Author: Juli Herman

Keep Calm and Dream On

We’ve just started the third quarter after spending the second quarter Sarfing our hearts out. I was talking to Fuseina last Friday, and she said,

“If you’ve passed Sarf, the rest are easy.”

 “Really? Sarf is the hardest part?”

 “Yeah, especially the irregular sarf,” she replied.


I remember another past student whom I had been asking advice of another nature from saying to me,

 “If you’ve gone through the first 3-4 months of Dream, the rest is a breeze.”

 Then again, I learned later on that she’s one of the top students.

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Allah (SWT) to the Rescue!

Part of the beauty of Arabic is in how it recycles its set of root letters to produce different words that may have different meanings. For example, the word علم is made up of the root letters ع, ل, م. The words عَلَّمَ and تَعَلَّمَ are constructed with the very same root letters, but in meaning, their differences are like night and day. The word عَلَّمَ means to teach, and the word تَعَلَّمَ means to learn.


Think of a set of root letters as grape juice and families as sets of different containers . If we pour this grape juice into a set of mugs , the grape juice will take the shape of those mugs. If we pour this same grape juice into a set of wine glasses, it will take the shape of those wine glasses. Obviously, it’s still halal ole’ grape juice, but now, the ones in the wine glasses carry a different connotation from the ones in the mugs. The same root letters, I mean, grape juice, now may convey two different treatments, I mean, meanings.

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