Case study: Khalida Choudhury, Oman 2024

PXL_20240307_070511250Prior to leaving for Oman, I panicked about leaving my life in the UK for three months. There’s something very disconcerting about the unknown. On reflection, I have learnt that the unknown is what makes something an adventure, and more often than not good things lie on the other side of fear.

PXL_20240216_134451150Once I arrived in Oman, the fear subsided.  I had a few connections from the UK in Oman, such as a colleague’s parents who were very welcoming and let me stay with them for a few days in Muscat. I also met my classmates, forty-one students from sixteen different nationalities that I would spend the next three months with. I was excited to learn more about them and to explore all that Oman has to offer.

Arabic is like learning two languages in one, there is Modern Standard Arabic and dialect. During lessons I spoke in Modern Standard Arabic, and tried to develop all fourPXL_20240214_134715103 skills in the language. Modern Standard Arabic is used in formal settings, such as newspapers, books, speeches. Outside of lessons, I spoke with my classmates in dialect, in the dining hall, during break times and on visits. I also haggled with taxi drivers in dialect, even when they tried switching to English. I spoke with locals at the souk and residents of Manah whenever I met them. I made every effort to speak Arabic even when I wasn’t sure that others fully understood my point. And I enjoyed every moment of it.

Omanis, like many Arabs, are very impressed when foreigners can hold a conversation with them in their native language. The great thing about a language is that it allows you to access spaces that wouldn’t be possible if you didn’t have that ability. For example, I was able to speak to a local Omani lady who invited me to her house and see her way of life.

Language learning isn’t a linear journey. During the three months, I had a few sets back but also some breakthrough moments. The setbacks were around grammar rules that seemed onerous and difficult to remember, which dented my confidence. The breakthroughs were being able to understand Arabic tour guides during our visits and coming away with new PXL_20240215_140311630information. Or the times when I unconsciously started thinking in Arabic without even realising.A23I0530

I also learnt a lot from my classmates about how they learnt Arabic and tips and tricks they used to master the language. I’ve never met such a diverse range of people all with the same interest in Arabic as me. It reminded me, even as we celebrated our different cultures and traditions, that we had more in common than our differences.

Finally, I’d like to say a massive thank you to the John Speak Foundation. Thank you for the words of encouragement during my interview and for funding my language course in Oman. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to spend three months learning Arabic in Oman, something that I’ve spent six years dreaming about.




Posted in Case Study, Monthly Reports