simple sentence structures. More specifically, this portion of my plan will also include how to use proper grammar and pronunciation with the writing of Arabic. For example, my initial research on the Arabic language has indicated that some letters in the alphabet have various forms of symbols that will completely change both their pronunciation and use in a simple sentence. Additionally, my mother informed me that it would be essential to learn how to differentiate the verbs attached to male and female subjects, as she described this as an essential component to my learning. More specifically, this particular aspect gauges my interest as when I currently speak Arabic, I am already applying the proper classification of both male and female subjects. By learning about how exactly this differentiation is documented on paper, I believe that this opportunity will allow me to reflect on how my current knowledge in speaking Arabic relates to the application of writing the language.
As for supporting factors to help me achieve my goals outlined in my plan, I started to develop a baseline self-assessment test, which will help me track the progress of my learning. These assessments will provide me with quantitative data to report on and share with the rest of the class. As for the content of the questions, these will contain very simple yes or no responses to questions such as “Do you know how many letters are in the Arabic alphabet?” or “Are you confident with applying grammar in writing Arabic?” etc.. I will take this test once at the end of each week over the course of the next month. In doing so, this will provide me with more data and will allow me to analyze my progress through comparable measures with the results of each test. Additionally, I will apply my developed study habits from my schooling experiences to learning this skill to further document and monitor my learning (i.e. cue cards, self-tests etc.). For example, a self-test in which I definitely plan to utilize during the first few weeks of learning the Arabic alphabet will be to see how many letters I can do in a row without looking back at my notes.
In relation to this week’s readings, the success of my learning over the next month will be dependent on the utilization of my three interrelated memory forming processes: encoding, consolidation and retrieval (1). Firstly, encoding describes the process of converting incoming information as a “memory trace” into our brains (1). An example of the application of this process with my chosen skill will include ensuring that I listen attentively to instructions, and ask questions as my brain encodes the information during each session. Secondly, consolidation involves the “connections to past experiences and stored knowledge” (1). Here, an example of this process will include the connection of my current knowledge on how to speak Arabic and how it consolidates with learning how to write the language. Lastly, the retrieval process is focused on “drawing on memories in new situations” (1). An example of this process will be demonstrated when I am learning how to form simple sentence structures as this will draw on the retrieval of my knowledge with the Arabic alphabet (which I plan to gain during the first segment of my plan previously mentioned). As identified by Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh in her blog post, the collaborative approach of these 3 processes “consistently work together to enable storage in long-term memory” (1). Furthermore, my mother’s approach to teaching will likely derive from the objectivist approach as she will be in control of what and how I will learn during each session (3). Additionally, the objectivist view ties into my personal responsibility because I will be held accountable “to comprehend, reproduce and add to the knowledge handed down” (3) to me.
In conclusion to my first blog post, I am looking forward to tackling my chosen skill and documenting my progress throughout my assessment in this EDCI 335 course. With the plan I have conducted for myself, I believe that I have set realistic expectations with picking up the basics of writing Arabic. Instead of structuring my plan around compressed timelines and rushing through learning materials, I anticipate that the paced approach I have developed will help me get over the learning curve associated with learning how to write another language. If my approach does not go as planned, I will make adjustments accordingly and be sure to document these changes along the way and share them with the rest of the class. Even though I already know facts such as Arabic being a language which is written from right to left or that my last name translated into Arabic means father of the night, with regards to my journey, there is still a lot of learning waiting to be done. If I can successfully develop my chosen skill, in the end, I will be extremely satisfied with myself as I truly believe that learning Arabic from this aspect would enhance my current knowledge of the language itself.
1) Reflective Teaching Evolution Blog Post – By Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh
2) The 10 Hardest Languages for English Speakers to Learn
3) Chapter 2: The Nature of Knowledge and the Implications for Teaching Section 2.3 Objectivism and behaviourism