First reconnaissance mission to Oman a huge success!
Neal Taylor recently went to Oman in order to lay the ground for an upcoming Arabic language trip in Muscat!
When I was learning Arabic, I wished I could take part in a language journey where there would be a focus on interaction and speaking. This didn’t seem to be available so I decided to look into the possibility of setting one up.
I decided that Oman was the ideal destination.
I knew the country, anyway, having lived there previously but there were a whole host of good reasons: The spoken Arabic is a clear Gulf Arabic and the people are generally very friendly. Importantly, the country is safe and stable.
I started off with a meeting with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) in the British Embassy. I rang them up originally simply broach the idea and, in all honestly, had no high expectations of any outcome from the discussion, apart from maybe some encouraging noises. To my great surprise, the Commercial Attaché, Anthony Bescosby, immediately invited me over so that we could discuss the idea in further detail.
After clearing security, we sat next to the pool (!) within the British Embassy’s compound, drinking tea.
Nestled on the seafront of the prestigious ‘Embassy Quarter’, the British Embassy enjoys one of the best locations in Muscat – large grounds with tennis courts, fountains, bars, swimming pools and even BBQ areas. No wonder the security was tight. The neighbours are India and America.
We talked at length about the the new idea, the ArabicOnline project and the importance of learning Arabic. Reassuringly, Anthony had a commercial background from the private sector so was able to spot some key issues and identify potential opportunities or challenges. Being a new arrival, he was also personally eager to get stuck in with the language himself.
The meeting turned out to be far more important than expected or hoped. There appears to be great demand within the Embassy for Arabic materials and they are keen to use our ArabicOnline (in fact, it appeared that some staff already were).
Generally, whilst traveling round and speaking to people I was quite surprised at the resilient demand for Arabic amongst expats even despite some previous bad experiences. One South African chap told me that after a three week Arabic course, the only thing he could remember was the letter ‘nuun’. The story, unfortunately, is not uncommon.
I also spent some time checking hotels and locations. I focussed on location, comfort and especially value for money.
I then discussed the idea with long time friend and colleague, Rashid, who owns a travel company in Oman. Perhaps nobody knows the country better than he after his long career traveling round the country checking schools for the Government.
It was concluded, both from UKTI and the travel company that the thrust of the trip should be touristic. On-location training could require more complex legal requirements. This fits nicely with the overall aim of the course which would focus on training beforehand (via our award-winning Arabic eLearning course) and then using the time to see the country, speak the language and maximise our time.
We discussed the best places for getting to the heart of Oman and Omani culture as well as key places where we are likely to encounter situations where we can converse in Arabic. As we drank tea in the shade of a Neem tree, we came up with a provisional itinery.
This will now be refined expanded and budgeted! My hope is to provide an enjoyable new experience which combines travel, language and meeting people – at great value for money!
If you are interested in learning Arabic in Oman, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org who will keep you updated.
Provisional dates are November 2015 and February 2016.