How to Learn Arabic

My little brother has decided to study Arabic. The occasion has me considering what I would do if I had the chance to do it over again.

1. I would listen to Arabic at least 15 minutes per day, every day from the beginning. See this post and consider this book.

2. I would hire a speaking tutor to meet with at least once per week.

3. I would study dialect for the first six weeks spent in any Arabic-speaking country.

4. I would keep a notebook with me and write down a list of words that I would like to know.

5. I would look up in a dictionary, or ask my tutor, how to say the words in number 4.

6. I would take every opportunity that I could to speak.

7. I would read more Arabic poetry. I always liked the selections in this book.

8. I would keep looking for a good grammar book. I have heard good things about this one.

9. I would write many more sentences every time I learned new grammar rules or new words.

10. I would do the Master of Arts in Arab Studies at Georgetown.

Grants for PhD Candidates

A friend of mine, we'll call her "C", asked my opinion of the grants that she should apply for over the next few years. She's beginning a PhD program this fall. Since this is pretty broad information, I decided to post my advice.

First, read this guidance on writing grant applications:

Second, find out what grants are available through your: 

  • Department
  • College
  • University

In some cases, you will be competing with fewer applicants to these grants then to those open to graduate students (and in some cases faculty) from every university in America.  Be sure to find out if there is an institution at your university that does matching grants! Do not assume that you will hear about this. YOU MUST ASK!

Third, speak with a few faculty ahead of time and ask if they would be willing to look at a few drafts of your proposals. 

With that being said, here is a partial list of some of the grants out there for political scientists: 

Pre-Dissertation Grants  (Apply for these once you know the general topic for the dissertation. I recommend the research be done during the summer of your first or second year, depending on your exam/study schedule, so you would apply during the fall of your first or second year).

Dissertation Grants  (Apply for most of these during the fall of the year prior to which you would like to do research)

Writing Grants  (Apply for these the Fall that you will be in the field)

Early Career Grants  (Apply for these according to the rules of the individual grant)

Taking myself seriously.

In the summer of 2006 I was wait-listed for a Critical Language Scholarship to Tunisia (top 20 of 1000, but not the top 15!) and declined a Fulbright to Morocco. I spent some time feeling sorry for myself until I decided I didn't need anyone to give me permission to continue my studies in Arabic.

I walked into the kitchen and said, "Mom, will you buy me a plane ticket for Morocco." "For when, Ann Marie?" she asked. "Tuesday." "Alright," she said. She was used to my antics by then. I took the money I was given from various generous relatives for graduating college and used it to pay my tuition at a fabulous little Arabic school (ALIF). And thus began my relationship with Morocco.

I like this story because it shows how sometimes we can get caught up in waiting on someone else to "knight" us as qualified to do something. I work a lot with my students to encourage them to declare their own interests and identity and to move forward, regardless of who approves. This story is one instance in my life where I exemplified this behavior and I'm proud of it.

Since that time I have had three Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships and a Boren Fellowship, which amounts to about six year of federally funded Arabic study. What's the take away? When started taking myself seriously then someone else did.