After a 12-year hiatus, I’m finally taking formal Arabic lessons again. It meets once a week at night in the “basement” of the ustaz’s house who gave the talk at our surau last week. Not a basement really but a room built on the ground floor, underneath his house on stilts.
The last classes I took were two semesters of Modern Standard Arabic at the U. I stopped after two sems for a couple of reasons, but one was the atmosphere of the course. The Arabic class was using the textbook that had been adopted by the US State Department. Students of the course were majoring in International Policy with minors in Subverting Popularly Elected Governments. All the vocabulary and drills were totally secular in nature. We would learn “office” as in “Take me to the office of your director”. We would learn “to travel” as in the sentence “I am traveling to the oil fields now”. Now I am taking a course where the students arrive after isha’ prayers, still wearing their sarongs and kufis and sit cross-legged on the floor. Now we learn “to leave” as in “The muslims left the masjid” and “to do” as in “What did you do after the salat?” The ustaz will explain grammatical constructions by reciting a verse of Quran or hadith where it occurs. It is highly motivating.
The only catch is the class is in Malay. My Malay skills are only a notch or two over my Arabic skills, and that’s not saying much. The most difficult part is when I have to speak the meaning of an arabic sentence in Malay. I would spit and sputter getting it out in English, what to speak of Malay. Still, even if I lag behind the class in Arabic, it should at least help me improve my Malay. I had looked around for adult Bahasa Malaysia classes in Kuching, but couldn’t find any. The ethnic minorities here get BM in school as kids, and there must not be enough immigrants like me to make a class viable.