My name is Grace, a Senator in Student Government of Loyola Chicago majoring in Global and International Studies & Visual Communications and minoring in Arabic Language and Culture.
Learning a language is always going to be a difficult feat, especially in American society that thinks it is acceptable to wait until high school to start learning one (it’s not). And, for me, I decided to try to tackle Arabic. Most people in my life were supportive, but also wary of my choice, considering for English speakers Arabic can be one of the hardest languages to learn. And let me tell you, it’s much harder than the French I took in high school, and any of my classmates can attest I’m not the best at it, but I do try.
Something I have always heard regarding learning a language is that it’s best to immerse yourself in the language and culture to learn it quickly. Living in Chicago that is not really a possibility, so I tried some other interesting routes to sharpen my skills. I downloaded Al Jazeera, in Arabic to listen to how they speak, I got a Quran to practice my reading, and for about 2 weeks, I changed my iPhone setting to Arabic. It was an interesting few weeks. I had to get used to my entire phone being backwards, which I was not expecting. Even opening my lock screen I had to swipe the opposite way, but after a few days, I finally got it down.
Being in Arabic-102, I do not know too much of the vocabulary that was being used on my phone, but I’m on my phone enough to make a good enough guess what things meant. However, sometimes I would get notifications that I would have to just click buttons until they disappeared because I had no clue what it meant. My favorite part was seeing friends reactions when I would check the time, they would do a double take and ask “why does your numbers look like that”, and I would laugh and have to explain that a 0 in Arabic actually looks like a 5 so no my phone wasn’t wrong, 5 o’clock just looked different. And then there were little things that would make me laugh, for example when you hold down a text you can “react” to it instead of sending a new text (in any language setting this is the case), and for the “haha” reaction it was still “haha” but in Arabic. While that makes complete sense, it was little things like that that would make me smile.
Eventually, I had to change it back because of issues like not knowing what my phone was telling me and some frustration that would arise when I wanted to quickly do something but forgot everything was backwards. Overall though, it was a fun experience and since then I have occasionally changed it back to Arabic, and maybe one day I’ll go longer than a few weeks!