Have you tried to write for a prolonged amount of time by hand recently? The time-honoured skill of handwriting may be an utterly distant memory. Come to think of it the memory of ruining your manicure, receiving the gift of now-almost-extinct writer’s callus or undergoing excruciating wrist and hand agony may not appeal to you. But have you thought about how you can benefit from handwriting once you pass through the pain threshold?
Writing into relaxation
I would have gladly stuck to my scribbles or the more computer-assisted approach but a few months ago I took it upon myself to learn Arabic. When it comes to effectively acquiring a new language, there exists little alternative to writing by hand, at least in my experience. Graphotherapy claims that handwriting can cure depression. I would not know any better but it has definitely been the most efficient and surprisingly relaxing form of studyingI have been encountering.
Amplifying your learning
Your capability to focus will improve as a result of repeatedly forming letters, which will eventually evolve into words, sentences and paragraphs. The foreign vocables will become imprinted in the brain effortlessly, and the movement of the hand almost as fluent as the very word you will have just learned to utter. Your penmanship may not evolve to the level of a calligrapher and your diction that of an Arab but you will probably find the entire experience edifying. In case you get a kick from acing your exams, an article in the Wall Street Journal confirmed that students who take notes by hand outperform others.
Smartening your brain
Research published in the medical journal, Neuroreport, shows that Arabic writing trains both side of the human brain. It has been found during a study of the brain dynamics of writing that native Arabic speakers engaged both sides of the brain unlike their Spanish counterparts when writing. I guess this also applies to Urdu and/or Farsi writers since they use the same system. Not only do these scriptures use cursive letters, known to engage both your right and left cerebral cortex, but they also write from right to left, an extra-brainy challenge.
Writing prettier letters
As I mindfully applied myself to the craft, my stuttering cacography in Arabic slowly morphed itself into tidier letters. Interestingly, even squibbles in my own native scripture have become more legible. For the past two decades, I have been infamous for my illegible handwriting. Even my husband who absolutely adores me would confirm. Believe it or not, I can now read my notes, something that I was unable to do since 1995. Morever, I have recently discovered the joy of looking at my notes, a very satisfying experience.
Two months ago, I decided to end 3 years of procrastination, and took it upon myself to start learning my fifth language: Arabic. My greatest challenge was to select a learning path. After days of googling, emailing and reading blogs, I finally decided: 1) to go to the Eton Institute in TECOM’s Knowledge Village, 2) to undertake the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, CEFR, path. With this in mind, I used three main criteria for selecting the school, as follows:
This weekend has been an intensive study session just before my Starter Arabic exam on Sunday. I have taken it upon myself to learn by heart the basic vocabulary we are expected to know to pass the Eton Institute-administered certification, with the long view to build my skills up through the internationally recognised CEFR levels A, B and ultimately C.
Learning Arabic has opened my eyes to another side of Dubai, something I already knew from learning other languages but you can pick up some finer details in a culture. Apart from walking around shopping malls slowly reading signs and sounding slightly “Special” in the process, there are some nuances to phrases unbeknown to most of us who can’t speak a language which surrounds our daily lives here in the United Arab Emirates.
There are plenty of collateral benefits that come with studying Arabic, one of them being getting excited each time I recognize a word. My favourite thing to date has been the thrill of stalking my colleagues and forcing them to watch me write their name, then holding up the piece of paper as if I am meeting them at the airport and showing it off as if I am six years old.
Regardless, I have been studiously attending my two-hour classes twice a week for the past two months. Deadlines are a curious thing; here I am just two days before the test with seemingly completely empty mind. MinyHubby has limitless faith in me to pass with flying colours but I want to give it everything I have got, which includes making sure I can read and write the vocabulary set in Arabic, even though this particular test does not require it. I am learning for the future.
Update: this post was written on Friday, July 29th. Since then I passed my class with a perfect score. I am currently looking forward to building my Arabic skills by taking them to the next level.