Learning a new language involves a lot of hard work and dedication, but it can be a lot of fun and will feel rewarding once you gain some mastery of the language. Students of a second language usually learn in group settings or through language programs at their local schools where they can not only meet new people but also practice their language skills with peers.

Although Arabic is not exactly a common second language studied by American students, it is still a widely spoken language especially in countries located in the Middle East. Young students interested in a career in public relations or working in the Middle East should start learning Arabic as early as they can.

Of course, learning Arabic can also be a lot of fun, so if you are not aiming for a better career or a dream career, you can still study Arabic. Despite common myths, Arabic isn't actually a tough language to learn. The grammar is simple but the script is very different from the English alphabet, which will take some time to get used to.

Adult learners who are working full time or have busy schedules can still fit Arabic into their lives! For one, there is the option of taking private lessons with a dedicated tutor. Then, there is also the option of teaching yourself via applications such as Duolingo for ten minutes a day every day. The key is to be consistent with your learning and to stick with a schedule.

a child sitting next to a table holding a pencil writing on paper
Learning Arabic can seem challenging at first but it could also be a lot of fun as you start picking it up! (Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash)

Basics of Arabic to Know Before You Start

Arabic is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. You may be interested in studying it because you live in a major city like New York, Houston, or LA where there may be pockets of Arabic speakers with whom you'd like to communicate with.

With learning any new language, there are some basic things you should learn before you will be fluent. If you have never been exposed to Arabic before, know that the language can present some unique challenges for native English speakers due to factors such as:

  • Having a completely different alphabet than English
  • A lack of shared vocabulary between Arabic and Latin-based languages
  • Using inflectional tongue and unusual verb patterns
  • Plurals and numbers are more complex than in English

With these facts out of the way, definitely remember that with any language there will always be challenges. For example, French and German may have numerous gendered nouns and complex grammar, while in Arabic these do not exist. No matter what language you choose to learn in the end, remember to focus and stick with it if you want to become fluent.

When you are just starting out on your Arabic learning journey, remember to choose a form of Arabic you want to learn and focus on it. This will make your student life a lot easier in the long run. Next, start building your vocabulary and learn how to use an Arabic dictionary to look up words. With time and some language immersion, you will pick up the language eventually but remember t never stop learning!

A hand holding a pencil writing on paper
Remember to choose a form of Arabic you want to learn and focus on, do your research before enrolling in a class or with a tutor. (Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash)

Where Can You Take Arabic Lessons in Chicago?

Living in the city of Chicago, like Boston and Philadelphia, you have access to many resources that are sometimes not available in medium or small cities and towns. Take advantage of your location by researching schools that offer Arabic lessons near you and then choose one that will meet your learning needs.

Cloudberry Language School

The Cloudberry Language School focuses on teaching languages that are less mainstream in the United States, including Arabic and Russian. It is a new generation language school offering its students flexible and learning experiences and for people of all ages.

Some programs that students can enroll in at Cloudberry include a unique Pre-Travel Program, Cooking Immersion Program, Film & Culture Workshops, Corporate Language Lessons, and Government Solutions. These programs all combine a language learning experience with cultural understanding and education.

As for the costs of private classes at the school, the online classes taken in pairs cost $20 per session and involves two students working together with a teacher via Zoom or Skype. For those looking for a discount on the cost, you can purchase a bundle of ten classes for $320. For language immersion programs, these will cost $100 for a half-day session and $150 for a full-day session.

University of Chicago Loyola

If you are an older student and would like to get your Arabic language education at the university level, this is also possible here in Chicago! At the Loyola University of Chicago, the Arabic Language and Culture program exists to educate students on all things related to Arabic studies.

Established in 2012, the program serves a hybrid body of students from a variety of educational and cultural backgrounds. Some Arabic language-specific courses offered include Arabic 101, 102, 103, 104, 250, and 251. Graduates of these classes should have an intermediate to a high level of Arabic as described by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages ACTFL.

Being enrolled in this program, students also have access to Arabic tutors who can help them in their learning journey. There are also Arabic mini-trips to the Arabic-speaking suburbs of Chicago where students can enrich their studies with actual experiences and immersion into the language and culture.

A young girl wearing big headphones, sitting down and smiling
Practicing your listening skills is an important component of learning any language. (Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash)

Chicago Center for Arabic Language and Culture (CALC)

This non-profit organization in Chicago does not have a permanent home and can be found mainly on its Facebook page. The aim of the organization is to collaborate with community organizations, corporate partners, the philanthropic community, leading universities, and committed individuals to enhance the teaching of the Arabic language and culture in U.S. schools.

The organization is also a recipient of the Chicago Community Trust's SMART Growth program. If you are learning Arabic then consider following this group on their Facebook page to keep up with its latest events. For example, the organization has co-hosted a teacher workshop at the Newberry Library on rethinking the Middle East and North Africa which interested public can attend.

Language Loop

At Language Loop, many language classes are offered to students including Arabic. It is possible to take lessons here anytime between 8:00 A.M. to 9 P.M. and from Mondays to Fridays and from 9:00 A.M. to 3 P.M. on Saturdays, with Sunday courses available upon your request.

Not only can you take structured Arabic lessons here, but the school also offers to create specialized vocabulary curriculums to meet specific needs for those who need working fluency in Arabic. For example, if you'd like to know more Arabic for the hospitality or business industries, the Language Loop can help you focus on those areas so you'll be on your way to working fluency in no time.

Most Arabic language students also study modern standard Arabic, which is more commonly used in everyday settings. However, since there are about 26 different Arabic dialects, it is also possible to take private instructions at the Language Loop for a specific dialect.

Should You Learn with a Tutor?

If you are taking Arabic lessons and feel confused about a concept after a specific lesson or class, you can ask your teacher for help. But if your teacher isn't accessible outside of class hours, then you may be out of luck, especially if you do not know any other Arabic language speakers who can help you.

This is where the benefits of having a private tutor comes in. When you have a dedicated tutor who can work with you on your own time and terms, it makes any learning process a lot easier. Although the costs of a tutor can be expensive, with some searching it is entirely possible to find one that will meet your budget range.

If you are having a hard time staying on track or keeping progress, a tutor can also keep you on track with regular sessions and meetups. By having someone there to hold you accountable for your learning, you will feel more motivated and more likely to make efforts to learn.

If you do not have the extra resources to pay for the services of a tutor, consider joining language exchange groups online where you can be matched up with someone who is interested in learning your language. As an exchange, your language partner will teach you his or her language while expecting you to do the same in return, at no cost to the both of you.

If you have decided to learn Arabic on your own, either via online learning applications or through reading books, you may not have the connections to help you find a tutor near you who can help you when you are stuck. Using online search websites, search engines, and forums, you can get the contact information of local tutors near you.

For example, Superprof is one such website where you can filter out Arabic tutors by location, cost, and experience level. Other places where you can post ads to look for an Arabic tutor include local universities, libraries, and grocery stores.

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Former high-school tutor with a passion for science and technology, I now work in the software industry and enjoy reading and learning about all kinds of topics.