I was raised in a Nigerian immigrant household where my parents bred us to believe that we could do anything. I think they had to believe the same thing in order to make it in America, and so naturally, they taught us the same thing. I remember bringing back a test with a “low grade” (by my parent’s standards at least), and my mom would say, “Do the other students in the class has 2 heads?” — meaning, What is it that holding you back from succeeding?
At the end of my years in college learning Arabic, I asked myself the same question. Did the millions of people who spoke Arabic and the many thousands (at least) who had learned Arabic as a second language, have 2 heads? No.
Then what was wrong with me?
In the end, I realize that I was asking the wrong question. If I followed all the “rules” of traditional language classes (going to class, completing homework, studying, and study abroad), and still made little progress after 3 years, then I was probably not the problem. The question I needed to ask was:
What’s wrong with my method?
Luckily, my last year in college an American friend of mine who spoke fluent Mandarin, told me about a better method. He said something about “creating an immersion environment” to “learn the way to children learn”. As he described the method more, I thought — This makes perfect sense. Why don’t we learn this method in school? I also thought to myself, Can I really do this?
In a way, I think that seeing the truth so up close and personal was scary. A deep part of me had given up on myself when it came to Arabic. I wanted to believe that I would one day speak Arabic fluently, and at the same time, I was more comfortable being disillusioned by my experiences over my 3 years in college. Yet, my friend was obviously a living and breathing example of the success of this language acquisition approach. If he could do it, couldn’t I? He didn’t have two heads. Maybe I had a shot.
I didn’t take that shot immediately. I waited a few years, and by few, I mean 6 years. Over the next 6 years, my life took an entirely different direction than I expected. I moved to Beijing and lived there for 4 years. I studied Mandarin and gained conversational fluency in Mandarin using a mix of traditional learning methods and the “immersion” my friend told me about. I moved back to America eventually, and started working there.
None of my work or life had to do with Arabic directly or indirectly, but somehow the desire to learn the language started gnawing at me. To be honest, since college, the desire had never stopped. Finally, in March 2020, I made a decision, it’s now or never. I told myself, “I’m going to finally follow the immersion method my friend was talking about. And if it doesn’t work this time, I’ll put this whole Arabic thing to rest.” Also, at this time, I decided to only focus on Levantine Arabic, instead Fusha, as I had before. Either way, after 6 years out of college, I didn’t remember any Arabic at all anyway. I was starting from scratch.
The funny thing is that the method worked. In one year — March 2020 – March 2021 — I went from zero to fluent in Levantine Arabic. Truth be told, there is no one more surprised than me. I’m not surprised that the method worked — immediately when I started the method, I could tell that I was going to reach fluency if I stuck with the program. I’m surprised that after 10 whole years of attempting to learn Arabic, that I had the courage not to give up. I was surprised that the old adage is actually true, “Just stay in the race”.
This site Marhabtain was birthed as a way to help more people — people like you — become fluent in Levantine Arabic too. You’ll find great articles on the method you need to use to achieve fluency, as well as wonderful products you can buy in order to supercharge your progress. This blog is for those who don’t have two heads, for those who are ready to stay in the race with Arabic, once and for all. This site is for folks who know they can do it — if only they had the right method.
So welcome! I’m so happy to have you here.
If you’re looking for a great overall guide to this method, start here and get your free copy of 10 Things You Need to Know If You Want to Learn Arabic Fluently.
If you’re looking for great products to learn Levantine Arabic, then shop here.
If you’re looking for blog articles on this method, then check out the blog here.
All the love to you on your journey,
P.S. Oh yeah, and why is the blog called Marhabtain? Well, that’s all because I love that in Levantine Arabic, one response to Marhaba (or hello), can be “Marhabtain” (or two hellos). How fun is that?! So I hope you feel extra welcome as you go through this blog.