The TAFL is a wonderful place to learn Arabic. Part of the “Coliat al Adab” in Alexandria University just steps away from the famous Alexandria Library, the TAFL center is buzz of international connections with students from all over the world. Students from Russia, Japan, England, Somalia, America, Germany amongst other places all come to the TAFL center to learn various levels of Arabic.
What really stands out in this small building is the professors. The Arabic professors are experienced, approachable and extremely patient with all the students. The sense of family among the staff is apparent especially with the sad moments that have happened this semester…one professor was killed in an automobile accident, and just the other day the founder and first director of the TAFL Center, the professors’ professor, passed away. It was from these events that I could candidly see the intricate web amongst the TAFL staff as they held each other for support and never forgot their professional obligations to their jobs and students.
My week schedule is as follows (classes are 2 hours each):
Monday: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Islamic Culture
Tuesday: 4 consecutive hours of MSA, Islamic History
Wednesday: MSA, Colloquial Egyptian
Thursday: Colloquial Egyptian, MSA
Classes like Islamic History and Islamic Culture are more flexible and have often switched around.
The most important classes to me are the MSA and Colloquial Egyptian. The MSA classes are highly structured and focus highly on grammar, comprehension, and syntax. Arabic is an academic challenge unlike any other I have dealt with. I have tried to learn languages before with some success (Spanish for example), but Arabic is different in that it uses a totally different alphabet with some sounds that aren’t commonly found in English. I am constantly pulling from my Urdu and Gujarati background in order to make some comprehension of this rich language. I know that after I leave I would have barely, just barely, scratched its surface.
Studying is rigorous and tiring. I wake up at 7:30 am and sometimes dont get back to my dorm until 5 pm. I take refuge during my long weekends by running on a track, going to the beach and just lazing around.
I have effective become a resident of Alex, no longer a visitor. I knew this the day I stopped feeling bad for giving the taxi drivers 4 Egyptian pounds (Guinea) instead of the 10 they would demand from foreigners. But truth be told, I have never been treated as a complete foreigner (at least not initially) as some of the other IFSA students for the obvious reason of my skin color. I feel very happy walking around the sook (back alley markets) without being stared at and blending in with the rest of the population. Most of my compatriots are unable to experience such a thing, as they are often somewhat a sort of spectacle. I think I am fortunate for this.