Although instructor Ahmed grew up in an Arabic-speaking household, language barriers in his family encouraged him to learn Spanish. Now he has a passion for learning languages, speaking English fluently and beginning his studies in French. He shares how learning a language is a community endeavor that challenges worldly perspectives.

In Algeria, where I grew up, we spoke Arabic. My two brothers lived in Cuba for around 20 years, and when they came back they did not speak any Arabic at all. I was trying to find a way to help my family understand each other. My mom would want to sit and talk to them, but she did not understand them, so it was very important to help them communicate. My brothers helped me learn Spanish and I helped them with Arabic. It was the starting point for my family to come to understand each other.

When I started learning Spanish I wasn’t afraid of my mistakes, so I answered questions wrong but it was always fun to keep trying. I didn’t learn Spanish in the traditional way where you would look at the dictionary or sit in a lecture. I tried to do it in a more fun way, watching movies, engaging with others. It was very hard to transition from the Arabic script to the [Latin] alphabet. I had to change the way I write — the letters are very different — and hear a language. So it was a big change for me, but later when I learned English (or now, when I’m trying to learn French), it’s not as hard. Learning one Latin language made learning the next language easier.

Language gives you a very different perspective on the world. You think that you may be saying the same thing just in a different way, but it’s completely changed. When I read a book in my own language, in Arabic, and then I read the same novel in English, I don’t feel like it’s the same book. It gives you a totally different impression of the book. I would love to teach some language activities at EXPLO because I would encourage others to learn as much as they can.