Thursday, May 20, 2010

Arabic Language Programs in Cairo Part 1


When considering Arabic studies abroad, the 2 most important decisions you can make are 1) where to study and 2) what type of Arabic to study. Now that my semester at the American University in Cairo's Arabic Language Institute (ALI)- which I've unaffectionately referred to as Arabic Gitmo in past posts- is complete, I want to write a review of the program and discuss language schools in another 2 part post:

ALI is truly intensive and the teachers are great. The method of teaching is heavily focused on interactive group work and homework (an average of hours per night). Classes are times a week (Sunday-Thursday), 9:30- 3:30. In addition, I had an optional 2 hours of tutoring and 1 hour with my language partner each week. i went from being unable to distinguish one squiggly line from another to being able to read, write, conjugate my verbs, and hold an elementary level conversation in Arabic. 

Unfortunately, ALI's association with AUC is the biggest downside to the program. The new, elite AUC campus is also 1-2 hrs into the desert- the campus is surrounded by nothing but sand and newly built, empty residential mansions. To have an Arabic program in an American bubble in the middle of the desert is counterproductive. Buses transport students from designated stops in Cairo to the New Cairo campus. Sometimes the bus will be at its designated stop, other times no bus is to be found. Despite the alleged bus schedule on the website, the bus adheres to no comprehensible schedule and leave and arrive at the whims of the driver. Cairo traffic and the nonexistent campus bus schedule makes the commute aggravating. By the time I get home each night, I'm exhausted and I only have time to study before falling asleep, no socializing w/ Egyptians, or oral practice for me. Cairo traffic and the nonexistent campus bus schedule makes the commute aggravating.

In my experiences, the campus staff is incompetent beyond belief. Nothing gets done without a series of threatening emails CC'ed to everyone short of President Mubarak and hours of negotiations with confused flunkies. AUC takes every opportunity to nickel and dime it's students. Students are asked to pay a series of fees, tuition, and send in a passport photo and fill out the visa form before arriving in Cairo. When you arrive, however, you are still required to pay staggering $300 for a semester bus pass (literally a gold sticker) or 20LE each way. Unlike other study abroad institutions, AUC doesn't bother to have student visa's ready upon arrival either. I still had to pay 64LE and fill out the visa form 3 times because the office continuously lost the original. Most student's didn't receive their visas until Spring Break, leaving many of us illegally in he country for a significant period of time.

In addition, the caliber of students in my class was lacking, to the say the least. I expected that ALI would only allow serious and dedicated people into an intensive Arabic course. Instead, I was stuck w/ whiny undergrads on their first semester study abroad experience (i.e., the kind that are still in the stages of their life where they define a good time abroad by the number of number of random hook-ups and the amount of hangovers they've nursed while in class). This has made class time nothing short of painful and redundant.

I am currently considering the International Language Institute (ILI) for the summer. ILI is the favored language program for British diplomats. It is known for having a higher caliber of students and a more focused curriculum than ALI. It is also significantly cheaper than ALI. Insha'allah, ILI will live up to its reputation. I completed intensive courses in both ECA and MSA this semester.MSA was significantly more difficult than ECA because it'ss so formal, has more pronouns, and more tenses. Studying both ECA and MSA simultaneously was challenging. anytine I focused one one, the other suffered. In the future, I'm considering focusing only on MSA now that I have a comfortable basis in ECA to navigate daily life. In my opinion, MSA will be more transferable to different countries and is required for the type of formal, top level work I may be interested pursuing in the future.

In this regard, I'd like to revisit some of the most relevant advice and comments on Arabic programs I received from Cairo Scholar in the next post. I hopes that it will assist others in choosing an Arabic program in the future!


student visa los angeles said...

That is terrible that they treat students studying abroad that way. That will come back and bite them eventually!

Sicily said...

hey, I am studying arabic planning on going to north africa in the near future. I am currently enrolled in a university in the US and studying arabic. I will be graduating soon, are there post-graduate studies for arabic at American U in cairo?

Frenchie said...

Sicily, to my knowledge AUC does have an MA program in Arabic or teaching Arabic. Many of my teachers got their degree from this program. I don't have any further information on it but send me an email @ if you'd like me to link you up with one of my instructors for their POV on the MA program

Islam Fekry said...

Hi, I's Islam Fekry.
I am looking to exchange my Arabic with your English, in Cairo
If you can help me. I appreciate your helping me.
I Have to take the TOEFL exam, next sep., and i should start in studing from Now, cause it will study beside my work.

If there is any one Interest, send me mess ""

Zain said...

Hi Frenchie - how was your time studying at the ILI? what was your experience

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