Learning Arabic is not something that can be improvised on a whim.
There's definitely a difference between knowing a few words or typical expressions such as "choukran" for mercy or "Inch'Allah" for "the glory of God" and truly speaking Arabic.
If you want to learn Arabic in the best way possible, we suggest you to take a look at our list of the best Arabic teaching methods.
In fact, this foreign language is infinitely more difficult for a European than learning Spanish or Italian.
There are numerous motivations that can lead to wanting to master the language of Mecca: wanting to become a translator, to travel on the Arabian Peninsula, to watch Moroccan television or Al Jazeera, to learn the Quran or maybe just Quran Arabic.
Many are omitted in the above list, such as better understanding the history of the world (including the West's history) as well as a particular language and culture.
Having a good lingual base--whether you are from North Africa or not--is a necessity in order to really familiarize yourself with the rules Arabic grammar or verbs.
Not an Easy Language in the Least
While we are accustomed to identifying a language through our linguistic roots, Arabic does not have the same structure at all.
It is actually for this reason--an entirely different alphabet--that writing in Cairo's Arabic is at the very least complicated ...
It has to be said that it is one of the most complex languages to learn: its alphabet has 28 letters, reading is done from right to left, there are hardly any vowels in the written form...
It is therefore quite difficult to find yourself completely alone when it comes to studying such a language...In comparison, learning Dutch would be a breeze. You will therefore better understand the need to know what are Arabic's most effective grammar courses for example!
Degrees of Difficulty
Learning a language is not the same for everyone: some will be more at ease with grammar, while others will naturally understand and identify sentence structures and grasp the meaning of the words from their context.
Oral expression is often the strength of some, while learning Arabic literature is more motivating for others.
According to our mother tongue, learning Arabic will vary in difficulty. Let's just put it this way: if you learn Arabic, you will have an easier time tackling Chinese or Turkish afterwards.
First, because the so-called "guttural" letters will be one of the first elements of learning both those languages, especially for English speakers, who do not know this sound.
All foreign language learners will also experience the difficulty of understanding Arabic letters, as the latter only have meaning when they are attached to other letters and form a word.
It is estimated that an English or French-speaking individual can begin to speak Arabic correctly from 2,200 hours of Arabic lessons on--that is to say about 80 weeks of Arabic lessons online or in person on average (more than 18 months).
In this respect, the pedagogical approach can improve the effectiveness of the modules: a private tutoring class at home with its tailored lesson plan will always be much better than the best virtual classroom on the Internet.
The Arabic language's degree of difficulty is similar to that of Chinese, Japanese or Korean. But learning Russian is not easy either, for example.
Even if unlike the Latin alphabet the Arabic alphabet contains only 28 letters, the way of writing them differs completely from the Western way.
Indeed, the shape of the letters changes according to their position in a word, depending on whether they are at the beginning of the word, in the middle or at the end. It can be compared to the Greek sigma.
Usually, vowels are rarely visible, which will not facilitate the task of reading.
For example, a word like maktab, which means "office," is written "mktb."
Imagine having to read like this: "wtht rdng vwls" (read without vowels). It would not be easy for a Westerner!
At first, you must learn to read Arabic with all its characters and then later learn it again with fewer letters...
Finally, in terms of the sentence structure, the Arabic language uses verbal phrases and noun phrases and the order is always the same, namely verb-subject-object.
On the oral side of things, the Arabic language offers unusual sounds to English ears.
Repeating an Arabic text is always a good way to remember the correct pronunciation.
Arabic discourse is often expressive and alive: it is done with intonation, facial expression, and gestures that convey the message.
Literary Arabic, on the other hand, is more linear, more monotonous, say. It is a language based on pure discourse, which does not at all involve gestures.
What Arabic Language Should You Choose?
Before choosing a particular method, it is essential to ask yourself: what type of Arabic do you want to learn?
You will have to choose between literary Arabic (Classical Arabic or Quran Arabic) and Dialectal Arabic, which is more widely spoken, whether in Tunisia, Algeria, or Morocco. With its local variants, of course, as is the case of all dialects.
If Superprof were to give you advice, it would be to start with classical Arabic. Dialectal Arabic can be more easily and quickly learned as a supplement, especially if you have an Arabic language group or are chatting with natives and locals.
Classical Arabic requires more of an investment, stellar teaching, and continuous learning.
Don't forget however that the vocabulary between dialectal arabic and classical Arabic is different.
Finally, there is one last thing you should know: classical Arabic is a universal written language in the sense that all the residents of Arab countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia or even The United Arab Emirates do not speak "the same Arabic language."
Arabic speakers of different cultures and countries can be understood through classical Arabic, which remains a common base of the expanding Muslim world, even though they use it very rarely.
If they were to speak with their respective dialectal Arabic, there is a good chance that they would not understand each other, or that there would be some comical misunderstandings...
The Best Method to Learn Arabic
After reviewing the difficulties and obstacles of learning the basics of the Arabic language, it's time to see what the best method for learning Arabic is.
On many Arabic websites you will see online Arabic lessons for free and with slogans such as "Arabic in 10 or 15 lessons" or "Learn Arabic in 20 hours."
Of course, you are probably looking for the method that best suits you in terms of time but you also care quite a bit about results and budget.
Beware: there is a difference between learning Arabic (or, rather, fumble with it) and learning to read Arabic.
While learning Arabic takes a lot of time, personal investment, and homework at different stages, reading Arabic is an obvious first step.
Here are some solutions to help you in your foreign language learning adventure.
The Assimil Method
This is a great method if you want to learn a foreign language on your own and Arabic is no exception.
Even if the dialogues are often overrated, it is an excellent gateway to learning Arabic smoothly while integrating some very useful basics for your learning future.
The lessons are quite short, which helps psychologically speaking as it makes you feel that you are progressing quickly and easily!
The exercises allow you to work on your memorization and you will gradually learn the alphabet without even realizing it.
However, this method will not make you bilingual and a licensed interpreter, but it is a good way to open yourself up to the Arabic culture and language.
You will develop good memorization habits with interactive help.
The small bonus? It is an inexpensive method at nearly 20 euros (60 to 80 euros at most if you decide to choose the method with the accompanying CDs, which allows for corrections when it comes to oral expression).
The University Method
If you live in a city where the local university offers an Arabic Bachelor's degree (or higher degree), you should give it a go.
You can also choose to attend classes as an auditor without working towards a degree. It's a learning method which works just as well with German!
Whether you're an employee or a student, there is always a way for you to take university Arabic language courses.
During the day, you can attend Arabic classes with other students, while those with a job can attend Arabic language lessons for adults in the evening.
The best Arabic degree is logically a Master's degree in Arabic Language and Culture. Through continuous language training you will become extremely gifted with the Arabic language. Plus it will look really good on your CV.
The advantage of university level courses is that you will have a trained professor on hand to answer all of your questions, as well as advise you and motivate you if need be.
He will be able to give you audio tracks and impart you with a training method of his own ...!
The "Immersion" Method
This is not an official method per se as you will not find it in bookstores, but it is a very good way to leap into learning Arabic.
However, it is still better to have some basic dialectal Arabic skills to get you by with this method!
The definite advantage of immersion is that you are directly immersed in the Arab country's culture and this will give you great motivation all the while your meeting awesome native speakers.
For some, this immersion already happens at the Mosque.
Immersion is therefore what some call a "complete" method. As you know, there are many countries where one can learn Arabic.
Tutoring Method for Learning Arabic
Of course, having a tutor to yourself will greatly help you progress in Arabic.
The Arabic tutor knows the language very well. He has most often spoken it for years on end, and it very often happens that it is one of his mother tongues.
The tutor usually travels to your home, assesses your knowledge, deficiencies, and needs, and then tailors a language learning program to your expectations.
You can ask he or she every question that pops in your mind, deepen your grammatical notion of Arabic, as well as exchange ideas about culture and different linguistic practices.
Arabic tutoring promotes a real exchange between you and your Arabic tutor.
Arabic Teaching Methods on the Web
We live in the age of the world wide web, and you surely own a laptop, a desktop computer, a smartphone, or a tablet...as well as an internet connection.
If you'd like to learn basic elements of the Arabic language while saving some money, this isn't a bad solution.
But you have to keep in mind that this is not the perfection route.
It's a good start, however, and it would be foolish to discard of it.
Several websites compete with each other. All are more or less good, content and design wise.
Everyone has their legitimate preference, but here are the main platforms worthy of listing:
- YouTube hosts many video tutorials which can be very useful for learning the Arabic alphabet, pronunciation, etc.;
- Applications such as Alif and Arab Nemo;
- The Firdaous portal with its opening on the Arabic world and civilization;
- MOOC, APLV, EDRAAK and SCOOP for the ultimate language learning adventure!
What About Books to Get Going on Your Arabic Adventure?
Of course, you can't learn the entire Arabic language by reading books, but they are indispensable to your learning adventure.
Here are two useful books you should definitely own:
- Living Language Arabic, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, This book includes 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, an Arabic script guide, and free online learning, another language book with very effective learning, and a CD to guide you through some of its most fundamental language lessons. This book is for everyone, but perhaps especially for beginners. You will learn to write each letter of the alphabet by reconciling the rules of Arabic writing with the perfect writing movement. You will also have an introduction to Arabic calligraphy.
- Arabic for Dummies: a Beginner’s guide to Arabic, Here is a book for those students who would like to get a move on with their language skills. For beginners and self-taught learners, this book is very well designed. Divided into chapters, themes, it ends with a series of exercises at the end of the volume.
The Best Methods to Learn Arabic Calligraphy
Reading and speaking Arabic are both important.
But writing it in an expert way is yet another skill altogether...
Classical Arabic writing is not merely a mode of communication, it is also an art form and a know-how. When referring to it, the word calligraphy is perfectly suitable.
The digital gateways mentioned above will be useful in order to get a taste of the language before delving into this art form.
Firdaous vous dotera des connaissances élémentaires sur le style koufique (ou « hiri ») et la géométrie de l’arabe classique.
Quelques clics supplémentaires vous emmèneront ensuite vers les styles dixani, farsi et nastalik, et vous aurez fait le tour des principales (et plus belles) graphies littéraires arabiques.
Les sites de partage de vidéos en ligne conviendront plus particulièrement aux mémoires kinésiques et visuelles, mais nous vous invitons dans tous les cas à aller plus loin en faisant, par exemple, l’acquisition de l’ouvrage Calligraphie arabe. Initiation, de Ghani Alani, publié en 2013 chez Fleurus.
Pour s’exercer, ce titre sera avantageusement complété par le Petit cahier d’écriture en arabe des éditions Larousse ainsi que par L’ABCdaire de la Calligraphie arabe d’Hassan et Isabelle Massoudy.
Ces deux volumes valent probablement mieux que le workbook Assimil (qui ne vaut le coup qu’avec la méthode correspondante).
Les esprits plus pragmatiques ou terre-à-terre se contenteront sans aucun doute de la Calligraphie arabe vivante, également signée par Hassan Massoudy, une pointure sur la question.
Firdaous will endow you with the basic knowledge of kuific (or the "hiri") style and the geometry of classical Arabic.
A few more clicks will take you to the tenani, farsi and nastalik styles. By then you will be a pro in all of the most beautiful classical Arabic calligraphy styles.
Online video portals are suited for people with kinetic and visual memories, but you could go further by buying Learn to Write Arabic Calligraphy by Omar Nizam Uddin. It is available on Amazon.
You could also purchase An Introduction to Arabic Calligraphy by Ghani Alani as a complement.
These two volumes are probably better than the Assimil workbook.
Pragmatic and logical minds will be undoubtedly satisfied with Arabic Calligraphy by Helen Atty, available in the Kindle edition.
Choose an Arabic-English Dictionary
A good language method cannot do without a lexicon: the Arabic words do not resemble those of Latin or Anglosaxon languages, and memorizingvocabulary lists is necessary to speak the language fluently...
Memorization has to be observed and it demands assiduous attention from all language learners.
Strong minds will no doubt be capable of complying with such a discipline, but you must set out the right amount of time and motivation!
For other common mortals, an Arabic-English dictionary will be of greater help than English-Arabic lexicons in order to up your Arabic language proficiency.
Publishers have no difficulty selling their multilingual products, and you can be sure to find anything and everything--the best and the worst.
English-French and French-English has countless of worthy dictionaries, as these languages have been learned in pairs for centuries--but can the same be said of Arabic, whose study in the U.S.A. is much more recent?
Because of the scientific curiosity of the first metropolitan Islamologists of the nineteenth century, and in parallel with the explosion of demands for Arabic language learning from the last century, different dictionaries have emerged.
There are two clear categories: conventional dictionaries...and online dictionaries.
With classic paper dictionaries, you will find:
- Merriam Webster, with more than 50,000 entries;
- Oxford Essential, which is very interesting for lexical fields.
Digital lovers (who may also not want to pay for the dictionary) may prefer:
- Lexilogos, which has the advantage of linking different lexical translation structures;
- Reverso, which is constantly enriched thanks to a large number of users and an attentive team;
- Arabdict, which is somewhat the Wikipedia of the Arabic lexicon;
- Google Translation, which has far exceeded its primitive mediocrity, though we must not confuse the automatic text translations with definitions for a particular word.
Just as it is impossible to perfect one's knowledge of English without a course, a dictionary, a lexicon or a grammar book, it will be important to procure oneself the Merriam-Webster Arabic-English Dictionary!
And finally, though it is less popular because of being less academic, there are some methods to learn the Arabic dialect of a particular nation through dictionaries.
As early as 1907, Professor Desparmet of Algiers published a Teaching of dialectal Arabic according to his methods with language students on site.
This work, which is available in many libraries and digitized on archive.org, is very effective in order to master Algerian Arabic.
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