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    I would like to study Arabic/ Middle Eastern Studies, possibly with French or Spanish and I think I might like to apply to Oxbridge, as well as Durham and Exeter.

    Is there anyone with experience of Arabic at any of these universities who can tell me the main differences between studying Arabic at each of these universities or who can give me any advice at all please?
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    (Original post by middlemarch)
    I would like to study Arabic/ Middle Eastern Studies, possibly with French or Spanish and I think I might like to apply to Oxbridge, as well as Durham and Exeter.

    Is there anyone with experience of Arabic at any of these universities who can tell me the main differences between studying Arabic at each of these universities or who can give me any advice at all please?
    I'm at Manchester, but I'm on my year abroad with people who are studying at all those universities, so I can probably give you some details .

    First of all, you need to know that Oxbridge's aim is to get you to a fluent reading level. It is heavily literature-based, and although you can pick some papers in Linguistics to avoid the literature at Cambridge, it's almost impossible at Oxford. One of my friend mentionned that they learnt achaic vocabulary for the sole purpose of being able to read a text, and as they often pick classic pieces of literature, you may well end up with an archaic vocabulary, as it is the case for my friend doing French.

    Another problem I've heard a lot about is the lack of oral practice. I think Cambridge is actually decent about it, although a friend of mine complained there wasn't enough, but it's certainly lacking at Oxford. It seems that they only get a couple of hours a week to practice (when the rest is spent reading texts) and I have heard horror stories about the oral examination.

    That said, now that I have finished dissing the course, they are both excellent universities, and if you are interested in an academic course and you enjoy literature, then go for it, although bear in mind that Arabic is one tough language, and you will have a considerable amount of work to do there. The environment is wonderful if you like quaint cities and can see yourself living in a college with the same people, as you seem to do given that you are thinking of applying to Exeter and Durham as well (check St Andrews too, maybe?) The fact that you will have almost one-on-one tuition will also help a great deal.

    Another thing is that Exeter and Oxford both send their students in the second year. I personally don't like the idea, because I think a year is not enough to get to know the language (especially Arabic), and that you don't make as much progress once you are abroad, as you are still getting used to the language. If you take the example of Exeter at the university of Damascus, except a couple of them, they mainly were in the lowest level, and a bit apart from others. I also heard (Arab) teachers complaining that Exeter students were lazy, and as much as I love my friends there, I must admit it was largely true.

    Oxford also send their students at a university, and around 9 of them go to IFPO, which is meant to be great, but there again, I heard mixed reviews. Cambridge, on the other hand, send their students abroad in their third year, and they are, unlike Oxford students, free to do what they want. I have a friend doing volunteering in an orphanage in Palestine, and I don't think many universities offer this.

    Durham also send their students abroad in the third year, and they seem to be rather flexible about the year abroad and the course, also there again, a lot of literature seems to be involved. Exeter, on the other hand, seem to offer more history and politics modules, if you are interested in such subjects. One last thing about the year abroad, Oxbridge and Exeter don't let you split it, but Durham does, and although it's not always a great thing for everyone, I quite like the idea of having a choice.

    And finally, a paragraph about Arabic in general and why it's not actually that much of a problem to not have oral practice. As you probably (or at least should :p:) know, there is a big problem of diglossia in the Middle East, and apart from the obvious Modern Standard Arabic (learnt at uni)/colloquial Arabic (not learnt at uni) cleavage, there are also differences between colloquial Arabics in each countries of the Middle East, and you should be careful about which country you go to, because if you end up in Morocco, needless to say no-one will understand you in Lebanon.

    No-one really speaks MSA in the streets either, so you will have to learn a dialect anyway, and MSA is only really spoken by politicians, important figures and is used by the media. You ideally need to learn MSA and a dialect, so that's extra work, but thankfully, dialectal Arabic is far easier than MSA

    I hope that helped, and if you have any other questions (maybe about other universities like SOAS, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh?), don't hesitate!
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    I'm in my first year doing Arabic and Islamic Studies at Oxford and I basically agree with what Anatheme said.

    If you apply for Arabic with French or Spanish as you said, it doesn't come under Oriental Studies anymore, but European and Middle Eastern Languages. This means that on the Arabic side of the course, you only study the language in the first year, without any literature/history/religion etc. You also would only have tutorials in the European language. Then you go away in the second year, to either IFPO in Damsacus or Cairo and then when you are back, the course becomes more flexible and you can choose which of the languages to focus on.

    However, in the 3rd year, you would have to take a compulsory paper in Literature, Islamic History and Islam along with the language papers and your choices. So if you hate literature, you've can't avoid it here.

    If you chose to do Arabic with Islamic Studies, or with a subsidiary (Middle Eastern) language, in the first year you do an introduction to hist/lit/Islam and have tutorials in these areas.

    I agree that there isn't much emphasis on speaking at Oxford, but then that's what the year abroad's for, and I think, from speaking to others, that having it in the second year is an advantage. Sure, you won't be as good as others from SOAS/ Manchester or wherever to start with as they have had an extra year of Arabic than you, but apparently if you have the self control to get out there, make local friends and completely immerse yourself, then you can come back highly proficient.

    Also, at Oxford in your 3rd and 4th years you read literature in Arabic, read historical sources in Arabic, read the Quran in Arabic etc etc since you've had the year abroad to get good. I think that effectively having an extra year where you can use the language as a tool can only be a good thing.

    I think Cambridge is more flexible, but I'm not sure that this is entirely a good thing. I have enjoyed getting an introduction to Islam, Islamic history, literature and culture in the first year and now feel in a better position to make choices when I come back from my year abroad, since I've had a taste of many different areas. I didn't think I would enjoy literature at all but have probably enjoyed that part of the course most so far...

    Please feel free to ask any more questions you may have about Oxford. I'm sorry I know very little about other universities so I can't really help in that way. Good luck!
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    Thank you very much to you both for giving me so much information. I hadn't done enough research to know that Manchester offers Arabic so thank you! I used to live in the Middle East so I have a GCSE in Arabic that I took last year and I try to keep my Arabic up a little bit in my spare time.

    Do either of you you have any opinions about whether it is easier to get an offer if I apply for Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies or Arabic with a European Language? And in addition, is there anything I could do or read that would help my application? I have some experience of Islamic and Arab culture, but I am sure there is more that I should do to prepare.
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    Be careful about choosing a course based on whether it would make your chances better or not. I know loads of people do it, but remember that it is four years of your life and so if you end up doing a course that wasn't your favourite, you may regret it in the long run. Having said that, I'd say that applying for one language rather than two is always a bit easier because you only have to be accepted by one faculty. It's also easier to convince your interviewer that you are completely devoted to their subject...

    For what to do to prepare, you are very lucky having had time in the Middle East before. I'd say try to think about some of the main issues that affect the Arab world and think about where you stand on them.

    Oxford send out this reading list to offer holders before they start:

    http://www.orinst.ox.ac.uk/iw/arabic.html (on the bottom of that page)

    But don't try to read all of them! Read one or two (Hourani is great but very dense - use it for dipping into rather than trying to plough through the whole thing, and Ruthven is quite good for an intro to Islam)

    I hope that helps a bit
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    (Original post by middlemarch)
    Thank you very much to you both for giving me so much information. I hadn't done enough research to know that Manchester offers Arabic so thank you! I used to live in the Middle East so I have a GCSE in Arabic that I took last year and I try to keep my Arabic up a little bit in my spare time.

    Do either of you you have any opinions about whether it is easier to get an offer if I apply for Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies or Arabic with a European Language? And in addition, is there anything I could do or read that would help my application? I have some experience of Islamic and Arab culture, but I am sure there is more that I should do to prepare.
    I reckon it may be slightly easier to get an offer for sole Arabic, because depending on your European language, competition may get tough (Spanish and French especially, if you want Russian or Celtic, go ahead, haha).
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    Thanks for the advice. It's really helpful.
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    I am a first year doing Arabic at Exeter and find it a really flexible course, problem is that combining with another language does reduce the amount of arabic/ME modules you do. For example, this term I will be doing 'Introduction to Islam' 'Reading and Translation' and our core arabic module, those doing (mainly) French and Arabic are only doing the core module. It depends what you want out of it really.

    (Original post by Anatheme)
    Another thing is that Exeter and Oxford both send their students in the second year.
    Exeter are looking at changing this for the 2012 freshers, so op may not need to take this into consideration. It's not official yet though.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    I'm at Manchester, but I'm on my year abroad with people who are studying at all those universities, so I can probably give you some details .
    (Original post by will0748)
    I'm in my first year doing Arabic and Islamic Studies at Oxford and I basically agree with what Anatheme said.
    (Original post by Livilah)
    I am a first year doing Arabic at Exeter and find it a really flexible course, problem is that combining with another language does reduce the amount of arabic/ME modules you do.

    Sorry for interrupting; just a quick question for all the people studying Arabic: is there an official language proficiency test for MSA, or Syrian or Egyptian Arabic? Something officially recognised, sort of equivalent to the European framework for languages that goes from A1 (beginner) to C2 (near native fluency) for European languages?

    Not that I can speak Arabic, but I was curious about this; I was searching online but couldn't find anything except the ALPT, but that seems relatively new and is an online test, and I'm not even sure what kind of Arabic it targets. Surely universities in the Middle East must have language requirements so there must be some sort of official test?
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    (Original post by llys)
    Sorry for interrupting; just a quick question for all the people studying Arabic: is there an official language proficiency test for MSA, or Syrian or Egyptian Arabic? Something officially recognised, sort of equivalent to the European framework for languages that goes from A1 (beginner) to C2 (near native fluency) for European languages?

    Not that I can speak Arabic, but I was curious about this; I was searching online but couldn't find anything except the ALPT, but that seems relatively new and is an online test, and I'm not even sure what kind of Arabic it targets. Surely universities in the Middle East must have language requirements so there must be some sort of official test?
    Universities use their own proficiency tests out there, and they also have their kind of own system that, as far as i'm aware, doesn't entirely correspond to the European framework. You get a certificate at the end of your level once you're done, but that's about it and it doesn't really say what level you're really at.
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    Anyone knows about Arabic at Edinburgh?
    I've got offers to study Arabic from Exeter, Edinburgh, SOAS, Leeds and Durham.
    I don't know much about the differences about the courses they offer.
    Now Edinburgh is my top choice simply because I like the city..
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    (Original post by krugeroj)
    Anyone knows about Arabic at Edinburgh?
    I've got offers to study Arabic from Exeter, Edinburgh, SOAS, Leeds and Durham.
    I don't know much about the differences about the courses they offer.
    Now Edinburgh is my top choice simply because I like the city..
    SOMEONE DOING ARABIC! I AM IN LOVE.

    But anyway, that's my two cents. I didn't apply to Edinburgh. Just SOAS, Leeds, St. Andrews, Exeter and Manchester...

    I chose Exeter. The building is beautiful, travel bursaries and really good staff I like the course too...
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    I'm doing Arabic at Edinburgh! I'm in 2nd year, but I'm actually in the process of changing my degree to include Arabic since I've enjoyed it so much. Incidentally it'll involve me doing an extra year of uni, but i'm just really enthusiastic about learning Arabic.
    As far as 1st year Arabic goes, it's purely language work. The first semester wasn't hard at all, but the work steadily builds up as you move into the second semester. And from what I hear from people in 2nd year it gets a lot more tough as you start to read some Arabic poetry and literature.
    For the year abroad there are programmes in Cairo (who knows if it'll still be choice next year), Jordan and Damascus. I'm definitely going for Damascus!
    I don't know how Arabic is at other uni's, but I can definitely say that you'll enjoy it at Edinburgh.
    Oh and Edinburgh as a city is perfectly lovely and nice. I find a little quaint and quiet at times, but it's fun all the same.
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    (Original post by boysenberry)
    I'm doing Arabic at Edinburgh! I'm in 2nd year, but I'm actually in the process of changing my degree to include Arabic since I've enjoyed it so much. Incidentally it'll involve me doing an extra year of uni, but i'm just really enthusiastic about learning Arabic.
    As far as 1st year Arabic goes, it's purely language work. The first semester wasn't hard at all, but the work steadily builds up as you move into the second semester. And from what I hear from people in 2nd year it gets a lot more tough as you start to read some Arabic poetry and literature.
    For the year abroad there are programmes in Cairo (who knows if it'll still be choice next year), Jordan and Damascus. I'm definitely going for Damascus!
    I don't know how Arabic is at other uni's, but I can definitely say that you'll enjoy it at Edinburgh.
    Oh and Edinburgh as a city is perfectly lovely and nice. I find a little quaint and quiet at times, but it's fun all the same.
    Best choice :king1:
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    I'm doing Arabic at Cambridge university at the moment. I chose Cambridge over Oxford as Oxford go abroad in their second year, whereas Cambridge have their year abroad in their third year. I wanted the extra time in the UK to settle into uni, and learn Arabi before going abroad.

    We are taught the Levantine and Syrian dialects, and if you do Arabic on its own, it becomes half a history degree!!

    Also, its quite bad as their is a LOT of variation in the Arabic levels of the class. Some (like myself) were complete beginners, and some had A levels in Arabic/lived in the middle east their whole lives.
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    (Original post by twinkle243)
    I'm doing Arabic at Cambridge university at the moment. I chose Cambridge over Oxford as Oxford go abroad in their second year, whereas Cambridge have their year abroad in their third year. I wanted the extra time in the UK to settle into uni, and learn Arabi before going abroad.

    We are taught the Levantine and Syrian dialects, and if you do Arabic on its own, it becomes half a history degree!!

    Also, its quite bad as their is a LOT of variation in the Arabic levels of the class. Some (like myself) were complete beginners, and some had A levels in Arabic/lived in the middle east their whole lives.
    Are you a first year? If so, I'm curious: what kind of level are you and the other ab initio learners at so far? Like, what was the last thing you learned? As it comprises a lot more of your overall study time than mine, I expect you've gotten a lot further than us lot in Edinburgh - I feel like we know absolutely nothing! But I guess that's got a lot to do with the nature of the Arabic language itself.
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    (Original post by Anatheme)
    Best choice :king1:
    I see you went there for your year abroad? What did you make of it? To me it seems a little bit magical.
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    (Original post by boysenberry)
    Are you a first year? If so, I'm curious: what kind of level are you and the other ab initio learners at so far? Like, what was the last thing you learned? As it comprises a lot more of your overall study time than mine, I expect you've gotten a lot further than us lot in Edinburgh - I feel like we know absolutely nothing! But I guess that's got a lot to do with the nature of the Arabic language itself.
    Yep I'm in my first year, yourself?

    We're doing Al Kitab and reached chapter 10. Still feel like I know nothing though! How far have you got?

    (Al Kitab seems like a pretty generic study book used by universities. If you don't use it I'll let you know more specific grammar)
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    (Original post by twinkle243)
    Yep I'm in my first year, yourself?

    We're doing Al Kitab and reached chapter 10. Still feel like I know nothing though! How far have you got?

    (Al Kitab seems like a pretty generic study book used by universities. If you don't use it I'll let you know more specific grammar)
    Ah, Al-Craptab (Al-Sh*taab works well, too). I still felt like I didn't know anything after completing the 2nd one, but it turns out you actually cover most of the important grammar. I'm afraid we'll never ever be close to being kind of done with the vocab, though, there's just far too much of it!
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    (Original post by boysenberry)
    I see you went there for your year abroad? What did you make of it? To me it seems a little bit magical.
    Magical in what sense?
 
 
 
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