Marrakech – the first city that comes to everyone’s mind when you think of Morocco. The red city as it’s also known, the noise, the busy and narrow streets, the souks where you cannot walk without being noticed, the lovely, chatty people, the smells of cinnamon, cumin and mint tea…
I had the chance to spend a whole week here, not only as a tourist, but as a student of Arabic. I have been learning Arabic for a little over a year now. I first started studying in England, through Arabic evening courses, once a week. These courses taught me the basics, to be able to understand basic conversations and to read and write Arabic.
I then decided to go to an Arabic-speaking country to improve my language skills and put them into practice with local people. To my surprise, people could understand me, better than I had anticipated, and I was able to have daily interactions with the locals.
I choose Morocco because I fell in love with the country and its people from the first time I visited. It’s in their nature to make you feel welcome and to make you want to stay there FOREVER.
The week in Marrakech and the Marrakech school exceeded my expectations completely. The staff was so nice and welcoming that I wish I could have stayed longer. The school is in a very nice area in the new part of the city – very easy to reach from the accommodation options they offer. I chose to stay in an apartment, but with hindsight I think the option of staying with a host family would have made my experience even better. Maybe next time – as there will definitely be a next time!
My teacher was always very well prepared for the lessons and the method he used was a very communicative. I have never before spoken so much during classes. His English was really good, but we mainly spoke in Arabic. The classrooms are equipped with screens and other interactive materials, used to introduce the topics. This made the lessons fun and effective. I much preferred it to following a book.
The 2 hours of lessons a day went so fast through learning new vocabulary, putting it into practice, playing games to practice, and creating my own texts with my own experiences. We also worked with short videos that were used as prompts for us to speak and use the language we were learning. The lessons were complemented with other activities such as Henna seminars and cooking classes, which are an amazing way of getting to know the culture during the course.
The progress made by going to the country where the language is spoken cannot be measured. It’s something absolutely necessary if you really want to make quick progress and it’s not only about the language, but also about immersing yourself in the culture and customs.
As a female travelling on my own in Morocco, I felt completely safe. It is true that men approach you and try to speak to you, as they can tell you are not local. It can happen quite a lot, to the point that it can get annoying. This happens especially in the tourist hot spots such as Marrakech, Fez, and Tangier. If you travel to cities like Rabat or go to the dessert, it is not so bad.
There is no reason to be scared though, this sort of behaviour is very common in the Mediterranean. In Morocco you have to add the fact that local women will not talk to men they don’t know on the streets, so they target foreign women.
If you are in the souks, most of the men just want you to buy their tea pots, spices, souvenirs, etc. To avoid being bothered, you just keep on walking and don’t respond, same as Moroccan women do.
On the other hand, the souks are a good place to practice Arabic, and when people see you speak the local language, you always get better prices! People are generally very nice and welcoming, and as long as you treat them with respect, you should have no problems at all. Just be aware and, as in any other place in the world, it’s always best to go exploring accompanied by other people, especially at night.
Follow in Lety’s footsteps and learn Arabic in Marrakech