Not Going Well

I hate to say it, but three classes in, the Arabic lessons are not going well. Our teacher has been late twice, and spends as much time expounding about why her methods of teaching are the best as she does actually teaching us anything. She has also steadfastly refused to teach us any vocabulary at all — so I learned more words in nine days in Jordan than I have in these classes.

On its face, her rationale for not teaching us words makes some sense, because we do need to learn the alphabet and connections. However, last night she told us the best way to practice the connections (that is, how the individual letters come together to make words)  is to choose random letters and try to connect and then pronounce them. When Farin asked if instead we could practice using real words so we could learn some vocabulary, this instructor spent the next 30 minutes arguing with her in a way that made it clear she had no real idea what Farin was asking. She was unbelievably defensive (see note above that she had already established that she was the best Arabic teacher ever, so how dare we question her) and made no sense at all, contradicting herself all over the place: “The book is wrong!” followed by “I did not say the book is wrong!” and so on…

An aside here: we picked private lessons specifically because we were told we could focus on spoken Arabic rather than reading/writing. While none of us dispute the importance of learning the basics, we want to be able to talk to people — so her refusal to let us learn any words at all is making us crazy.

The only thing that has a chance of salvaging this situation is that we’ll have a new teacher starting with the next class. The argumentative vocab-hater is off on a two-month trip that was scheduled before she was asked to teach our class. I think this is the only reason we haven’t quit and asked for our money back, because really, there is no way we could deal with this woman for 10 weeks.  We’re each paying $40 per two-hour class, and to lose 30-45 minutes per session due to tardiness and pontificating — not to mention a half-hour last night to unnecessary fighting — is just not appropriate. We’re all optimistic that the new teacher will be better… but if s/he isn’t, we’re planning to ask for a refund.

It’s such a shame, really. We were all so excited to be giving this a try.

15 thoughts on “Not Going Well

  1. susan June 17, 2009 / 1:52 pm

    The talking is the FUN part! After 6 weeks in Tunisia, it was amazing what kind of conversation you could piece together using Arabic and French. Couldn’t read a word, but could small talk…to a point 🙂 Here’s hoping the new teacher teaches well!

  2. Mom June 17, 2009 / 2:04 pm

    Is there more than one source for taking Arabic lessons? Perhaps someone connected with their embassy in DC who could offer the name of a private tutor, particularly with three of you it might be more economical than classroom study and could be better tailored to what you are trying to learn (i.e. words).

  3. Eileen June 17, 2009 / 2:16 pm

    Where are you taking the classes? and even if you aren’t yet ready to quit and ask for a refund, you should make them aware of your complaints now, so that if you do need to make the ask, there is already documentation of your grievance (and also, perhaps they won’t ask the nut case teacher back). Good luck.

  4. Sarah June 17, 2009 / 4:55 pm

    @ Susan – Exactly! I’m all for learning the alphabet, but I’d like to get my small talk skills beyond hello, thank you, and you’re welcome. (I actually also know crazy and baby/dear, but that’s from the pop music.)

    @ Mom – There are a ton of embassies for Arabic-speaking countries, but I don’t know that any of them offer lessons, since they’re mostly staffed with native speakers. And Farin had a bad experience w/ a private tutor, which is why we decided to go with a language school.

    @ Eileen – I don’t want to name where we’re going, because it has a good reputation overall, so I’m thinking this majnoon teacher is a fluke. If things don’t improve w/ the new instructor, though, perhaps I’ll name names.

  5. susan June 17, 2009 / 4:56 pm

    OH!!! Did I just learn the Arabic word for crazy?? 🙂

  6. Sarah June 17, 2009 / 4:59 pm

    You did, habibti. 😉

  7. Common Loon June 17, 2009 / 6:16 pm

    Gotta go with Eileen here: you need to mention this to someone. If you are getting half your lesson (letters, phonics, vocabulary or whatever), you should only pay half of your fee, regardless of whether you stay / she goes. Time is precious, not to be wasted on building someone’s self-esteem (when they should be doing their job instead). If you have money to waste, send it here and boost my confidence 🙂 I’m a better investment 🙂

  8. Common Loon June 17, 2009 / 6:22 pm

    وداعا ، وحظا سعيدا

  9. Sarah June 17, 2009 / 6:46 pm

    @ CL – I think Farin is on it; she said last night that she’d email them today. I think she’s planning to ask for an 11th class at no charge to make up for the time lost in the first three classes.

    I have no idea what your follow-up comment says, by the way, because it’s, well, words. I know the letters you’re using, though. Alef, dell, yea, ein, seen…

  10. Eileen June 17, 2009 / 7:46 pm

    @ Sarah – according to Google translation tool, it is “goodbye and good luck” 🙂

  11. Common Loon June 17, 2009 / 9:05 pm

    Look at the brain on Eileen! Other phrases on the Google translation tool, were, well, pretty rude, so I’m glad that you got the same translation I was hoping for!!!

    @ Susan: And just how much Arabic and French can you now recall? I can only remember a few pleasantries from the various countries I’ve visited, and in theory there should be a lot more remembered (no comments about age, please).

  12. susan June 18, 2009 / 7:16 am

    @CL It was amazing how much I could recall…back then. Honestly, desperation is a great motivator. Where I was, no one knew anything but Arabic or French…sink or swim! If you are asking what I can recall now…the answer is pathetically little!

  13. Mom June 18, 2009 / 7:34 am

    Google TRANSLATES languages!!! Now, have I learned something today or what !!!

  14. Sarah June 18, 2009 / 11:55 am

    I didn’t think to check Google, but the Microsoft translator in Word came up with something like “goodbye, luck happy,” which I was pretty sure wasn’t quite it…

  15. Eileen June 18, 2009 / 12:28 pm

    This is what happens when you work at the World Bank…you get all sorts of stuff in all sorts of languages and, thanks to the excellence of modern technology, you copy it in and it spits out a close approximation. I wouldn’t sign a legal document based on it, but it’s close enuf for horse shoes and hand grenades.

    Happy day one and all.

Comments are closed.