Building trust and a network through Arabic
Samuel Hanna Gadalla started a new job in sales at Story Auto Import-Export over six months ago. Exactly the right man for the job, his boss thought. That’s because Samuel not only knows everything about cars, but he also speaks fluent Arabic. At Story Auto Import-Export, they could put that to good use because they export loads of cars to Arabic-speaking countries. So why did we spot Samuel attending an Arabic course at Regina Coeli?
Learn to write in Arabic
‘I speak Egyptian, one of many Arabic dialects. I can make myself understood everywhere I go, but what I say doesn’t always come across as really professional,’ he explains in his private classroom at Regina Coeli, which is full of handwritten Arabic texts. ‘But above all, I’ve come to learn to write in Arabic. I never learned that.’
Arabic is made up of a patchwork of dialects (such as Egyptian) and forms. Three forms are the same throughout the Arab world:
- Classical Arabic: the form used in the Koran and the Bible
- Modern Standard Arabic: what you hear and read in the media but which isn’t actually spoken purely anywhere
- Formal spoken Arabic: most common in business and everyday use
"The variety is great"
Three different teachers taught Samuel during his five-day course. ‘That variety is really great. They all have their own expertise and character. Everything they do is just for me. One of them has tremendous knowledge of the different forms of Arabic. I worked with him on a document that will be useful to me for the rest of my life. It contains all the words I need in their different forms. With that document in hand, I can say exactly what I need to say.’
When we spoke to Samuel a few weeks after his course, he sounded remarkably relaxed. ‘I had a hard time during my training,’ he laughs. ‘During the intake, I was advised to spread the training out over two weeks. For work, I thought it would be more convenient to do it all at once. In hindsight, that wasn’t the best choice.’
"We can also speak Arabic"
‘But,’ he continues enthusiastically, ‘I can already see that things are going much better. I had someone from Iraq on the phone the other day. I usually start in English and then wait until the person on the other end of the line starts to struggle. That’s when I say: “We can also speak Arabic.” And that’s going really well now. Look, I don’t give presentations, and I don’t have to write a book. For me, it’s all about building trust and a network. That will certainly be possible now that I’m speaking better Arabic!’
Samuel’s ambition is to work and travel internationally. He hasn’t been able to do much of that yet owing to COVID-19, but he was wise to invest time in learning a language, especially now. And that will soon help him to venture into the Arab world.