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French and Arabic Personal Statement

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.

I had a lot of help from people who knew what admissions people would be looking for, in the form of feedback, and my first draft was a waffly disaster. My advice would be to succinctly bullet point everything you want to say and show off about, colour code or organise into a coherent order and then fill in. Reread and review constantly. Happy with it overall, and it got me all my offers! :)
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