I’ve often heard people say, ‘I wish I understood Arabic’, ‘I’d love to understand what the Imam is reciting’ or ‘I wonder what my friends are saying’. Understanding a new language is all about active listening.

I alway try and encourage people to lose inhibition and try and speak with people. The issue is, students come back and say, “I tried, but then the person I was speaking to was like… khalla kh khubz wallah yallah qaaf! I didn’t understand anything so I just kept quiet”. Speaking a new language with people, particularly randoms can be pretty daunting and it is natural for you to think why did I even try to speak, get all embarrassed and feel like you want to crawl into a hole. The hard thing is though, if you want to learn a new language, you have to train your mind to do the opposite. When you get overwhelmed your brain tells itself, ‘I don’t understand anything, switch off’. The thing is .. you want people to keep speaking, you want them to say as many words as they can because that’s when you really start to learn and pick up words.

When you feel you want to switch off, it’s at that moment that you have to really open your mind and concentrate. Try and pick out a word here and there, if you only got one word out of a whole rant, get them to repeat what they said. After a while, you’ll understand two, then three, then a sentence. Before long you’ll get the gist of what they are saying and soon enough you’ll be able to have a meaningful conversation. But the key is to open your mind rather than close it. Try this out the next time you talk to someone.


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