Remember your why.
Regularly remind yourself of the importance of Arabic and why your are learning it. Whatever your goals may be in studying the Arabic language, you have actively made a decision to spend the time and money to study it. Remind yourself of this constantly in order to boost your himma (ambition), especially when you find the language challenging.
There is a saying that 80% of success is just showing up. Always come to class, even if you’re running late. Outside of emergencies, there is never a good reason to skip class. One of the most important aspects of learning Arabic is simply the amount of time you put into it. Imam al-Shafi`i, the famous early jurist, states that one of the six doors to knowledge is simply putting in the time.
Do your homework.
It’s obvious enough: always do your homework, and always do it well. Always try to do your homework–and everything–with excellence. Whatever knowledge you receive in class can only become thabit (fixed) if you put it into practice and apply it to something. That’s precisely the purpose of homework. After all, your teacher can’t simply download the language into your head; your own efforts are what will deepen your understanding and maximize your retention.
Make homework “Qasidwork.”
Try to finish your homework at Qasid before going home. Being in an environment where other students are working hard will make it easier for you to complete your work. Ever gone home only to find that you’re drained and not really up to working? Also, feel free to work with other students: doing so can help you complete your homework (or rather, Qasidwork) better and ensure you’ve understood concepts correctly. And don’t forget: there are always teachers around for you to ask if questions arise.
Take copious notes in class, even about things that seem obvious. Write down as much as you can, and then have another “neat” notebook to organize your notes later. One of the big secrets of note-taking is to always keep two notebooks. One of your notebooks should be like a scrap notebook which you bring to class, in which you take notes everywhere without worrying too much about organization or neatness. The scholars call this a muswadda (a black notebook, because of all the ink in it). Then later on, recopy your notes in a neat, organized, (even color-coded) fashion where everything is streamlined and easy to read and review. This is called a mubyadda (a white notebook, because of all the whitespace in it).
Make a reference.
Copy your notes after every class to make a master Arabic reference book that will help you organize the material and review as the term progresses. At the end of every major section of a course, make sure you recopy and organize all of the topics in that section and try to determine how everything is connected. Finally, at the end of the course, do this for each section and draw connections and parallels which will help you understand how everything you’ve done fits into the bigger picture of your quest to study Arabic. This doesn’t have to be done only in a notebook: charts, tables, mind maps, and diagrams work just as well. Students who do this have found great success in integrating all of their knowledge.
Get a study buddy.
Find a homework or study partner with whom you can commit to work regularly to help you review, and to encourage you to keep up with the material. Working in pairs is so often more effective than working alone. Not only does doing so give added encouragement and motivation, but how often it even facilitates comprehension: it may be that your partner has a simpler way of understanding a topic or greater insights into a certain subject. And if you’re the one providing the insights to your partner, all the better: the best way to master something is to teach it to someone else.
Talk to the locals.
Befriend local Arabs with whom you can practice speaking and listening. Try to apply the concepts you have learned in your conversations. The benefit of being in the Arab world is that it’s like living in a giant skills class. You can practice your Arabic with anyone, and the best students are always those who take full advantage of this. Any time you learn something new apply it immediately in a conversation. Just watch how well your vocabulary sticks once you’ve used it several times in speech.
Always seek help when you need it. Extra practice and tutoring are available to help solidify any topic. Don’t be afraid to ask questions via e-mail as well. If you fall behind, catch up as quickly as possible. Whenever confusion arises, always seek help to get it clarified. A simple misunderstanding that is not cleared up early can have disastrous implications later. Just as you wouldn’t build a building on shaky foundations, don’t build your Arabic on shaky foundations. The best way to solidify your foundation is to ask questions as soon as they come up. There is a simple and obvious, yet profound Arabic expression: “The solution for the one that doesn’t know is…to ask.”
Do not procrastinate. Coming to a foreign country like Jordan is a great opportunity to start new habits, so do yourself a favor and get started immediately (well, immediately after you finish reading this). The worst thing you can do for your studies is simply putting off your studying. If you’ve taken out the time to come here for your studies, do not harm yourself by procrastinating. Doing so will only hold you back from achieving your goals. Reminding yourself of your intentions when you feel like procrastinating is a good counter. And if you need a good kick in the pants, you can always find someone at Qasid to help get you going (remember Habit #9: Get help).