A recurrent image in chapter 1 of the Black Atlantic by Paul Gilroy is of the sailing shaip. The title of the books introduces the reader to the theme. However, one would not know whether the author’s intention of coloring the Atlantic black is by reference to the hugeslavery trade or by reference to sadness. Once one “dives” into the first chapter, the meaning unveils itself and it sets a tone for a much deeper dimension, the matter is that of identity. Literature has usually glorified the set-off for adventure or harboring after a long risky trip. However, Gilroy glorifies the sailing trip; that is the part after setting off and before the landing. Understanding that Gilroy is mainly interested in studying the black identity, one would surely understand the image. The ship which Gilroy studies does not come from any where and heads no where either. The literary moment freezes at the sailing part, an image that draws on the black experience in America or a Black in England. I tend to believe that Gilroy tries to highlight how the black identity is in many ways a sailing ship. Somehow the “academic narrative” starts in the middle of the story, starts with the ship sailing. The starting harbor or where a Black American comes from is not of relevance. Even further because history did not keep record of these facts, nobody knows any thing about this part of the story. The ship does not know where she is going the same way a black does not know where he/she is heading. A concept Gilroy illustrates with Blacks taking refuge in art to express their wandering in life without an aim. He says” their convergence[blacks] is also undercut by the simple fact that in the critical thought of blacks in the west, social self-creation through labour is not the center-piece of emancipator hopes” (Gilroy 40). For Gilroy the image is so gloomy, is so black that the ship can sink down once she loses her orientation the same way black identity can drown within mainstream culture as it lost the most important parts any civilization is build on: the value of work or labor. He explains the values blacks adopted after slavery that ”for the descendant of slaves, work signifies only servitude, misery, and subordination. Artistic expression […] becomes the means towards both individual self-fashioning and communal liberation (Gilroy 40).

The quotes chosen for the book and included at the beginning have set the tone for the book. There is a deliberate emphasis on using quotes that abundantly illustrates the register of sailing. So, one can pick through Nietzsche, Frederick Douglass, Edouard Glissant and Walter Benjamin the words “sail, sailor, sailing, sea, embark, ocean, ships”. These words highlight the theme of maritime motion which is at the center of Gilroy’s argument. In spite of the sad tone of these quotes, Gilroy makes the point that the “Atlantic” changed values and identities. The Atlantic being the “continuum” between three continents changed the way people think of themselves and the others. The black identity is in quarantine due to all cultural divergence worries a thinker who can identify with that black culture but who can still draw the boundaries for it. Even more complicated, Gilroy proposes this identity’s feature has become more complicated because of the politicization of the small parts of the mosaic.


Benjamin Franklin

I like reading autobiographies. What is special about Benjamin Franklin for me is that it is written the same way I am writing my journal: bits and pieces of ideas and events. However, this is not something that I would take against him. Knowing how few people were actually able to read and write, Franklin’s books stands as a firsthand description of early America.

Franklin sounds a poised writer and although the autobiography is the kind of continuous writing, it succeeds in depicting the traits of America being the “land of opportunity or dreams”. Franklin sets himself as a example of fight and struggle towards finally doing what he loves most: books and writing.

I tend to think that Franklin’s autobiography has a typical American tone and rhetoric. It is at the same time assertive, funny, steady and reasonable. It is assertive when the writer delves in presenting his ideas without any moderation (although he later worked on fixing this problem). It is funny because the writer sound light hearted and simplifies some ideas or events. Obviously, Franklin has worked on his style long enough (and was taught by his father) so he masters a couple of discourses that their details transferred into his writing.

Sound Religion

In “Sound Christians”, Leigh E. Schimidt displays different stories of people who devoted themselves to preaching the Bible.  All the stories have one trait in common that is the preachers have heard a voice calling them to engage in preaching. Through displaying these stories the author displays different stories that brought people to a common land and go towards one goal that is of spreading the word of GOD. However, the author implicitly questions the fact that nobody knows how truthful these calls neither whether the voice/vision is truly GOD’s intention. It is though clear that these people who claimed being asked by GOD have succeeded in bringing the crowds together and establish a country that accounts for everybody’s basic rights.


Arabic language is a Semitic language and is a case of diaglossia. Colloquial Arabic is acquired before school and Standard (or formal) Arabic is learned generally starting at age six, when a child is schooled.

The distinction between the two varieties is established due to their differences at the levels of morphology, syntax and even phonology. Both varieties have a flexible word order as the morphology is what determines the function of a word in a sentence.

Sentence Structure and Agreement in Standard and

Tunisian Arabic

Types of Sentences

There are two types of sentence in Arabic in its both varieties colloquial and formal: Verbal and nominal.

Verbal sentence, as their name imply, contain a verb. They can follow two word order patterns: either VSO as illustrated by 1. or SVO as illustrated by 2. .

1.Akala      Sameeroo      ejjassan.

Ate          Sameeroo       pear

“Samir ate pear”

2.Sameeroo     akala     ejjassan.

Sameeroo    ate         pear

“Samir ate pear”

At times general practices in given Arabic-speaking countries (and their respective linguistic schools of thought) consider sentences that fall under the SVO pattern nominal as they start with an NP2. Kalil 2000 explains that traditional Arab grammarians used to judge the type of a given sentence based on the position of the word that appears at the initial position (136).  This study does not account for this view. Word order in Arabic is flexible and final case marking is the indicator of a word function in a sentence. Thus, changing word order does not change the type of a sentence. Location of a subject and a verb in a given sentence is a mere application of free word order rule. This leads us to introduce the second type of sentences.

Refuting the idea of SVO sentences being nominal gets us to remain with sentences which are verb-less. The verb is not phonological; it is implied and understood. Generally, these sentences are descriptive and consist of only a subject and a predicate (see example 3).

3.Al-baytoo      jadeedon

The house     new

“The house is new”

Verbal and Nominal sentences can be found in both Modern Standard Arabic and Tunisian Arabic. Agreement in Arabic accounts for person, gender and number. The latter has three subcategories: singular, dual and plural. The present paper will study the correlation between word order and agreement in its three aspects (person, gender and number).

Modern Standard Arabic

Verbal Sentence: VSO Pattern

In the SVO order, a verb can only be in the third person masculine or feminine. The following examples illustrate this claim. In the singular third person sentences, the verb obviously takes the agreement post-verbal subject. However, in the dual and plural sentences, the verb does not follow the post-verbal subject.

Examples 4

Third person masculine singular

Akala      Sameeroo.

ate           Samiroo

‘Samir ate.’

Akala   Sameeroo   ejjassan.

Ate       Sameeroo   pear

‘Samir ate pear’

Third person feminine singular

Akalat       Sameera

ate             Sameera

‘Sameera ate.’

Akalat    Sameera    ejjassan.

Ate         Sameera    pear

‘Sameera ate pear’

Third person dual masculine

Akala     Sameeroo        wa     Aleeyoo.

Akala     Sameeroo        and    Aleeyoo

‘Samir and Ali ate.’

*Akalaa                Sameeroo        wa     Aleeyoo.

Akalaa-dual        Sameeroo        and    Aleeyoo

“Samir and Ali ate.”

Akala          Samroo        wa     Aleeyoo          ejassan.

ate               Sameeroo    and    Aleeyoo          pear

“Samir and Ali ate pear.”

*Akalaa          Samroo        wa     Aleeyoo    ejassan.

ate-dual        Sameeroo    and    Aleeyoo     pear

“Samir and Ali ate pear.”

Third person dual feminine.

Akalat   Sameera    wa     Aleeya

ate         Sameera    and    Aleeya

“Sameera  and aleeya ate.”

Akalataa   Sameera    wa      Aleeya     ejjassan.

Ate           Sameera     and    Aleeya      pear

“Sameera  and Aleeya ate pear.”

Third person plural masculine

Akala   al-awledoo.

ate        the boys

“The boys ate.”

*Akaloo    al-awledoo.

Ate          the boys

“The boys ate”

Akala    al-awledoo    ejjassan.

ate         the kids         pear

“The kids ate pear.”

*Akaloo    al-awledoo  ejjassan.

Ate          the boys       pear

“The boys ate pear”

When the subject is compound, the verb takes the agreement with the first entity. In other words, if the subject is conjoined and the first conjoined NP is feminine (singular or plural), the verb is in third person singular. Likewise, if the subject is conjoined and the first conjoined NP is masculine (singular or plural) the verb takes the agreement with the first person singular.

Akalat    al-bintoo   wa     al-waladoo    ejjassan.

Ate         the girl      and    the boy          pear

“The girl and the boy ate pear.”

Akalat    al binatoo      wa    al-waladoo      ejjassan.

Ate         the girls        and    the boy           pear

“The girls and the boy ate pear.”

Akala     al waladoo       wa     al bintoo     ejjassan.

Ate         the boy            and    the girl        pear

“The boy and the girl ate pear.”

Akala    al awladoo      wa     al bintoo    ejjassan.

Ate        the boys          and    the girl       pear

“The boys and the girl ate pear.”

Verbal Sentence: SVO Pattern

The SVO pattern does not undergo as many changes as VSO one. In this pattern, the preverbal subject governs the verb and the agreement occurs in [person,] gender and number with the subject (Ryding 68).

Third person masculine singular

Sameeroo   Akala.

Samiroo      ate

Samir ate.”

Sameeroo   akala    ejjassan.

Sameeroo   ate        pear

“Samir ate pear.”

Third person feminine singular

Sameera   akalat.

Sameera   ate

“Sameera ate.”

Sameera   akalat    ejjassan.

Sameera   ate         pear

“Sameera ate pear.”

Third person dual masculine

Sameeroo     wa     Aleeyoo    akalaa.

Sameeroo     and    Aleeyoo    akalaa

“Samir and Ali ate.”

*Sameeroo   wa   Aleeyoo Akala.

Sameeroo        and    Aleeyoo akala-sing

“Samir and Ali ate.”

Samroo        wa     Aleeyoo    Akalaa    ejassan.

Sameeroo    and    Aleeyoo     ate          pear

“Samir and Ali ate some pear.”

*Samroo        wa     Aleeyoo   Akala       ejassan.

Sameeroo    and    Aleeyoo    ate-dual    pear

“Samir and Ali ate pear.”

Third person dual feminine.

Sameera   wa     Aleeya   Akalataa   ejjassan.

Sameera   and    Aleeya   Ate            pear

“Sameera  and Aleeya ate pear.”

*Sameera    wa     Aleeya Akalat

Sameera    and    Aleeya ate

“Sameera  and aleeya ate.”

Third person plural masculine

*Al-awledoo  Akala.

the boys ate

“The boys ate.”

Al-awledoo     akaloo.

the boys           ate

“The boys ate”

*al-awledoo     akala        ejjassan.

The kids         ate            pear

“The kids ate pear.”

Al-awledoo  akaloo           ejjassan.

Ate                the boys       pear

“The boys ate pear.”

General Note about the SVO and the VSO sentences and Pro-nominal subjects

It is possible to have a pronominal subject in the SVO sentence. There are 13 pronouns in Arabic. They can all, with no exception, fit in the subject initial position. The subject still governs the verb and the same features – namely person, gender and number – that are in the subject are found in the verb.

Ana akaltoo – I ate

Nahnoo akalna – we ate

Anta akalta – you (singular masculine) ate

Antee akalti – you (singular feminine) ate

Antooma akaltooma – you (both, masculine/feminine) ate

Antonna akaltonna- you (all feminine) ate

Antom akaltom – you (all masculine) ate

Hoowa akala – he ate

Heeya akalat – she ate

Hooma akalaa – they (both masculine) ate

Hooma akalataa – they (both feminine) ate

Hom akaloo – they (all masculine) ate

Honna akalna – they (all feminine)

As far as VSO pattern, the pronominal subject can not be used unless the subject is conjoined, which is valid for all the pronouns. The conjoined subject NPs can be both pronouns or either is pronoun and the other is any NP category (proper noun, collective noun, etc). Here the rule about the verb taking the agreement with the conjoined part of the subject is valid.

*Akala    hoowa.

Ate        he

“He ate.”

Akala   hoowa    wa      heeya.

Ate       he           and     she

“He and she ate.”

Akala    hoowa      wa     Farah.

Ate        he            and     Farah

“Farah and he ate.”

Akala   hoowa     wa       Ahmed.

Ate       he            and     Ahmed

“Ahmed and he ate.”

Akalat       heeya       wa       hoowa.

Ate            she           and      he

“She and he ate.”

Akalat    heeya     wa    Farah.

Ate         she         and   Farah

“Farah and she ate.”

Akalat    heeya    wa     Ahmad.

Ate         she        and    Ahmed

“Ahmed and she ate.”

Nominal Sentences

As noted previously, nominal (or verb-less) sentences do not have any verb in the predicate. The relationship between the elements of the sentence is deduced. Trying to explain this relationship, Vicinte Cantarino argues that “since this contiguity [juxtaposition of nominal predicate and the subject] does not imply any relationship other than mere equivalence, the members do not influence each other mutually with respect to case, which is usually nominative” (9). According to Cantarino, there is no government relationship between the subject and the verb-less predicate.  On the other side Blake argues that “the concord between the predicative noun or adjective [being the only predicate type that has to manifest an agreement with the topic] and a subject would normally be described as concord of the predicative word with the subject, since it typically involves inherent features of the subject being marked on the predicate” (191) .

The subject in this sentence is always an NP or a CP and the predicate can be an AdjP, an NP, a PP, an advP.

An           atakalama             muhemon.

That-CP  I speak-v pres       important-adj

“That I speak is important.”

Attakalumoo  muhemon.

Speaking-nn   important-adj

“Speaking is important.”

A-              rajooloo       kabeeron.

The-det      man-nn        old-adj

“The man is old.”

A-              rajooloo   talebon.

The-det    man-nn    student-nn

“The man is a student.”

A-              rajooloo   fil-                           baytee.

The-det    man-nn    in the-prep+det   house

“The man is in the house.”

A-              rajooloo   hooneka.

The-det    man-nn    there-adv.

“The man (is) there.”

The order of the subject and the predicate can be reversed whenever the subject is a CP or an NP and the predicate is an AdjP or a PP.   Leech as quoted by Khalil explains that a prepositional phrase, for instance, may fit better in the initial position because it is a “light” argument that leads to a heavier one in the final position Worth-noting that the subject which has to be definite in the first position has to become indefinite when placed in the second position (Maxim of End-weight that operates on the syntactic level.

A-              rajooloo   hooneka.

The-det      man-nn    there-adv.

‘The man is there’.

Hooneka rajoolon.

There  man

There is a man.

While using the first sentence implies that the man is known and the information that is missing is where he is located, using the second one implies that the missing information is about who is there.

Although nominal sentences do not have any verb, they are set by default in the present. Any translation of a nominal sentence into, for example French or English will automatically involve including a verb in present.

A-              rajooloo   hooneka.

The-det      man-nn    there-adv.

‘The man is there’.

‘L’homme est là bas’.

Hooneka   rajoolon.

There         man

‘There is a man’.

‘Il y a un homme’.

In spite of this default present tense setting, one can still change sentences of this type into past and future.

These modals behave like verbs in the sense that they are “conjugated” according to the features of person, gender and number and they also have forms in the present past and the future. However, they do not bear any meaning in themselves. Cantarino reports that “’kena”’, which has no place as a verb in nominal sentence, has become to a great extent the temporal counterpart of the ‘timesless’ nominal sentence. He adds that “the nominal predicate in this case, if it is a substantive or an adjective, will be in accusative as an adverbial determination of the verb” (36).

Present A-              rajooloo       kabeeron.

The-det      man-nn        old-adj

The man is old.

Past Kena A-                rajooloo           kabeeran.

Was-modal       The-det      man-nn             old-adj

The man was old.

A-               rajooloo       Kena kabeeran.

The-det      man-nn         Was-modal     old-adj

The man was old.

Future Sayosbihoo A-                rajooloo           kabeeran.

Will be-modal       The-det      man-nn             old-adj

The man was old.

A-               rajooloo       Sayosbihoo kabeeran.

The-det      man-nn         will be-modal     old-adj

The man will be old.

Worth noting here that these modals can take two different locations and the meaning does not get affected (except for the time the truth value is affiliated with or the focal point of the speech as explained previously. The modal can be located in the initial or in the middle position before the subject or the predicate depending on word order.

When the modal occurs at the beginning of a sentence, it qualifies the whole sentence. In such case, the modal can be only in third person singular masculine or feminine (which is the valid rule for the verbal VSO sentence). In mathematical terms it looks more or less like this:

Modal × [Subject (+) Predicate]   or Modal × (Predicate (+) Subject) 3

However, when the modal is placed in the middle position, it only qualifies what comes after it (subject or predicate, depending on word order). Producing the same mathematical conception for this idea gives us this:

Subject + (Modal × Predicate)   or Predicate + (Modal × Subject)

The agreement of the modal is twofold. If the modal occurs in the “Subject + (Modal × Predicate)” pattern, the modal behaves likes a verb in the SVO sentence. If the modal occurs in the “Predicate + (Modal × Subject)”, then, the agreement is the same as in the VSO sentence i.e. observe the singular feminine or masculine.

Agreement in Verbal and Nominal Sentences

Agreement in verbal SVO sentences and default present tense nominal sentences is simple. Only features that are born by the subject are what count to produce a grammatically correct sentence as the subject governs the predicate. In other words and in the case of verbal sentences, the verb agrees with the subject in all aspect. As far as nominal sentences are concerned, when the predicate is an adjective, it should bear the same gender (feminine or masculine), number (singular, dual or plural) 4 that the subject bears. When the subject is a CP, the default setting for the predicate is singular masculine. Aoun et.al argue that Agreement systems can be analyzed in terms of a structural relation between an agreeing head and its specifier making no appeal to linear properties. They carry on maintaining that linearity can be still accounted for in restricted number of cases (218-219).

When it comes to nominal sentence in a non-past setting, the fact that the helping modals behave like verbs can shed more light on how the agreement rule behaves in both types of sentences.

In case the modal or the verb happens in the initial position, the only agreement that has to be observed is that of gender. It is possible to argue that the modal or verb is raised to the initial position.

Consider the following example: Akala   al-awledou  ejjassan.

Ate       the boys       pear

‘The boys ate pear’


V                                      S

Akala                 NP                         VP

Al-awledoo          V            NP

t1 ejjassan

Thus, it loses all features except for the gender one. The question here is why this happens. Verbs, and in the case of Arabic modals also, are governed by the subject. Raising the verb to the initial position makes the verb default into the singular masculine or feminine features.

Tunisian Arabic

Verbal Sentences: VSO and SVO patterns

VSO sentences in Tunisian Arabic are used only as questions (with rising intonation to signal a question) or when the subject is morphologically included in the verb through inflection.

Kleet anzassa. (“t” is the inflected subject for I)

I ate      pear

“I ate a pear.”

kle     etfol       anjassa?

Ate    the boy   pear

“The boy ate a pear.”

The agreement in Tunisian Arabic with VSO sentences, contrarily to Modern Standard, occurs with all features except for dual. Dual is marked semantically with words such as zooz (= pair) or thneene (=two). When a speaker is refereeing to two elements he/she uses plural NP followed by either zooz or thneene. The verb is in the plural form although it precedes the subject.

On the other hand, whenever the subject is conjoined, the agreement is the same way for Modern Standard Arabic, that is with the first conjoined element.

SVO follow a regular agreement pattern, almost like Modern Standard Arabic except for the dual feature.

Nominal sentences

It is not possible to find CP structures in Tunisian Arabic. Instead, an NP form (similar to gerund form in English) is used.

An           atakalama                 mohemon.

That-CP  I speak-v pres           important-adj

That I speak is important.

El Klem Mohem.

Speaking important

Speaking is important.


As for the predicate, it can bear any of the grammatical categories available for a sentence in modern standard Arabic; namely, NP, PP, AdjP, AdvP.


It is possible to argue that Modern Standard Arabic undergoes a lot of rules of agreement contrarily to Tunisian Arabic. The features [± human] and dual are not accounted for in Tunisian Arabic when it comes to subject/verb or subject/predicate agreement in respectively verbal and nominal sentences. However, agreement occurs to a regular pattern. In other words, whether the subject is pre- or post-verbal, the verb agrees with it all the time according to [singular/plural] and/ or [masculine/feminine] patterns. On the other hand, Modern Standard Arabic is a more “demanding” variety and agreement in nominal and verbal sentences is governed by more features (singularity/duality/plurality, humanity/non-humanity, Femininity/masculinity). It becomes also relevant whether the subject is pre- or post-verbal.  The general assumption for SVO sentences is that the subject c-commands the predicate, including the verb. Thus, the latter agrees with the former. In VSO patterns, the verbs is raised to the specifier position losing most of the agreement features to be left with a “default” singular setting and a [feminine/masculine] agreement (depending on the gender of the post-verbal subject).

It is obvious that more work is required in order to cover the same areas of research in compound and complex sentences or the passive voice for example. This study, although theoretical, is the first is a series that target the same language varieties in order to spot the parameters involved in the relationship between a given sentence’s constituents.


  1. Tunisian Arabic is chosen because the author is a native speaker of the variety. This study is intended for publication on a website about Tunisian Arabic and culture.
  2. These definitions depend on country traditions and linguistic research. For instance in Egypt a mainstream though is that a sentence is nominal when it starts with a verb whereas in Tunisia a verb-less sentence is nominal.
  3. The (+) sign is only an assumption of the relationship between the two elements that make up a grammatical meaningful nominal/verb-less sentence.
  4. In Modern Standard Arabic, when the subject in a nominal sentence is non-human plural, then the adjectival predicate takes the default setting of singular feminine feature.  In Elementary Modern Standard Arabic, Abboud et.al affirms that if the singular noun refers to anything other than a single human being – an animal, group of people, inanimate object, abstraction, etc.- then any agreeing word is feminine singular(297).


Abboud, Peter F., McCarus,Ernest N. “Elementary Modern Standard Arabic

Lessons 1-30”. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1968, 1975, 1983.


Aoun. Joseph, Benmamoun Elabbas, Sportiche Dominique. ̋̋Agreement, Word

Order, and Conjunction in Some Varieties of Arabic  ̋̋. Linguistics Inquiry,

Vol 25,No.2 (Spring 1994), pp 195-220. MIT Press. USA. Print.

Blake, Barry J. “Case”. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1994. Print.

Cantarino, Vicente. “Syntax of Modern Standard Prose the simple sentence”.

Indiana Unicersity Press. Bloomington/London. 1974. Print.

Khalil, Esam N. “grounding in English and Arabic news media”. John Benjamins

Publishing company Amsterdam/Philadelphia. 1994. Print.

Leech, Geoffrey N. “Principles of Pragmatics”. Longman. London. 1983. Print.

Ryding, Karin C. “A reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic”.

Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 2005. Print.

My parents are a typical Tunisian couple. They have been struggling since very young to be educated in order to get any job that will guarantee them some decent living. For them any time spent outside school should be also for school. A typical answer from dad if you ask him about the way to fill in one’s leisure time is to memorize a dictionary and from mom a dictionary is a luxury that she could not afford when she was a student. A dictionary is like any holly book; it should be well-kept for the longest time.


I do take very good care of all my dictionaries but I have never been able to memorize any, not even a single page. I tried and I failed every time. Thinking over my achievements in my almost 26 year-long life, I tend to be proud of what I did with very little recourses to dictionaries and with doing any thing other than school stuff in my leisure time. I studied the way I wanted when ever and how ever I wanted. Yet, I do admit that my parents had shaped a lot of my first academic baby steps.


By the time I was growing up, the local Tunisian TV used to function in Modern Standard Arabic (different in all linguistic aspects except phonologically from colloquial Tunisian Arabic). As I spent hours and hours watching, I internalized a great bulk of the language. In primary school, I watched my friends struggling trying to memorize grammar rules while I was quietly walking to the class and answering the language exam questions so easily. If asked why I provided such answers, I would not be able to reply. My answer would be some thing like “musicality says so”. Language is a set of harmoniously organized sounds. I can listen and tell something is wrong but expecting me to rationalize or actively engage into analysis is just a waste of time for me. For this reason I loved reading my children’s books out loud.


I am not sure when exactly I started reading. Most likely, by the end of first grade, I was able to read. I would read and read non-stop. I loved it when my mother would buy me books. I hated borrowing books from the local public library. But, what I hated more was when the family budget goes tight and I would have to wait until mom gets her salary to go bookshop for me. I wished I had had a new book every day. I would have read them and be ready to present them to my classmates. However, school was not the fun I had had expected. It was not all about reading and presenting.


All classroom memories are so bitter. In my first grade, I was mocked by the teacher because I could not answer a question. Worse, she had heard me joking and laughing with my friends on the way home and took this against me. I was not playing in the street and was not saying any obscene words either. All that was I was laughing. Maybe I should have been crying or who knows what. I do not know why I was not able to answer. However, for sure that was the reason why I became more careful and more hardworking. I have always been first in class just because of and thanks to that incident with that teacher.


Today, about to be an instructor, I can never forgive that teacher. She punished me for no mistake, like many others. The teacher in the second grade laughed at me and made my “mistake” public to my classmates so that they can laugh. My “mistake” was that I colored a cat in blue while according to her, there are no blue cats. My little brain “had a method to its madness”. In real life there were no blue cats; that was why the cat in the book can be blue, some change in a way.


Today no teacher can shake me. Even when I make a mistake, I simply ask for the correct answer. A teacher once tried to laugh because I used the wrong idiomatic expression but she regretted it. I made her give the right answer by keeping a straight face and waiting on her to correct me. I could read on her face that she was shocked by my attitude.


With these basic first language classes, I did take other classes in math and science but I was so bored. As simply as I tend to think of them, I am not made for them although most of the teachers were excellent. I do not remember much of my struggle with any numerical subjects. I do not care much about them. Most of what I care about is what would give me some decent general knowledge and all statistics formulas that I can use to study languages. So, I will carry on with my experience with languages. French is next; I took it, as all Tunisian peers, at age 8.


Nobody told me I would take French and it was not something I watched on TV at an early age. It was only few words, which dad used, to shush me every now and then. I performed poorly in French. My mother would help every now and then but because I enjoyed studying on my own, I hated that I was dependent on somebody, even if that was my mother. I struggled with French: my sentences were plain, simple and humorless unlike Arabic. Until, one day in class, after some 9 years of studying the language, I was struck by the teacher asking me to speak and I could not say much, if ever I said some thing. I was so upset with myself.


Like a queen hurt in her pride, I was so disappointed. I have always considered myself as a language queen. I thought I had had always controlled language. How dare French reverse the situation? After all it was a language. I started reading and focusing more on the language. Before you know, I took control over this second language at age 15, a couple of years after I started English. English played its magic on me.


I started English at 12 years old. I think I used to hear news about Madeline Thatcher in Arabic and, of course, I knew she was speaking English. I was mad because I could not understand it. Since I started learning English, it has become every thing in my life. I would do all homework and more; I would rush to the English classroom and I pledged that I would never skip any class out of dedication. I was blessed with having really good teachers, so, it helped a great deal.


Yet, I tend to think that with English, it is a completely different story. I had never had any computer or cable TV until after I graduated. So, my main resource of learning failed me this time. Even when I caught up on French, TV was there, as in Tunisia, we have a free access to them. In order to bridge the rift in my resources, I would use dictionaries, read any English book I come cross and ask teachers any question I had. I gave my soul to studying English and wanted to be as fluent as any native speaker. Whenever I go to a friend’s or a relative’s house, I would ask to turn on any English channel for me. I could not understand much at the beginning. I was so frustrated and sometimes I had a feeling “my business was failing”. At University, for some reason I do not know, all my friends had the most developed cable TV connections and could afford the best computers and even pay themselves any of those language training or even trips to English-speaking countries. However, my English has always been better than any of them. I am not exaggerating if I say that I was their reference in a lot of issues.


Looking back over my academic experience, I tend to think that I have made the right choices as I could overcome the family tight budget and the limited academic resources of the country. No school in Tunisia has a writing center to help or free tutoring services. I have been to three countries for free just because I studied hard to qualify for scholarship. I do admit it was hard though. At times I feel weak and bored with the long days of studying. At times, there were incidents in class that would make me think twice. Sometimes meeting poorly performing teachers, I would think whether these are going to be my future colleagues. I end up concluding that it was not worth the effort to study hard. However, it is part of who I am. I do not even think of it as studying hard. I think of it as a preparation for a future.


Motivation has played an interesting role in pushing me to succeed. Every now and then, I met good, maybe I should say excellent, teachers who made things look simple and accessible. Plus, in Tunisia, one way of overcoming challenging economic situation is to study hard and get a well-paying job. I did not have much choice; so I focused on school. I had ups and down and maybe I can generalize that every success was preceded with a failure. But, here I am today and who knows maybe, I will end up in Harvard and be as cited as Stephen Kraschen is in Linguistics.

For me, my academic life started the day I started learning English. All the rest has been only pedagogical classes that I have had to take to develop my intellect. So, for this particular reason, I would like to talk about my experience with this language.

I started learning English when I was 11 years old as it was part of the Tunisian middle school curriculum.  I was so fascinated with the way the teacher, who is Tunisian, rolled her tongue to pronounce native-like, back then my little brain thought perfect, /r/. I remember my classmates used to complain about how strict the teacher was, but for me it was like” even if she whips me after every word she teaches, I would not complain; I have to speak English the way she does”.  I was paying attention to every word the teacher said. It was enough to do the homework without checking my notes for a second time. I had a problem with the teacher shushing me not with her pushing to speak. I knew every answer and even when I did not know, I just say things with the grammar and vocabulary I had. I remember that I wanted once to say that my friends had been absent in the morning that day. I had not been introduced to past tense and yet I used present to express my idea.

I was blessed to have had good teachers all throughout middle and high school. For me, it is all about how well and self-committed the teacher is. I rely a lot on interaction. My strategy is to be introduced to concepts with teachers and then to study on my own. So with teachers’ assistance and attention in class, I have at least seventy percent of the work done. It is later time to negotiate and build one’s own ideas about a given topic. Today, if I do not learn something with the teacher first, then forget about my being able to produce any work. If I miss the visual and aural presentation, then no way I can do it on my own.

At university in Tunisia, I struggled a lot to get used to the system of studying on my own and come to class ready to discuss with a group. How boring this is especially for some tough luck you are in a passive class. Today, in the states, trying to keep up with this strategy that marvelously works with me, I use “youtube” to watch lectures. When the class is relaxed, I skim the materials before the lecture time and read them thoroughly after every class.

I do read but I am most effective when I read materials I choose for myself. I read and link ideas and chapters together. Sometimes I go as far as thinking I am the Secretary General of the United Nations and start a speech summarizing what I have read (as it is mostly about education). I would give a speech before the mirror and train on talking to people about education. Sometimes, I give a speech before the congress making the point about introducing foreign language early in the US educational system.

Any one can be a teacher (I am talking here about the formal teaching concept). But what not any body can be is a good teacher. Part of the deal one agrees to is to be a teacher 24/7. Then, even one’s sub-consciousness has to be working over it. It is an entire nation’s future is one’s hand. This is where the greatness of being not only a teacher but also a good one relies. There is a lot requested from a teacher: the physical and mental attendance, classroom management, oratory, etc not to forget knowing his/her own field (that is fundamental). With a decent level of self-commitment, one can be a good teacher and continue always to be. First, the deeper one dives in his own academic field, the better. When a student, one can work on his/her career. The corner stone of the knowledge is done then. After that, experience comes, which is not only in classroom. Workshops and even casual talk with students and colleagues can help. Wisdom is all over the place, not only in classrooms or books. I strongly believe that frequent self-criticism and evaluation of one’s work are the main criteria a teacher should have. Thinking that graduation and teacher certification can make one a good teacher and that students have to obey is misleading and erroneous. Students change over time and a teacher has to keep up with the tide. Today for example, a teacher’s rival is Internet. Thus, it is a must, not a choice, to keep developing one’s skills.

This is my word for any teacher, and for myself before any body else: THINK, EVALUATE AND DEVELOP 24/7. It is possible to keep improving and developing. All is needed is work.