Millo's Musings

Can you Learn a Language In Seven Hours?

19 March 2017

[Update 1: see here for the results of this challenge.]

[Update 2: if you want to try the same course that I did, and learn Arabic (or Spanish or Portuguese) in seven hours of lessons, see here for how readers can get a special discount.]

Today is March 19th 2017, meaning it’s four days since I concluded my challenge to learn Brazilian Portuguese in 10 weeks. (Hello from São Paulo.) In the next few days I’ll be publishing a video to show how far I got, and writing up my final postmortem of the challenge, but for now I’m about to get my hands dirty with something much more exciting:

Next week, I will learn (or attempt to learn) Arabic from scratch in just seven hours.

Impossible? We’ll see. I only decided a few days ago that I’m going to do this, and Arabic is not a language I ever thought I’d bother to learn (although I do find the Arabic alphabet to be extremely beautiful.) However, while learning Portuguese I took some lessons with the excellent Tony Marsh, who has a unique teaching method he calls the “Language Matrix” that I’ve found to be very effective. If you’re looking for a Portuguese teacher, Tony’s great and I recommend him (although he’s not cheap.)

I stopped having Portuguese lessons with Tony just before I flew to Brazil a few weeks ago, but last week I got an email advertising his latest offer: “Conversational Spanish, Portuguese (or) Arabic, in 7 Hours or your money back.”. That’s an offer so farfetched and ridiculous that I had to take it, and I already know Spanish and Portuguese so Arabic’s what I’ll learn.

Let me emphasise that I really am an absolute beginner in this language. Right now I can’t say a single sentence in Arabic, nor can I read the alphabet, and my only vocabulary is a handful of religious words (hijrah, sunna, haram, etc) that I picked up a couple of years ago when I read a bunch of books about the Middle East and Islam (they didn’t convert me). Nor do I know any related languages like Hebrew, although I am aware that the Spanish word almohada, meaning “pillow”, is Arabic in origin. (Spanish has a surprising amount of Arabic influence, but I doubt this will help me very much - we’ll see.)

(Note to those who are familiar with the Arabic language: the specific dialect I will be learning is MSA.)

My goal is to become conversational, not fully fluent. If you’re skeptical that I can pull it off in just seven days (one one-hour lesson per day, starting tomorrow), well… that’s not an unreasonable position to hold. Hopefully I’ll be able to prove you wrong one week from now.

Or maybe I’ll fail miserably, but hey, at least then I’ll get my money back.

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