Studying Arabic in Sudan: Part 1

The following is a summary of the course I did in Sudan in 2018. Many of you want to study Arabic to understand the Qur’an so this is a review of the course for those interested.

Course overview

Where: Arabic Language Institute for Non-Native Speakers at the Open University of Sudan in Khartoum, Sudan. On Shari’ Ebid Khatim.

Course: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). The Qur’an uses Classical Arabic. MSA is the modern version of it (a bit like the difference between modern day English vs Shakespearean English). It will help you understand the Quran, Hadith, and do Islamic studies which are usually taught in MSA later on.

Duration: 9 month intensive course. You can start at any time. 3 Levels for 3 months each. It’s self paced so you can do it for longer/shorter.

Costs: Registration $US1000 + Classes $US500/ level ($US1500 for 3 levels) +  Visa $US150 lasts for 12 months. But check visa information as it could change.

If you register 2+ people, the classes will be reduced to $US300/level/person (from $US500)= $US900 for all 3 levels.

How to enrol: Just rock up. They don’t have a website, and didn’t respond to our emails or calls. Fill in some papers, pay for registration, visa and 1st level and start immediately. They take care of your student visa application.

Who can apply: Anynone. No age limit. There are students from everywhere around the world, including China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, U.S.A, and us Aussies 🙂

The course

Requirements: Know how to read Arabic (you can recite the Qur’an but don’t understand it).

Classes: 5 days a week, Sunday – Thursday (Friday & Saturday is their weekend). A class is just 2 hours. You can choose the time: morning, afternoon or evening. Our class was 9am-11am. This is ideal because it’s very hot midday and we like to wind down at night.

What you’ll learn: By the end you will have a basic, foundational knowledge of MSA. You won’t be proficient in the language or understand the Quran fully, that takes years. This course just does the groundwork for further studies.

Classes and text books are in Arabic. This is good as it forces you to learn by listening and speaking in Arabic. The textbook is very similar to the commonly used textbook ‘Arabiyyatu bayna yadayk’

Level 1 & 2 has 2 textbooks each. Each textbook has chapters. Each chapter covers a theme eg. Market, school, health etc. Each chapter starts with a dialogue between people in Arabic about the theme. e.g. going to the market, visiting the zoo) Then you get a vocabulary list of new words. Then you do exercises about that dialogue to test your understanding. Those exercises incorporate grammar rules, so you learn grammar along the way. You’ll also do speaking, listening, dictation and spelling all related to the theme of the chapter in class.

The third level has 3-4 mini books (equal to 2 regular books). Each chapter is a story/article/poetry because by then you can read paragraphs and bodies of text. (Level 1 & 2 is just phrases, sentences). You have fewer exercises for each chapter but you increase in writing your own stories/articles and you have to memorise a lot more vocabulary.

Assessment: Once you reach the end of a chapter you complete a test on it, in order to proceed to the next chapter. When you complete all the chapters in a book, you complete an exam that covers content in the entire book. The tests and exams are not difficult if you revise the content enough and memorise enough vocabulary.

Homework & Revision: You’ll do some of the exercises for homework each day. By level 2 you’ll also write 1-2 pages on a specific topic for homework  2-3 times/week too. You’ll also need to revise and memorise vocabulary, as 2 hours of class per day is not enough to consolidate knowledge. I used the app Memrise.

The pass rate is 60%, so it’s easy to pass. You will get a certificate once you complete the course.

The Result

I have a basic understanding of the Arabic language, and can increase my understanding by learning new vocabulary in my own time. I understand how the Arabic language works and the major grammar rules that make it up. When I read the Quran, rather than seeing an ayat (verse) like a string of random letters as I did before, I can now see sentence structure and words. I can determine what is a verb, noun, particle by their structure, even if I don’t know all their meanings. When I listen to the Quran, I don’t understand all of it but can pull out nouns/verbs/particles that help in my understanding. This helps you focus in prayer too. I can now connect with the Quran and have a sense of curiosity over it, rather than feeling disconnected and uninterested before when I had no idea what was being said. I can read ahadith and beginner Islamic/Arabic books and stories which has opened up a whole new world of knowledge that was inaccessible to me before.

Overall, Arabic and the Qur’an has been demystified. I have a sense of confidence that I can learn this language gradually with enough time and effort put into learning. I’m happy to have started my journey in understanding the Quran.

Pros

  • Very flexible. Start when you want, take breaks when you want. Choose your own class times.
  • Easy to apply. We started immediately.
  • Affordable for Westerners.
  • Good teachers with a lot of focus on each student due to small class size. It was just my husband and I in our class, so it was more live private tutoring. They put extra effort in the students who are learning Arabic from scratch.
  • Intensive course is good for those who don’t have much time. Most Arabic courses run for 1.5-2 years to cover the same material.
  • You’re able to focus on Arabic only before going into Islamic studies, as opposed to doing an Islamic studies degree where Arabic is just one of your subjects.
  • I liked the method of learning by doing. By focusing on dialogue & vocabulary, you get accustomed to sentence structure and start to pick up grammar rules without really trying. This is opposed to learning grammar first as just a theory.
  • There are benefits in living in Sudan as foreigners. More in this in another blog.

Cons

  • There aren’t many students. It’s just one building so it doesn’t have the social environments of a school. So you can feel quite lonely unless you’re coming with others. I wasn’t able to meet many students or make friends due to this (aside from my husband lol).
  • Even though I liked the way grammar was taught, I still felt that the course didn’t cover it it enough. I made my own summaries of grammar theory outside of class with my husband’s help. Doing so helped me map out how the Arabic language works. But not everyone would know how to do this.
  • You have to do a lot of revision and work outside of class because 2 hours is not enough. Though I think this is a given for learning anything, plus it builds good habits of self-learning.
  • There are challenges in living in Sudan as foreigners. More on this in Part 2.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, but you would have to factor in the pros and cons of living in Sudan as well. You would also have to compare it with studying in other countries/locally. I’m working on a separate blog post to cover this.

Other places to study Arabic in Sudan

The International University of Africa is a more popular place to study. It’s a proper university campus with hundreds of students.  They attract students from all over the world and offer other courses like Teaching, Engineering, Medicine etc. Their Islamic studies is just one of their degrees they offer (it’s not an “Islamic uni”). It’s just up the road from the Open Uni on the same street (Ebid Khatim) I didn’t do the course so I only know so much:

Pros

It’s good if you want to have a general Islamic studies degree where Arabic is just one subject amongst many. However you will have a general grasp on everything but will not be able to focus on Arabic. I think the course is at least 2 years.

It has as a proper university environment and student culture. It’ll be easier to make friends there and be social.

Cons

A friend who also did my course said she’s spoken to many of the students there and felt that their Arabic wasn’t as strong as those who learn at the Open Uni. This is understandable given that they don’t solely focus on it.

Teacher-student ratio is 1: 25-30+. So less focus on each student.

It was hard to enrol unless you were coming as a group of students officially from a foreign university (like exchange students). Those students apply through their universities in their respective countries. We came as individuals and there were huge lines of students applying, and no one to help us. In contrast, the Open Uni was empty and were able to apply straight away.

I hope this helps, feel free to leave a question in the comments below and I’ll try to help 🙂

Read my follow up blog on living in Sudan as students (coming soon)

– Anisa

open uni
This is all the information we could find on the course.
level 1 eg
Example of dialogue in level 1

 

level 2 eg
Example of dialogue in level 2
q1
Beginner students from Thailand. They took around 6 months to complete Level 1 Masha Allah. The older brother is a new revert, may Allah reward them for their efforts!

 

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