There are some of us who learn really well directly from books. But most of us are wired to learn experientially: by doing. Although this applies to other spheres, it’s especially true of language learning. Learning a language isn’t just about the words that we’re speaking, but about the whole culture that those words belong to.
For example, an Arabic dessert like Kanafeh.
There’s nothing like it in Britain: a sweet cheese desert with caramelised strings of sugar and pistachio nuts on top.
To learn the word Kanafeh, don’t just look at the word in Arabic.
Repeat it out loud.
But don’t just repeat it out loud. Look at a picture of Kanafeh.
While you’re looking at the picture, with the word written underneath it repeat the word “kanafeh, kanafeh, kanafeh!”
But while I know you’re having a super fun time doing that, even the repetition while looking at a picture, while reading the word isn’t the best you can do.
Go out for a walk. Find a shop that sells Kanafeh (if you’re in Amman, head for Habiba). Stand in the queue and breathe in the sweet smell of kanafeh. While you’re doing this, repeat to yourself “kanafeh, kanafeh, kanafeh”. As you get to the counter, use your words to order yourself a slice.
Walk into the room and hand over your receipt for your order. Look at the trays of sweet, syrupy kanafe just waiting to be eaten. Think “kanafeh”. Say “kanafeh”.
As you put the kanafeh in your mouth, remind yourself what you’re eating. Savour it: think about the flavour, the smell, the feeling against your tongue. You aren’t just imagining Kanafeh, YOU’RE LIVING KANAFEH!