The Textbook Safety Net?


root: س-ل-م / verbal noun of form I / meaning: safety, security

Not long after I had paraded across the stage at my graduation, a shiny, new Arabic textbook was delivered to my door and I felt an engulfing sense of relief—ahh, structure.

However, in all honestly, since August, I haven’t even made it to the third chapter.

Yet something is stopping me from closing the textbook that has remained open this whole time, perched on the book stand on top of my already-crowded desk.

I can’t seem to let go of this idea that “The Textbook” is absolutely necessary for me to progress in Arabic. And I don’t even know whether I should let go of that idea. I mean, don’t I need that structure especially now that I’m studying independently?

But where is the line between becoming overly-reliant on the textbook and completely going things alone? Is the line drawn somewhere close to my “11-pages-per-month” routine that I’ve fallen into?

It’s not that I’ve completely abandoned structure in my studying and fallen into total disarray. It’s just that my new structure seems to be governed by learning through interaction with sources outside of repetitive chapters—through novels, poetry, articles, interviews, etc.

Language, obviously, exists almost entirely outside of textbooks.

I’ve conciliated my structure-loving soul by reminding myself that the important thing is whether I’m progressing with my Arabic. And (although my speaking has unfortunately become rusty in the last six months) I know that I am.

“The Textbook” has become a sort of comforting background guide, navigating me through stylistics, grammar points, translations, and different text types. (And by the way, I’d definitely recommend the textbook I’m using, it’s amazing for more advanced learners.)

I’m really in no rush to get rid of that structured guidance at all, nor do I see any benefit in doing so at this point.

So, I think, the textbook is going to remain open for quite a while longer.

p.s. Since my post two weeks ago about Arabic “word twins”, I’ve actually come across a set of root quintuplets(!). The roots ل-ز-ق, ل-ز-ج, ل-ز-ب, ل-ز-ز, and ل-ز-م (which all occur in succession in the Hans Wehr) all have within their definitions a reference to “sticking”. Check them out.

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2 thoughts on “The Textbook Safety Net?

  1. if there are any beginners reading this who are learning Arabic independently, I started with Al Kitaab, Part 1, and I loved the textbook

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