Experiences of Leeds/Durham/Manchester/Exeter/SOAS/Edinburgh for Arabic

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ronmcd
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I'm going to apply for Arabic during my gap year, but my only definite choice so far is Cambridge.

I'm more interested in history and linguistics than in literature, and would like to have the opportunity to study other languages (particularly Turkish/Mandarin), so I'd like to do joint honours with linguistics/another language where possible.

Could people who've studied Arabic at one of the universities in the title tell me how they found the course? I haven't seen much about Arabic at universities other than Oxbridge and Manchester here. I'd like to find out about the level of Arabic reached at the end of the course, flexibility in choosing modules and the year abroad.

Thanks.
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20megs
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Hello there!

I'm an Arabic and Persian student studying at the University of Edinburgh. I'm currently in my 2nd year and so far it has been fantastic. At a Scottish university, whatever your degree, you have to take three subjects. As a joint honours student, I took the Arabic language, Persian language and Islamic History last year as compulsory courses. This year I took Modern Middle Eastern History. Even though they were compulsory, I would've chosen to do them anyway, so it worked out for the best. The level of language is very high, especially in 2nd year. In first year you build up the roots of the language, and then second year is when you have to properly knuckle down. You are able to take Turkish as an outside if you do a single honours degree, and also probably Mandarin. It's pretty flexible. Unfortunately, since Arabic and Linguistics is not very popular (Which to me seems strange), it is currently not offered as a course, however you would be able to take linguistics courses in 1st and 2nd year as 'outside courses'. You are definitely able to take Arabic with other languages as a joint honours. A lot of students in my class are taking either French or Spanish as well. Our year abroad has just been announced and we have the choices of Jordan, Tunisia and Oman. The year abroad for Arabic is always changing because of the political situation of the region though. I'm not completely sure about fluency by the end of the 4 years, but from what I am experiencing now I would imagine it is very high. Hope this has helped somewhat. Good luck!
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ronmcd
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(Original post by 20megs)
Hello there!

I'm an Arabic and Persian student studying at the University of Edinburgh. I'm currently in my 2nd year and so far it has been fantastic. At a Scottish university, whatever your degree, you have to take three subjects. As a joint honours student, I took the Arabic language, Persian language and Islamic History last year as compulsory courses. This year I took Modern Middle Eastern History. Even though they were compulsory, I would've chosen to do them anyway, so it worked out for the best. The level of language is very high, especially in 2nd year. In first year you build up the roots of the language, and then second year is when you have to properly knuckle down. You are able to take Turkish as an outside if you do a single honours degree, and also probably Mandarin. It's pretty flexible. Unfortunately, since Arabic and Linguistics is not very popular (Which to me seems strange), it is currently not offered as a course, however you would be able to take linguistics courses in 1st and 2nd year as 'outside courses'. You are definitely able to take Arabic with other languages as a joint honours. A lot of students in my class are taking either French or Spanish as well. Our year abroad has just been announced and we have the choices of Jordan, Tunisia and Oman. The year abroad for Arabic is always changing because of the political situation of the region though. I'm not completely sure about fluency by the end of the 4 years, but from what I am experiencing now I would imagine it is very high. Hope this has helped somewhat. Good luck!
Hi,

Thanks a lot. I really like the look of the Edinburgh course, as even single honours Arabic lets you study a variety of subjects. I've got a few more questions if that's ok.

What are your coursemates' attitudes to language learning? From what I've heard Arabic is a difficult language that can demotivate people easily. Are there many people who already speak (some) Arabic on the course, and is there a noticable gap between them and people who started without prior experience?

Have you found the non-language modules interesting and relevant? What have the quality of teaching and friendliness of staff been like?

As for Arabic itself, how have you found learning it? Are you at the stage where you can watch TV and talk to people without any real difficulty in Arabic, and what do you do to study?

Sorry to bombard you with questions, and thanks again.
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20megs
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(Original post by ronmcd)
Hi,

Thanks a lot. I really like the look of the Edinburgh course, as even single honours Arabic lets you study a variety of subjects. I've got a few more questions if that's ok.

What are your coursemates' attitudes to language learning? From what I've heard Arabic is a difficult language that can demotivate people easily. Are there many people who already speak (some) Arabic on the course, and is there a noticable gap between them and people who started without prior experience?

Have you found the non-language modules interesting and relevant? What have the quality of teaching and friendliness of staff been like?

As for Arabic itself, how have you found learning it? Are you at the stage where you can watch TV and talk to people without any real difficulty in Arabic, and what do you do to study?

Sorry to bombard you with questions, and thanks again.
It is a very hard course and so does come with a lot of work, but most people are positive. In first and second year, because Arabic can also be chose as an optional course, some people find it so hard that they drop out even in the first semester of the first year, but those doing it as their degree seem to have much harder skins. Some people have dropped out, but not a huge amount. There were a few people who had done it before, and yes they were ahead, but by now, we have pretty much caught up with them. At the beginning of the first year we had 80 people in our class, but now (it is the second semester of my second year) there are 15 of us. That's how challenging it is.

Yes. I have thoroughly enjoyed the history courses, and I know that if I had had the choice I would've taken them anyway. The staff are great. They are very friendly. There are some not so great speakers, but only a few and that happens in every university on every subject.

Arabic is an incredibly hard course. I wont lie. There is no way, unless you are the best linguist in the universe, that you will be completely fluent by the end of the course. It is unlike learning any other language and no, you will not be able to just watch TV without subtitles by the end of 2nd year, mostly because of the different dialects. Arabic is the learning of the classical language. So you learn mostly grammar. They are trying to get you to the stage where you can read a newspaper by 4th year. 3rd year will be the most useful, being abroad, because you will finally learn a dialect and be able to converse with people. Nobody speaks the Arabic that you learn at university.

All I can say is, it's not easy. It requires a huge amount of work and committment and you can't take it lightly. But if you love the language and culture like I do, then it is worth it. Hope this helped.
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purplehedgehog11
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Added this thread to my watch list, as I'd like to study Arabic at university when I'm qualified to do so. 20megs did you have no experience with Arabic whatsoever before you started your degree?
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20megs
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(Original post by purplehedgehog11)
Added this thread to my watch list, as I'd like to study Arabic at university when I'm qualified to do so. 20megs did you have no experience with Arabic whatsoever before you started your degree?
I had no experience with the Arabic language, but I knew the alphabet as I had previously studied Persian which has an almost identical alphabet.
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