This year’s British Council and Qatar Foundation International Arabic Speaking Competition attracted over 500 entries from 60 schools across the UK. Sophie (Sn) was selected as one of the winners in the GCSE secondary school category, and attended the awards ceremony at the British Council in London in June.

For the competition, each participant had to complete two tasks. The first was to prepare a two minute speech in Arabic about a given topic (e.g. family, school, house and home, a day in the life), followed by questions from a judging panel of native Arabic speakers. The second task was to describe a picture on the same topic. Sophie decided to talk about “house and home”, and delivered an excellent speech, responding to all of the judges’ questions with confidence, humour and impressive accuracy in her Arabic.

Sophie’s success was particularly notable, as most of the participants were heritage speakers with some prior knowledge of Arabic for either family or religious reasons.

Her achievement in the competition was backed by her A* IGCSE result in Arabic, together with straight 9s in ten other subjects.

When Sophie was interviewed about her interest in Arabic, she said that it arose from the pleasure she had in learning Latin and Greek. When she chose her GCSE options, she wanted an additional language challenge, something that would be difficult. While studying the language for the last two years, she said that aside from enjoying the rigour of a difficult language, what she also learned to appreciate was the depth and richness of Arabic culture.

Arabic is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Sophie recognises the value of learning Arabic for cultural enrichment and even work, and is continuing to study it at A level, along with the classical study of Latin and Greek, and Maths.

To hear more from Sophie about her experience learning Arabic, watch an interview with her at the British Council: