I would like to combine learning to read, write and speak the language with a fairly long holiday somewhere in the Arabic-speaking world. Do you have any suggestions?
Learning Arabic on an extended holiday
I have been living and working in the Gulf for five years but so far have learnt very little Arabic. I would love to take an intensive language course, but the cost of such tuition in the UAE is prohibitive. I would like to combine learning to read, write and speak the language with a fairly long holiday somewhere in the Arabic-speaking world. Do you have any suggestions? As you are trying to combine learning Arabic with a relatively low-cost holiday, I would recommend North Africa. Tunisia is particularly good value, and there is an excellent language school in Tunis, the Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages, which runs very inexpensive courses in Modern Standard Arabic throughout the year. In the summer, it runs reasonably priced one- and two-month intensive courses, which offer the added benefit of escaping the UAE heat for a while. All the teaching is in Arabic, and you learn to speak, read and write at the same time. Being in Tunisia, where French is the second language and English is not widely spoken, you will stand a better chance of practising the Arabic you learn than in the UAE.
The summer courses run in July and August. Classes are five days a week, eight hours a day: there is also homework so it's a course for serious learners only. A one-month course costs US$400 (Dh1,500) including textbooks and other materials. You can, if you wish, run two one-month courses back-to-back, moving to a higher level in the second month. At the end of the course, you will take a series of tests and receive a certificate. The school can also offer accommodation; a single room in a university hall of residence costs from $175 for a month. Single-sex halls of residence are available and accommodation with a host family costs from $400 (Dh1,500) per month half-board.
Tunis is itself a fascinating city with a wonderful old medina, but Tunisia is a small country and easy and cheap to travel around, so by making the most of your weekends and the occasional public holiday, you should get to see a lot of the country. You could also add a week before or after your language course to have a more extended break. The Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages, 47 Avenue de la Liberte, Tunis (www.iblv.rnu.tn; 00216 71 832 418).
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