In studying French and Arabic, I am eager to compare two mutually influential languages and cultures, particularly their overlapping history and its cultural representations. I decided to defer my entry to retake my Maths A2 and plan to turn this to my advantage by working and living in France, putting what I've already learnt of the French language and culture into practice. Following a visit to the Alhambra Palace, the beauty of which captivated me, I read Hoag's 'Western Islamic Architecture'. This in turn has led me to make plans to stay in Fez, Morocco, to gain first-hand experience of the Arabic world. Voltaire's 'Candide' prompted me to read some of his 'Lettres philosophiques'. I was particularly interested in his satire and opinions on religion, especially with regards to fanaticism. Learning about the 'conte voltarien' and 'Nouvelle Vague', which I researched when studying Truffaut's 'Jules et Jim', has developed my interest cultural movements and their socio-political context, which highlighted the importance of understanding contextual influences of works. This, I have realised, is the best way to understand the Francophone films and literature, and other art, which I regularly enjoy watching and reading. Researching Francophone colonisation for my English Literature A2, for which I gained full marks, led me to consider studying Arabic. I have begun to study the alphabet with Brustad, Al-Tonsi and Al-Batal's 'Alif Baa' and have been struck by how elements of similar sounds correspond visually to features of the individual letters. I have also revised grammatical terms with Crystal's 'Rediscover Grammar' so I am familiar with the terminology used when learning a language. English Literature A Level also introduced me to the concept of comparing cultures and literatures; I now intend to apply this to French and Arabic. I find analysing poetry rewarding and am keen to examine older French verse, having looked at some Ronsard and Marot, and ancient Arabic poetry, including the 'qasida'. I am intrigued by the cultural desire to preserve the Arabic and French languages, in contrast with the perpetual mutation of English and the relative indifference of its speakers, which is one aspect of national identity I want to explore through further study. In my wider reading, Al-Khalili's 'The House of Wisdom' discussed the still-relevant religious regulation of Islamic life, which furthered my interest in studying Islam. I'm especially fascinated by religious fundamentalism and have read extracts from the Qur'an to attempt to find the foundations of claims made by extremists. This has emphasised the need to fully understand the original wording in order to draw my own conclusions. I am also keenly interested in the Islamic world's politics and their geo-political implications. In my spare time I sing with the chapel choir of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and other local choirs. I sing to Grade VIII standard, play the recorder (which I've taught privately), violin and viola to Grade VI standard and have won numerous prizes in vocal and instrumental classes in the Bedfordshire Music Festival. I volunteer for Gamlingay Records, where I am heavily involved in project management, publicity and performance, and have worked as a shop and administration assistant for 'The Music Room, Sandy', where I also repaired instruments. I also have studied dance and obtained brown belt in karate, so would therefore be excited to actively contribute to music and sport at university. Since being able to ask for hot chocolate on my own in Versailles cafés, I've known that learning languages was something that I've wanted to do, but only learning a language is not in itself an end; it is a means to be used to gain a deeper understanding of a culture and its identity. It is only through such insight that many of the current misunderstandings and tensions between citizens of different religious and ethnic backgrounds may be resolved.
Arabic and Persian Personal Statement
Before any study of the modern world, one fact above all others is key: the most effective way to access a culture is through its language. Throughout my childhood, one recurring memory is listening to Radio 4's 'From our own Correspondent' and hearing about the Middle East. Through those dispatchers I have tracked the Arab Spring, while never ignoring old or continuing conflicts such as those in Gaza or Yemen. I began to read about the history of the region, and I was interested in both the Islamic and pre-Islamic Middle East. I grew increasingly captivated by the literary history of both Arabic and Persian. Reading translations of works by both Classical and Modern Persian Poets, especially Rumi and Behbahani, along with those of modern Arabic poets, like the Syrian Nizar Qabbani, fuelled a curiosity in wider historical reading. Axeworthy's 'A History of Iran', enabled me to understand the historical context of poets like Ferdowsi and Farrokhzad.
In English Literature, studying the renaissance English poet John Donne and his radical poetic style, including metaphysical imagery in love poetry, has led me to draw parallels to Nima Yushij's reform of natural imagery in modern times. I also thought about the parallels in their upbringing, both of them coming from a catholic education, and ideas they were exposed to would later influence their work, as critics have pointed out.
My EPQ on 20th century Persian Poetry focused on how modern poets reflect the changes and problems in Iran after the 1953 coup. I was intrigued how poems like 'Someone Will Come' could have such a clear political message and still be emotionally powerful using vivid and beautiful imagery. I was struck that even classical poets wrote poems with deep political messages whilst still retaining this beautiful style. Needless to say I was surprised at the cultural depth of many poems, reflecting complex philosophical and religious ideas from pre-Islamic Iran. It was accessible for me as an English speaker to understand the thoughts and feelings behind them, as the expression of emotion can overcome a language barrier and a distance of a millennium.
In 2013 I took a one week course at King's College London, which gave me a grasp of basic Arabic phrases and grammar. This led me to further enhance my understanding of grammar and syntax by studying David Crystal's 'Rediscover Grammar'. I learnt of complex linguistic ideas like the subjunctive and premodifiers, and the inherent and sometimes unclear rules of my native tongue, helping me to analyse everyday speech. Arabic and Persian are gateway languages: mastery of both Indo-European and Semitic languages allows access to learning ancient languages. History has allowed me to develop a critical approach to analysing information. Archaeology has highlighted that it is often difficult to understand the problems and pressures of the modern world, without first understanding the issues the ancient world faced. It has also made me aware of the ethical issues concerned with curation and ownership of archaeological artefacts.
I have been a member of the [my county's] Youth Orchestra for three years, and a member of the local String Sinfonia for five years. I am working towards Piano grade six and 'Cello grade eight. The perseverance needed to study instruments to a high level is something required in learning languages. So is the ability to read and write in a complex system of notation. Being able to see the logic behind the notation system enables one to comprehend the complex grammar system of a language like Arabic or Persian. Middle Eastern Languages are key world affairs, with world available to graduates ranging from the UN to the BBC and Al Jaziera. Regardless, the versatility of a language degree and the skills it develops secures me a multifaceted career.
Universities Applied to:
SOAS (Arabic and Persian) - Offer (AAB/ABB with an A in the EPQ) Firm
Manchester (Middle Eastern Languages (Arabic and Persian)) - Offer (ABB) Insurance
St. Andrews (Arabic and Persian - Offer (AAB) rejected offer
Leeds (Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies) - Offer (ABB) rejected offer
Exeter (Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies) - Offer (A*BB) rejected offer
Archaeology A2 - A* History A2 - B English Lit A2 - A/B
I was worried that I didn't have any language A Level, and I only had a C at GCSE French - in the end I made up for it in my PS and it wasn't really an issue! At all the Unis I looked at Middle Eastern Languages are taught with no pior knowledge expected
Article by TSR User on Thursday 15 February 2018