Working on your accent and speaking command even if not in the Middle East


Most Arabic students will have long periods of time where they are away from the Middle East and therefore not in a position to have frequent conversations in Arabic. This isn’t the ideal for developing high-level speaking skills. It’s just the way things are.

What it isn’t is a good excuse for letting your spoken skills decline.

This is the second in a weekly series where I break down a transcript from Arabic media to illustrate ways to improve your spoken capabilities. Following this tactic you can advance your Spoken from outside the Middle East in two key ways:

  • Expanding your vocabulary and abstract grasp of spoken conversation flow
  • Perfect your accent

Let’s use a sports analogy. A player might be a backup or injured and not get any playing time. On one hand, there is nothing a coach can do to fully simulate the unpredictability of a “live” situation. However, if the player mentally prepares, for example, watches lots of film, and practices effectively, there is no reason they can’t step in and thrive as soon as the opportunity arrives.

The same is true with your spoken Arabic skills. If you spend two hours per week doing this drill, you won’t go backwards on your spoken Arabic even if you don’t get to speak it often.  And you will be in a position to hit the ground running again as soon as you return to the Middle East.

This week’s Focus: 

I watched a 2010 episode of an Al-Jzeera talk show titled (قدسية الحاكم العربي) or “do Arab governments deserve to be treated with a ‘Sacred’ status”? One guest was from Yemen and took what might be called a more “Realist” perspective, the other is a feisty debater from Tunisia who trashed Arab governments in every possible way.

Part One: Building Up Abstract Grasp/Vocabulary

Go through and read a given transcript until you have found 5 phrases or terms you didn’t know. Internalize. Never have a problem understanding that word/concept again.

#1 – Whose fault is it?  (? الكرة في ملعب مين) 


Here the idea is who is to blame? Do you blame the journalists or someone else?  And again, it’s important to remember that Amaya is Fusha and Fusha is Amaya. This is a phrase that can be used in any variety of situations, personal, social, business, any kind of administrative domain, politics etc.

In another context the meaning could be “who has the initiative.”  “The ball is in your court to do ….whatever.”

#2 – Got it. You made your point ( وصلت الفكرة ) 

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Someone is talking on and on, repeating the same point over and over…. use in any context, frankly.

Although it would be rude if you use it the wrong way in a social situation. But amongst friends, with some sarcasm, it’s a good line. Or if someone really is going on and on ranting about something….

#3 – New Word I Hadn’t Heard Before ( شخصنة ) 

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The first debater got under the skin of the 2nd who in response made an illusion to the first guy’s apparent ties to Iran and how that might inform some of his positions. The moderator jumps in and says “Hey, stop the ( شخصنة  ).

As a learning tactic, I am 99% sure that I know exactly what this means from looking at the context. However, I am intentionally not going to look the word up. Why? I have made a mental association with a situation where this word is used, which is just as important.

#4 – Make It Quick (باختصار) 

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Used in these kinds of debates on Al-Jazeera whenever a host wants to move a conversation along. From that context Students can quickly identify and make mental associations of the meaning of these root letters in any other number of less formal contexts.

Although, I would say, in practical every day terms, I don’t recommend using this term in colloquial speaking situations, unlike #1 and #2.  This would be more rude.

#5 –  Let’s Stay on The Topic at Hand ( خلينا في موضوع)

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This phrase is repeated over and over by the moderator in every show.  But the verb ( خلي  ) has many many usages in Ammaya that I can think of off the top of my head, all of which you should be able to recognize if you hear it, just from seeing it here alone.  A classic example of how reading Fusha helps get students better at Ammaya.


Part Two: Accent Practice

I picked a 6 minute stretch, and listened to it four times. Each time my comprehension got better.  I also focused on marking it up for sound and tone. Then I read the section out loud to myself 2 times to focus on improving my accent.  These are the notes I made that emphasize the things an Arabic student can learn.

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One thought on “Working on your accent and speaking command even if not in the Middle East

  1. Pingback: 9 Arabic language takeaways from watching a brawl between an Egyptian Security officer and a Tunisian Lawyer – Real World Arabic

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