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my primary form of studying arabic for the last month has been less technological than normal, instead, on the advice of Gabriel Wyner’s book Fluent Forever  , I decided to try a Leitner box by hand. Here is what i do each morning , which is not quite the same as what he advises:

  • Review whichever of my 1-8 sections  are listed as needing review, based on the calendar I drew up. Start with the highest section.
  • when i miss cards, they move not into section 1, but to a side pile, which only is added to section 1 after I review section 1 for the day, review any new cards & add to section 1, etc. Why? Because I don’t think  a card should get a 2nd review and get a chance to move back up to section 2, it should have to wait til tomorrow.
  • I review any new cards I want to add, as well as making new  cards. If I make a card in the morning, review it in the evening and get it right, sure I’ll move it to section 2. Otherwise, section 1, to ensure it gets seen tomorrow.

 

What are my flashcards like? The front is a long paragraph, full of connected & related terminology , found via a Google News search of the arabic word I want to learn. Ideally it is as sensational and visceral, shocking, bizarre as possible. Like, for عَجوز, yes I put that word on the back. The front was a paragraph about a recent murder case in Egypt in which the 3juuz was a predator in some park and – to make a long story short- ended up getting strangled to death by his intended victim.   All this to say, don’t pick some boring story, and don’t pick a boring paragraph either. Make sure it will burn itself into your head, and that it has some related words ideally (when learning سرج, I found a paragraph that talks about the importance of getting one with the right dimensions so that your horse does not feel discomfort  when you are riding, and so on – ok, that’s not sensational but you get the idea).

So yeah the front of my flashcard is a paragraph with 1-2 blanks in it, and my task as I review is to remember what word goes in those blanks.

Don’t force yourself to read the whole thing when you review, the moment the word comes to your mind, khalaS! Move it up a deck.

Having a sturdy, nice looking leitner box is honestly kind of helpful, you want something that feels legitimate and which  cards will stay put in..

For MSA, I don’t mark anything on the front of the cards as to “MSA!” For all dialects that interest me, I write which dialect I’m looking for. Flash cards should not require me to put in the unnecessary work of coming up with an entire sentence with all the right words and all the right order, – there should be little ambiguity, for the card to be as effective as possible. It should ask little of me and as long as my brain works even slightly, I can succeed and move on..

Why so much focus on flashcards? Because I started to believe that my poor listening skills boils down to not knowing enough vocab, but also not having my existing vocab base deeply ingrained enough in my head. If it’s really in there, I will become more flexible as a listener, able to catch it even if the ق is turned to a ء , or when ppl change all the 7arakat around like مُعجزة becomes Shami “me3jize” sort of thing (I don’t remember how to make a schwa on my keyboard,but that is what replaces ضمة on the mim).

Also, lately in addition to work  – which still involves plenty of interaction with arabic speakers, thankfully – I am guiding an Iraqi man on how to prep for the citizenship test. This has so far taught me words such as:

  • اقاليم territories (eg puerto rico)
  • مستعمرة colony (e.g 13 original colonies)
  • قسم الولاء oath of allegiance (I think this is the right arabic translation, but don’t quote me)
  • يسنّ this means to make , as in to make legislation, to pass a law. The verb performed by congresspeople.
  • I used to think senator was شيخ من مجلس الشيوخ but I now see it professionally translated as سيناتور or something. Idk about the spelling, i forgot.
  • يمنع فرعا واحدا من الحكومة من أن يصبح قويا أكثر مما يجب    – this is an MSA explanation of the purpose behind “checks and balances”, which btw is translated as ضوابط وتوازنات
  • some other words I forgot. anyway..
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