29 Oct 2015

Day 2: My First Tounsi Language Lesson

I had my very first Tounsi language lesson at The Tunisian Door. Let me begin by telling you that I have no prior experience in learning the Arabic language. If I can learn this language, then you can definitely learn it too and most likely do a better job than me.

You may recall in a previous post that “Tounsi” is the spoken Arabic dialect in Tunisia. The Tunisian Door adopts a modified version of the popular Growing Participatory Approach (GPA) language learning method in learning Tunisian Arabic. There are a total of 6 phases ranging from beginner to advanced level. I will only be participating in the first phase which usually requires 80 hours for completion.

When learning a new language, there is a tendency to jump right into learning phrases of a new language, but it has been proven that it is better to get our ears attuned to the Tunisian Arabic dialect first before trying to speak it. This makes a lot of sense to me – we can either try to say many phrases incorrectly or build the foundation to say a few phrases with the accurate pronunciation. That is why the first phase focuses a lot on learning vocabularies and listening.

During my 2 hour language session, my language helper introduced a set of vocabularies using pictures and figurines. He would say each vocabulary and I would point to the associated picture/figure. Next, he would teach me a few verbs using a method called Total Physical Response (TPR). For example, he would tell me to stand and I would stand up. If he told me to sit, then I would sit. The idea is to involve moving the body in learning a new language whenever it is possible. Finally, we finish the lesson by learning some phrases for conversation. A helpful tool to bring is a digital voice recorder for recording my language helper. This helps me to review and practice my lesson on my own afterwards.

What was my impression of my first lesson and the Tunisian Arabic language? The Tunisian Arabic language sounds a lot like trying to speak after you ate some really spicy food, but my ears are slowly being attuned to these foreign sounds. As the Tunisians say, shewia shewia which means slowly slowly. Looking forward to learning more Tunisian Arabic!

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