Deciding to tackle the challenge of learning the Arabic language is not something to jump into lightly, and it is often suggested that learning Arabic is difficult.
It’s therefore a good idea to think about things before you commit to learning a new language, and really consider whether you’re ready to commit weeks and months to your new goal.
The answer to the question “How long does it take to learn Arabic?” really depends on you, your levels of motivation, and your goals.
Define Your Goals for Learning How to Speak Arabic
In order to succeed at your goal of learning Arabic, it is important to give yourself a clear and attainable goal, and that you commit to achieving it.
- Have you thought about your wants, needs, and goals - why do you want to learn Arabic?
- Are you interested in Arab culture and history as well as its language?
- Do you want to meet people from Arabic or Muslim cultures?
- Are your motivations religious, or are you interested in learning more about the sacred books of Islam from an academic perspective?
- Or do you just want to learn the Arabic language for fun and so you can communicate with people as much as possible on your travels?
How to Learn Arabic Fast: Hard Work and Dedication
Even if you have plenty of motivation, you’ll need a bit more than that to tackle the complexities of Arabic grammar, spelling, and syntax.
If you just want to learn to speak Arabic, that will take much less time than if you also want to read and write the language. Just like learning any language, you’ll need to learn all the quirks of the Arabic language, including its script, grammar and turns of phrase.
Unfortunately, the Arabic alphabet doesn’t bear any resemblance to the one used in the Western World, and doesn’t have anything in common with our Latin alphabet.
And what’s more, each letter can change position in the words. Depending on the meaning it could be at the beginning, middle, or end of the word.
For beginners, the Arabic alphabet, its forms, and its script might all seem a bit disconcerting at first glance.
But did you know that Arabic has already heavily influenced Spanish, with at least 4000 words being of Arabic origin, thanks to the long Islamic occupation of the Iberian peninsula.
English also contains words borrowed from Arabic, although only about half that number, and usually borrowed from other intermediary languages first.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Arabic?
Learning Arabic can be hard and it will require a lot of dedication and regular study, just like any other language. If you want to learn Arabic quickly, you should know that it will still take several weeks, or really, months, to do so.
You definitely won’t be able to learn all of the vocabulary and syntax of Arabic by studying for just two hours a week.
In order to really learn how to read and write in Arabic, you’ll need to study almost every day, until your brain is completely immersed in Arabic culture.
The more you study, learn new words in Arabic and try them out, the more the language will eventually become second nature.
It’s estimated that in order to learn Arabic properly, it will take an English speaker at least 2200 hours of Arabic classes over 80 weeks - or rather, one and a half years of consistent language study.
Some people would argue that Arabic is just as hard to learn as Chinese or Korean. In contrast, in order to learn a language like French, you would only need 23 weeks of classes, or abut 500 to 600 hours of language classes.
If you want to know how much time it will take to learn Arabic perfectly, here are two questions to answer:
- How many minutes or hours a day can you spend studying?
- And for how many days, weeks, and months are you willing to continue?
For your daily study, that will really depend on you, your motivation, personal commitment, desire to learn, and of course, how much free time you have to spend learning Arabic.
As for the second question, the answer depends a bit on your response to the first, but you should know that it’s almost impossible to learn Arabic in just a few weeks.
At best, you could gain a general sense of the language and pick up a few expressions in Arabic, but at worst you could completely miss the subtleties of the Arabic language and risk picking up tons of bad habits for spelling and syntax.
It’s up to You When You Decide to Learn the Arabic Language
If you think about it, there’s probably plenty of time throughout the day that you could use to study Arabic.
Without going too far into it, have you considered listening to an audio lesson during your commute, whether on public transport or in the car, or whilst you are getting ready in the morning (don’t laugh, some people only take 30 minutes!). The time spent cooking meals or eating, or all the other free moments over the course of the day where your brain isn’t necessarily engaged are all opportunities than can be used to study Arabic.
And we haven’t even mentioned all the leisure time you might be spending watching TV, playing video games, or in front of the computer discussing issues in forums, etc.
The most important thing is that you give yourself a set time to study Arabic every day. Whether it's Arabic words, Arabic phrases or Arabic letters, as a beginner, every second of immersion in the Arabic language is invaluable.
We’d recommend generally 15 to 20 minutes every day in a calm and quiet environment without lots of music or background noise.
Why just 20 minutes a day? Because that’s about the amount of time that the human brain can spend really properly concentrating on something 100% without needing to take a break.
Obviously, nothing will stop you from studying Arabic more if you're feeling motivated, but 20 minutes is a good minimum amount to keep improving your level of the language.
Get Yourself The Right Tools
If you’ve been dealt a good hand, it’s easy to succeed at learning Arabic and for it to not take too long.
This means investing in some good tools and learning aids to help you learn Arabic the best way possible.
For the more traditional language learners, you can learn Arabic with books or textbooks. For a few examples, see below:
'Mastering Arabic 1' by Jane Wightwick & Mahmoud Gaafar
This guide to Arabic is suitable for a range of learners and offers the option to purchase a CD-ROM alongside the paperback textbook. Notes from the back cover state that:
"Mastering Arabic 1 is the most lively, accessible and carefully-paced Arabic course on the market. It is aimed at beginners with little or no previous knowledge of the language who want to understand, speak and read Arabic confidently.
Mastering Arabic 1:
is the bestselling course, suitable for study at home or in the classroom
teaches Modern Standard Arabic, the universal language of the Arab world understood by all Arabic speakers
covers a useful variety of situations you will encounter in the Arab world
offers a gradual introduction to the language, script and structures through audio, video, stories and easy-to-follow explanations
includes hundreds of lively exercises to help you practise what you've learnt
This new edition features:
an attractive full colour page design and a wealth of illustrations and photos
online video on our free-to-access website with associated exercises in the book
new conversational sections which encourage you to get speaking right from the start
Authors Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar share many years' experience in a combination of teaching, educational publishing and communication in the Arab world."
'Modern Standard Arabic Grammar: A Learner's Guide' by Mohammad T. Alhawary
Available in hard or paperback as well as digitally on Kindle, this learner's guide...
"introduces readers to the basic structure and grammar of the Arabic language. Its features include:
- Comprehensive coverage of Arabic grammar and structure in current standard use (MSA), from entry level to advanced proficiency
- Balanced treatment of the phonological, syntactic, and morphological rules of the Arabic language
- An intuitive presentation of grammar rules and structures, in order of frequency and functional use
- Straightforward explanations with minimum linguistic jargon and terminology, explaining the key issues
- Packed throughout with symbols, tables, diagrams, and illustrative examples, this book is essential reading for anyone in the early years of studying the language."
'Fluent In 3 Months' by Benny Lewis
Okay so this book may not be specifically targeted at Arabic learners, however, Benny Lewis creates a fantastic self-help guide for anyone who wants to master a foreign language. Reviews left on Amazon include:
“This is a lively and down-to-earth guide to learning a language. It really communicates Benny Lewis’s own passion for languages and encourages readers to take a more unbuttoned approach to learning them.” Professor Mike Kelly, Honorary Secretary and Director of Speak to the Future
“Buy this book and prepare to experience the world―no matter where you live or travel." Chris Guillebeau, author of New York Times bestseller $100 Start Up.
“Benny is an inspiration! What a great motivator!” Paul Noble, language guru.
"Fluent in 3 Months is the essential first step for anyone interested in learning languages. Its practical and insightful advice will inspire a whole new generation of polyglots." Alex Rawlings, Collins Most Multilingual Student 2012
Videos and Podcasts
Reading and learning from books is all very well when studying how to write a language, practicing its grammar (syntax, formulations, alphabet), getting to know its conjugation (verbs and tenses), and learning its vocabulary (words, phrases, expressions), but how do you learn to pronounce it?
Hearing the Arabic language spoken in videos and podcasts is one of the greatest advantages of using such free language learning resources and will give the student that added reassurance that they are fully grasping the language. Because, as many language learners will know, the key to mastering a language is being able to communicate face to face as well as being able to put it down in writing.
Thanks to the Internet, you'll have no-cost access to Arabic spoken perfectly by teachers and native Arabs.
From the outset, beginners need to pick up good habits, so go ahead and practice your oral comprehension of conversational Arabic.
Check out these Arabic websites and podcasts that can help you quickly learn to speak Arabic:
On this educational site, you can find different dialogues in Arabic covering a variety of subjects, such as entertainment, family, food, introducing yourself, travelling, friends, weather, and shopping.
With a choice of levels, you can learn modern standard Arabic (Msa), which is spoken throughout the Arab world, thanks to this website with a focus on communications skills and cultural understanding.
Audio Lingua is an enormous resource for multilingual podcasts. While you won't find videos in Arabic, you will have access to numerous Arabic podcasts which can improve your listening and speaking skills. Lasting from several seconds to many minutes, they address philosophy, tourism, art, and film, among others.
Today, many of us are lucky enough to have mobile phones or tablets and therefore gain access to hundreds of high-quality apps that can open us up to interesting, engaging and interactive ways of learning, including the Arabic language. Many of these apps can be downloaded online for free within seconds and for no cost at all, and are full of multimedia content that makes mastering a second language easy. What's more, app developers have made it so that learning is fun and not laborious at all!
Language learning apps primarily focus on making learning fun, accessible and convenient, knowing full well that people who use them want a fast and effective way of furthering their education on the subject.
We can integrate them into our lives as we choose to, using them as much or little as our schedule allows. Mobile apps also are full of intelligent technology which keeps track of your progress. Supporting you where you are struggling and challenging you enough to learn new vocabulary and grammar, when you are ready for it.
Microlearning, as it is sometimes referred to by experts, is effectively using your free time to study. We all take moments among our busy lives to stop and look at our phones, perhaps to catch up on what is happening in the world or with our friends across the city. Microlearning fits in between your commute to school or work, it fits in when you are waiting for a bus or train and it fits into the adverts that show in between your favourite show. This means that, in a few short minutes, you could be learning something new and building up your knowledge without even knowing it.
Most learners spend just 5 – 15 minutes per session, and because it fits into the time when you would not be doing anything anyway, by the end of the day can find that you have studied your chosen language for at least 30minutes. Compare these 30 minutes a day of language learning to a one hour class per week? A perfect investment to get you on the path to learn to speak your new language!
Take a look at our top apps for learning Arabic online for free below:
Android and IOS; Free
50 languages will help you to learn to speak Arabic by using a wide range of informative yet interesting topics. You can learn about music, sports, emotions, greetings and so on. The app works offline and lets you take audio clips with you to listen to as you go about your day. It provides at least 100 lessons to give you beginner level knowledge of Arabic and lets you play fun games practice what you have learnt.
Android and IOS; Free
Memorise is a friendly and simple app that uses the power of your ability to memorise things to teach you how to speak the language. It begins with simple introductions such as mastering the alphabet, greetings and adopting survival vocabulary. It uses a kind of fun and interactive flashcard based system. If you are interested in games then you can upgrade from the free version and enjoy this additional interaction.
Android and IOS; Free
BravoLol is a fun flashcard-based system that allows you to focus your learning on words that you want to discover in Arabic. You can create your own flashcards, or use the ones already created in the app, so it's flexible too. It uses commonly used phrases to help you hit the ground running in your Arabic language learning. BravoLol resembles Google Translate and it works offline, so you can access your phases anywhere and anytime.
Android and IOS; Free
HelloTalk is a chat app that connects you with people who speak Arabic anywhere in the world. HelloTalk makes you into both the student and teacher, as it is purely a language exchange where you learn your chosen language and share your native language with your partner. HelloTalk makes direct learning fun, breaking down the barriers between languages and countries.
Study Abroad in the Arab World
If you want to master Arabic quickly, this is the best way to do it.
If you can afford it, taking some time to actually study Arabic in a country in the Middle East or North Africa can really help you improve your language skills. There’s no one country that is best to go to, any country where Arabic is an official language will do so just decide if Lebanon, Egypt, or Morocco is most attractive to you.
Not only will you learn the local spoken Arabic dialect and all the hand and face gestures that accompany it, you’ll be able to pick up some more vocabulary and slang and will have immersed yourself in a national culture.
It’s up to you to decide which Arabic speaking country you want to go to, and with Arabic spoken in 23 countries, you have plenty of choice among places like Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabic, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, etc.
By speaking Arabic every day with locals from all different social classes, your level of Arabic will make huge strides.
Language Courses at a School or University
There are special language institutes that you can go to for Arabic classes, or university classes where a professor who’s a native Arabic speaker teaches the language to students.
These kinds of classes can be a great way to deepen your knowledge of Arabic and do a bit of a health check of what you’ve learned so far.
These Arabic classes will generally follow the academic year and will follow a set curriculum that probably won’t allow for too much deviation.
However, you will have the benefit of a professional teacher for whom Arabic is a native language, and who is following a well known curriculum.
Search for Arabic classes London.
Private Arabic Classes
For those of you who don’t have any Arabic language institutes near you or don’t have the time to commit to a regular course, finding a private Arabic teacher could be a great solution.
According to what you’re looking for, an Arabic teacher could come to your home and evaluate your level in the language, your strengths, weaknesses and points of confusion.
Your private teacher will work with you to create a customized plan of study so that you can learn Arabic in the best way possible. Soon you’ll be able to chat away in Egyptian Arabic, or discuss the weather with any Arabic speaking person.
It can be a great advantage to have a teacher all to yourself - all of your questions about Arabic spelling, verbs, syntax, colloquial phrases, and grammar can be answered directly, and your Arabic pronunciation will improve greatly with a native speaker.
You can take Arabic lessons with a Superprof tutor!
Arabic Classes Online
For the potential Arabic students who prefer to work at home or geeks who like to be surrounded by as many computer screens as possible, online Arabic classes can be a great way to learn the language.
When learning Arabic online, you must evaluate your choices carefully. Not all online Arabic courses are free, or necessarily follow a curriculum that will introduce you to basic Arabic, including the Arabic script and pronunciation, in an order that seems logical and will help you in your goal of fluency.
To make sure you’re getting the right kind of foundation in Arabic for beginners, finding a MOOC for Modern Standard Arabic on a website like Coursera might be a good place to start.
What’s more, you’ll be able to share your passion for learning Arabic with a whole online community for language learning.