There are many challenges in learning languages, the main one would be the mindset of the learner. If they do not like the language, I can tell they are not going to learn it and would not be able to reach a high level. The second one is the methodology of learning. What works for me may not work for others. Some students, depending on their mother tongue, may be faster in learning the structure of the language
Gaith al Ghafri
Languages are very close to the heart of Gaith al Ghafri of Ibri. His passion for languages came about when he was a third grader and English language was introduced in the syllabus. He was intrigued and he continued to get top scores throughout the schooling and soon it was time to join the College of Higher Technology specialising in mechanical engineering. But something bothered him, he could still not converse in English.
“I got the basics and I got good grades but I could not communicate in English. So the real journey and interest in languages began in September 2010 — the foundation year. The main focus was to learn the language and I dedicated myself to learn it the best I can. But I also have a greedy personality as I have ambitions over ambitions. Whenever I achieve something I aspire to achieve something higher. When I got comfortable in reading, writing and speaking English I was then intrigued by the idea of being able to communicate in a foreign language. So I started to look for a third language in life. I did not have a monitor or a guide so I decided to do it on my own. In addition to English, there are two other languages people learn in Oman and they are French and German. I tried to learn the basics on my own but it did not work because of the pronunciation’’, Gaith explained.
Soon the young linguist discovered Spanish but soon lost motivation. But coming to Muscat made the difference when he came to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree.
“I could learn many new things and in the Higher College of Technology I took up French again. It was a new beginning. I quickly moved to higher levels in French at Franco Oman Center. Soon I continued with Spanish. Summer of 2017 I began to learn Swahili and then took a few lessons in German but have not been able to pursue it now. In 2019 I challenged myself to learn Italian as fast as possible because the similarities between languages was my major motivation’’, he explained.
Gaith achieved it by finding a video and soon found a teacher through instagram and in the first interview which was ten minutes long he could manage to speak in Italian as a result of his self study.
“I am continuing to learn Italian but I feel self-study is an important technique in learning languages. And this is by understanding the similarities’’, he noted.
The language, however, he chose to train others was Arabic to non–native speakers but this is where his foreign languages helped.
“Arabic was not what I had been focusing on but destiny had that I come back to Arabic and teach at Berlitz Language Centre. The knowledge of other languages helped in translating Arabic to their mother language when I was teaching them’’, he said.
The pandemic did not stop him, he conducted sessions online, especially on learning languages at a fast pace, especially self-study method.
According to Ghaith, he prefers to be known as a coach rather than a teacher, “I like to share my experience. So when I graduated in mechanical engineering I chose to teach Arabic. There are many challenges in teaching languages, the main one would be the mindset of the learner. If they do not like the language, I can tell they are not going to learn it and would not be able to reach a high level. The second one is the methodology of learning. What works for me may not work for others. Some students, depending on their mother tongue, may be faster in learning the structure of the language.”
And how is it to learn Arabic for others?
“It depends — if it is the classic Arabic it might take time but if it is conversational Arabic, I have had students learn it in two to three months and sometimes six months. They are able to communicate in informal Arabic with Arabs from other Arab countries. I say informal because there are numerous grammar rules in formal Arabic’’, notes Gaith.
“Conjugations in Arabic are easy. It all depends on which part of the language. So I would say it is challenging, not difficult. My way is to learn with verbs in present tense when it comes to learning any language then learn the past, future and order of words. But it all starts with the subject, verb and form sentences. We begin with daily conversations and the topics that touch our lives’’, advised Gaith, enthusiastic to teach more students.