Middle East

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RIYADH: Learning Arabic can be quite tricky, with many dialects to learn, but a new immersive language program in Riyadh seems to offer a solution.

The Arabius program is currently teaching Saudi-dialect Arabic courses to students from the US, UK, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Dominican Republic, India, Switzerland, and France.

It offers immersive courses online and in person and facilitates cultural experiences to help people to learn Arabic, engage with the culture and enjoy Saudi Arabia.

Joel Huffman, one of the founders of Arabius, told Arab News that their approach is specifically designed and is called the ICE methodology. “It’s immersive and customized and experiential,” said Huffman.

He said that from a native English speaker’s perspective, Arabic is one of the four most complex languages, along with Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. So he and his partners wanted something that was effective.

“From day one it’s full immersion in Saudi-dialect Arabic, you are with a native speaker, and there’s no English at all. No other languages. It’s full Arabic,” he said. Learning in small groups or one-on-one lessons is also part of the learning methodology.

Dr. Ulrike Lamle, an Arabius student and the wife of the German Ambassador to the Kingdom, said the ICE methodology had been very effective. “For a newcomer, Arabius is the perfect place to start your Arabian adventure. The team is very nice and welcomes you to the Arabius family.”

Benjamin Clark, from the US, knew that if he wanted to learn Arabic he would need to do it with a person.

“I started with a private tutor when I first arrived in Saudi. We got to a point where it was clear that it would help me a lot to speak in person and practice my pronunciation and things like that. So when I found Arabius it was a perfect solution. Learning the language helps a lot with improving the day-to-day quality of life. Any time I want to speak personally with somebody who doesn’t speak my language,” he said.

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Narendra Pingale, from India, said that he and his wife have had a previous experience learning Arabic. “It was more focused on the written language, but here it is an immersive experience,” he said.

Narenda’s wife Palavi Kele, who is also taking lessons, said that the fact they have been learning more of spoken Saudi dialect has been beneficial for them as they could practice it in their daily lives in Riyadh.

Abel Sutherland, from the US, said he studied with three different teachers but none of them was quite working. “I had a friend who introduced me to Arabius, and from the first lesson, it was very much like a good fit. It was very quick to pick up. The curriculum is well-developed, well-designed. The plan works quite well to actually engage, and I can take the words that I’ve learned and start using them as building blocks to just engage with the people around me.” He said.

Kamille McKinney, from the US, said that she tried apps and online tools in her country, and she was not picking up much of anything. “Being at the course, just having a committed time and knowing I’m going to be here every day, does really push me to learn more.”

Alaa Al-Husseini, one of the Arabius instructors, told Arab News that Saudi culture is rich in humanity, creativity, originality, and beauty. “My interest in different cultures around the world made me a girl fascinated by the beauty of Saudi culture; it also helped me see it from a completely different perspective,” she said.

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She said she always wished she could present Saudi culture, customs and beautiful differences to the world. “Today, I am very pleased that I practice this passion and present a small part of it every day through my work as a cultural guide. I am even more pleased that I am helping so many people from all over the world to adapt and live more comfortably in the life they choose to live among us.”



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