The cultural and linguistic environment in which I carried out my work was very useful to me, as it encouraged me to undertake further research into languages which I had started to study a long time previously. There are around twenty in all. I acquired more than 250 teaching methods consisting, in the beginning, of dictionaries, grammar textbooks, card files, audio cassettes, or records, and CD-ROMs, etc., later on.
Some students who had followed Arabic courses before with other teachers were surprised by my calmness when they made mistakes or had difficulties with pronunciation, handwriting, or memorisation. Their former teachers always became annoyed, going as far as to call them stupid sometimes, according to one student. For my part, I keep my cool for a simple and obvious reason. I could well understand them, since I myself was always learning a language with a new alphabet or a completely different system of writing. I experienced the same difficulties in writing, pronunciation, and memorisation. I met with the same problems and difficulties as them, so I was in the same dilemma. I do not become irritable or chide students when they make mistakes; on the contrary, I encourage them and congratulate them for all their efforts to learn. The teacher-student relationship should be the same as the relationship between a mother and a young child. If a mother becomes cross and scolds her child each time he stumbles or pronounces a word wrongly, he will not be able to walk or talk correctly. He will limp and stutter all his life.
I notice that most students are content with what they learn during lessons. Except for a few, they do not try to study by themselves. That is why I urge them to learn to study also on their own and not to depend wholly on the teacher. As I, myself, am self-taught, having learnt almost everything on my own, I simply ask them to follow my example.
I have applied myself to studying these languages naturally, not all at the same time, but one by one, devoting a certain time, some months or some years, to each language until I reached a total of twenty languages. Among these languages are my mother tongue, Berber, and principally Arabic, which I started to learn, almost like a foreign language, more or less only at the age of seventeen, even though I learned the Koran by heart – without understanding a single word, however. There are several other languages which I have not studied but about which I have learned a great deal, thanks to my students.