You can’t help but be amazed by the Internet when you’ve been attending a virtual classroom with teachers from all over the world while traveling and blogging for a living. But that is exactly what I’ve been doing since I began taking Arabic lessons on italki in December.
Despite shifting timezones, a long layover or two in Istanbul plus the occasional rickshaw traffic jam, I’ve learn to read, write, and speak Arabic conversationally. These are the 7 cities across 3 countries, from the developed to developing world, where I’ve been able to log in most days for class.
Although Bulgaria doesn’t quite have the amazing Internet speeds of neighbor Romania, in Sofia the average download is faster than 90% of the world. Maintaining a solid Skype connection was never an issue, at least on my end.
Despite being a 5 hour grandmother’s drive from Sofia, by the time I got to this Black Sea coastal town I had picked up quite a bit of Arabic.
There are always late nights in Istanbul but I made sure to set aside some time during the day for an Arabic lesson.
New Delhi, India
The Internet in Hinduism’s holiest city wasn’t the easiest to work with but the Arabic teachers I have developed a routine with were very flexible. My regular teacher Ali has especially made rescheduling around flaky Internet connections very easy.
I have visited the Taj Mahal three times and can further confirm, it’s one of 5 popular tourist destinations that won’t disappoint you.
Where I am currently typing this from, a few hours before my next Arabic lesson using italki.
Location Language Independence
Even learning to speak tourist before your next vacation takes some time, a commodity that oddly can be scarce when traveling. Programs that don’t have a human element are great for some basic phrases you should know everywhere, but having a teacher can force you to stay committed if you want to go a lingual level deeper. Even a few hours on italki can teach you the slang, local bargaining skills, or colorful curse words to give you a much more local experience.
At the beginning of December, I began a 3 month project with the language learning site italki with the goal to be conversationally fluent in Arabic. Having now completed a third of the way, here are the raw numbers on my progress and what I’ve learned so far.
19: Number Of Course Hours
I’m taking roughly 5 hours of lessons a week, once per weekday. (I’ve tried two hours sessions but after 60 minutes I begin to lose focus.)
100%: Percentage Of Arabic Script I Can Read And Write
Although it was intimidating at first, I can comfortably read Arabic script as well as write by phonetically sounding out words.
2: Number Of Instructors
I spent some time trying out several teachers to get an idea of styles as well as evaluate which might be the best fit for me personally. I eventually fell into a good routine with two particular instructors whose structured lesson plans I’m benefiting from greatly.
1910: italki Credits Used
That would be the equivalent of about $190 for courses so far. Although every instructor sets their own rates, almost all seem to fall into the 120 italki credit (~$12 USD) range. Here’s a bit more on how italki works exactly.
At Least 100: Words Learned
This one’s hard to quantify but it has to be at least one hundred, not including various common phrases as well.
Where I’m At Right Now
At this point I can conjugate verbs in the past tense from memory and know many of these essential travel word combinations. In a relatively short time, I’ve picked up the structure of Arabic: the rules and grammar which make the language work. Early on I wasn’t sure if laying down this foundation first (prior to speaking skills) would be efficient but the thorough italki instructors have proved me otherwise.
I’ll keep you updated with my weekly progress. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below about the italki process, specifics of what I’m learning, or any tips you might have to make me a better student!
Today’s live chat guest, Matt Kepnes, is one of the first travel bloggers I met when I began blogging in 2006. In fact, he’s one of the first travel bloggers and his site Nomadic Matt is certainly one of the most successful. Matt recently published the revised version of his latest book, How To Travel The World On $50 A Day, and is here to answer your questions on traveling more while spending less.
Thank you everyone for participating in the chat!
Matthew Kepnes runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt. After a trip to Thailand in 2005, Matt decided to quit his job, finish his MBA and head off into the world. His original trip was supposed to last a year. Over seven years later, he is still out exploring and roaming the world. He’s scuba dived in Fiji, was a poker player in Amsterdam, taught English in Thailand, got lost in a jungle in Central America, and broke down in the middle of Australia’s outback.
In 2009, I interviewed Matt about another book of his on how to make money; he’s back today for one hour from 5-6pm US EST to take your questions on how to travel the world for $50 a day. Ask Matt about blogging, his travels, plus smart budgeting for your next trip all in the comments right below!
For a variety of reasons ranging from the time of year to me missing the mark, some posts slip under your collective radar. I recently highlighted some of your favorite travel photos from 2014 as well as the most popular articles in previous years but wanted to brush some digital dust off these posts you may have missed from the past year.
- Posted January 16, 2014 – There are an estimated 17.5 trillion unused frequent flyer miles currently in limbo and the airlines aren’t making it easier to redeem them. Much of that has to do with how mysterious collecting and using miles seems to be. You might find you’ve already got an upgrade or free flight waiting after reading article.
- Posted February 27, 2014 – Those of you who are subscribed and received my bi-monthly newsletter yesterday know there are some changes in store for 2016’s tournament. That doesn’t mean however that most of this advice isn’t still valid, help your city win, plus add some money to your pocket.
- Posted May 15, 2014 – I spent a lot of time in Ukraine last year, watching its capital city recover from revolution as the rest of it moved closer to war. Visiting Maidan was a moving experience you might want to see for yourself, after evaluating the security situation.
- Posted June 3, 2014 – A lot of times we see children begging when traveling to certain parts of the world, unsure if we should give or certain we shouldn’t. Whatever side you’re on of the argument, unfortunately, the realities are a lot worse.
- Posted June 17, 2014 – You might be surprised at the amount of radiation you’re exposed to on a given flight, though more likely to impact your health is the lack of mobility in tight airplane seats. There are ways you can protect your body so you travel more comfortably through space and slower through time.
- Posted July 15, 2014 – Many scholars believe chess’s rise in popularity around the Balkans during Communism is in large part because it provided one of the few socially acceptable creative outlets. The average age of these players gathered near Hostel City Center seems to further suggest this might be the case and if so, they’ve picked the ultimate game.
- Posted October 16, 2014 – If you’re at all interested in athletics, science, and travel, you’ll find this interview with Dr. Yannis Pitsiladis, whose life overlaps with all three, fascinating.
- Posted November 4, 2014 – Live chats are one of my favorite monthly events on this site because of the wonderful guests we’ve all had an opportunity to meet. Travel means many things to everyone and so some like Romain, it’s about risking safety to tell the world what’s happening in it.
- Posted December 16, 2014 – One of the biggest challenges I’ve taken on in some time, immersing myself into a language to learn it at a deep level I can use on my travels. Here’s what the 3 month course with italki is like and how I’m progressing.
What Posts Stand Out For You?
Looking back on 2014, what types of stories would you like to see in 2015? I’m planning some of my most ambitious travel plans over the next 12 months and look forward to hearing your feedback. What you like or don’t – I’m all ears in the comments below!