The Cost of Learning a New Language


Financial Planning with Reem Assad

The growing demand for training courses and certification probably reflects a growth in awareness and interest in self and career development. In general, education has gone through several phases of change in format. With the advent in Internet infrastructure and mobile landscape, the search for and acquisition of information and knowledge soared. A true revolution has ensued.

In Saudi Arabia, the demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) training saw unprecedented growth especially with the commencement of scholarship programs in 2010. The cost of such training is often high (sometimes north of SR 4,000 per month) but the quality of the outcome does not always match the price. I personally recommend that no training should be attempted without discussing the objectives and course methods first. Many students pay large fees expecting quick results. When it does not work, all they remember is the financial cost.

For best results, Maha Noor Elahi (@MahaNoorElahi), an English Language Lecturer at Dar Al Hekma University, offered the following tips:

  • Determine your learning objective. Is it basic or business communication skills; academic certification; research writing or other?

  • Check the specialty and strength areas of your learning institute before signing up. Some centers focus on conversational English (or other languages) while others focus on grammar and writing.

  • Check the credentials of the instructors and the teaching staff. If the desired language is not the mother tongue of the instructor, do check their background and years in training.

  • Do not assume that the promised course duration will deliver best results. Learning varies across students and so does the effort and level of persistence.

  • A certificate is worth nothing if it is not coupled with real learning. That is why you should not buy your way to progress. Work it up.


Your Money Personality – Part Two


Last month, we introduced the key money personality types. This month we try to present some expert advice for each type. According to “Success Resources” (, here are a few pointers:

To the Big Spender: You must set – and stick to – certain limits. Keep a diary of all your purchases so you can see where you’re leaking cash and cut back. Devise a budget, then put away your credit cards and give yourself a weekly cash allowance.

To the Saver: To improve your financial future, take baby steps toward loosening up. Take a few risks in your investments. Don’t let all of the fun parts of life pass you by just to save a few pennies. Moderation is good and life is indeed about trying to balance things out.

To the Shopper: Take control of the credit card. Try to focus your effort on savings some money. Learn the philosophy behind successful savings plans. A good way also is to think about the less advantaged neighbor or friend and imagine how you would do in their shoes.

To the Debtor: Get your finances in order and set up a plan to start investing. If you need help (and you probably will) seek a pro and do your mental checks.

To the Investor: Bravo! Keep it up. Investing –especially early- cultivates healthy money habits even without planning. The discipline attached to regular attempt to grow your capital cannot be acquired over night. Taking risk requires certain amount of courage and vision. My only advice is to take “calculated risk” whereby you set certain goals from the start and work your way from there.

In the end, humans tend to change and evolve over time, age and life experiences. We are naturally hybrid creatures and there is no single personality type all the way. The description above helps define behavior toward money, and the purpose is to help us take a mirror image of such behavior and try to improve it as we possibly could.


Financial Planning: Start Now


Part one of the how-to series.

So, you read about it in social and hear about it from friends but you are still not sure where to start. You may not know the right tools used for it, so you just shelve off the thought till time is due. Well, the interesting news is that you are probably overdue, in planning and implementing that is. And since it’s never too late, let me give you a few pointers.

Generally, financial planning depends on three key legs:

Saving (building), investing (growing), and retiring (relaxing). Learn it or memorize it; any sound Personal Finance plan depends on these three pillars. If this helps, think of it as a solidly built tripod; the stronger and leaner, the better the outcome. Note that saving and retiring are more directly related since retirement requires an early start. So let’s get started:

Step I - Create a table with the following items in two separate columns:


  • Any income stream that will continue throughout your life (retirement benefits, property rental, bonds, dividends). Divide that figure by 12.


  • Estimate of the amount of money you need after exiting the job market and/or ending your career on a monthly basis.

  • Other needs and wants on a monthly basis (travel, medical, other).

  • Emergency needs.

Step 2 - Multiply your expenses by 12. Deduct that number from the monthly income figure.

If the result is positive, then you are in a relatively safe zone. If not -which is mostly the case, due to inflation and unexpected life events- then please think it over thoroughly. Do not wait till it’s too late.

Stay tuned for the next episode!


Startups: All the Rave!


Starting up is a great new year resolution.

Startups however is the new wave of hope for the growing population of talented men and women around the world. The trend probably began in Silicon Valley in the early 70s –that 1,800 square miles of land with 3 million people and hundreds of billions of dollars in asset value. It hosts some of the world’s largest companies by market capitalization.

Saudi Arabia caught the startup “fever” in 2011. Thanks to its versatility and low barriers to entry, the startup landscape has become a destination to many aspirers in any domain. In fact, startups have been in existence for many years but they were called “private businesses” where our fathers risked their capital and set their passions free. Today, special incubators and accelerators are spreading across the Kingdom to accommodate the supply of ambitious talents eager to realize their dreams.


My Top Tips:
  1. Do what you love. Cliché? Try doing something you don’t and see what happens. Passion is the number one must for any successful venture. It will lift you through the down times and pivot points. Startups are famous for those.
  2. Timing. No matter how awesome your new fax machine is, it still is a fax machine! Or, do you want to become the 100th Uber in town?
  3. Easier said than found. Whether a cofounder or a junior programmer, s/he must share your passion for the startup. This will keep them around in down times or when competition looms ahead.
  4. Forget vacation. Maybe intermittent breaks but formal vacations cannot be afforded in startups. The physical and mental work is literally round-the-clock. The thought of your startup will emerge in most occasions: events, outings, friends, mostly in the form of ideas, opportunities or even small tips.
  5. Competition is good. Learn where others are, and don’t repeat. Do your risk/reward calculation with an open mind and don’t be afraid to collaborate.


Favorite Books on the Subject
  • Sam Altman Startup Playbook – Sam Altman


  • Disciplined Entrepreneurship – Bill Aullet


  • Zero to One – Peter Thiel & Blake Masters



Cancer Geneticist, Dr. Malak Abed


2As an ambassador of 10KSA, I wrote last month about cancer. Contrary to common belief, cancer is no longer a death sentence. In many cases it is, but progress in the field has been immense and is often lost between professional publishing, popular science and mainstream interpretation.

This week, I managed to steal a few minutes from a cancer geneticist with remarkable contributions in her field. Her name is Dr. Malak Abed, a young Saudi doctor who specializes in molecular genetics pathology. She studied and worked in the U.S. since 2005 and her journey was full of sweat and motivation.

Starting with education, Dr. Abed earned an M.D. from King Abdulaziz University. She became a resident in pathology at Georgetown University Hospital, then went on as a fellow at UCSF and Harvard Medical School. Presently, she is a researcher and instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

What is “cancer genetics”?

Cancer genetics is a study of the changes in genes that cause cancer.

Is cancer really hereditary or lifestyle induced?

Cancer is a genetic disease (difference between genetic and hereditary). Practically, it is a mix of both, i.e. it can be inherited (rare) or caused by a gene mutation that occurs during life.

Why is cancer treatment so expensive?

The diagnosis and treatment process is costly. It involves hospital visits, tests, surgery, hospitalization, radiation and chemotherapy. Also, the high cost of medication is due to the R&D involved in developing the drugs. Luckily, cancer treatment in KSA is generally covered by insurance providers and may be offered for free in public hospitals.

What types of cancer should women in KSA be wary of?

Breast, thyroid, lung and cervical cancers. Screening is available for breast and cervical cancers.

Your key words of advice?

Do your screening regularly. Do not discontinue. Also, exercise and proper diet contribute to preventing the development and progression of cancer in our bodies.