Are you training your ears enough? How are your Arabic listening skills?
It may be worth the time to liven them up with authentic Arabic audio.
Your Arabic fluency will be based on four major skills: reading, speaking, writing, and listening.
One of the most difficult tasks in learning a foreign language is understanding listening, which is especially true for those learning the Arabic language.
For the most part, listening comes more easily than fluency. However, if we are talking about Arabic specifically, most Arabic speakers would agree that it takes patience and practice to understand what is being said when they hear someone speak in the Arabic language.
In this article, we’ll give you some useful tips that will help you hone your listening skills.
Before you start listening to anything in Arabic
Before you begin, here are some tips that will help you prepare to apply the next tips.
- Accept the fact that you will not be able to understand everything for a long period of time.
- Make listening to your number one priority. Put your listening resources in place and listen to them whenever you can, even if you must while driving, working out at the gym, or doing your regular household chores.
- Listen to something you like.
- When listening, your attention should be on what the Arabic speaker is saying, not on translating what the speaker is saying into your native language.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you don’t understand something, don’t stress. This will only be one more obstacle to your learning.
- Give yourself a goal before you start listening. It would help if you listened to any Arabic audio with a goal in mind. For example, you can put an information string to find 10 new words in Arabic to build your vocabulary. We will explain it in detail in the following paragraphs.
- Set different goals for your listening each day. For example, take a day to understand the meaning of certain words, listen to audio files, and a day to understand different tones.
One last tip: don’t give up! Most of all, developing listening skills in Arabic takes time and patience.
If you follow these tips, the way forward will be smoother, and you will learn faster! Now, let’s see what your next course of action should be.
But how to improve your listening skills in Arabic? Here are our tips to help you listen to Arabic and better understand the meaning of the words you are listening to.
1. Improve your vocabulary
It sounds straightforward, and it is. As we said earlier in this article, a good practice to follow to improve your listening skills is building your vocabulary and absorbing as many common phrases as you can.
It might seem strange to learn many isolated vocabulary words without context or grammar rules to put them together.
But it really is the best strategy to start with. You will start to listen to audio at an advanced level, even as a beginner, and you will notice that you can understand words here and there.
It probably won’t seem like a major accomplishment to you, but it is a huge motivation to understand those few words!
Create a solid foundation of common words and phrases when you are just beginning to learn the language. Adopting this practice alone will allow you to take a big leap forward in your ability to understand what you are listening to. You will have to take on this personal challenge and strive to do it every day.
Set an easily achievable goal, like learning 3-5 words a day, so that you never feel overwhelmed or tempted to procrastinate. You will find that, for most days, you will easily exceed your goals and expectations.
After a certain period of time, you will know the common Arabic words and phrases well enough to understand the context in which they are used without feeling like you are translating them into your mind.
Read more: 7 tips to learn Arabic easily
2. Patience will allow you to go far
Be patient with yourself and your level of uncertainty. Don’t be surprised if you don’t understand a single word even after listening to your Arabic resources for a while. It happens to anyone trying to learn a new language. Even listening to Arabic without understanding will help familiarize your ears with the sounds and rhythms of native Arabic speakers. This time spent working on your listening will resurface when you start speaking, and you will notice that you will find it easy to recreate an authentic Arabic accent. Don’t get upset with all the little details either. If you’re stuck on a new word in a sentence, leave it and try to listen to the rest of the message. Understanding the overall message of the sentence will help you better understand Arabic in general.
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The al Madina Center for Arabic is the first language school specializing in teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speakers, based in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
3. Guess, guess and guess again
As we just said earlier, it is unlikely that at first, you will understand everything that has been said during your listening sessions in Arabic. So, try to fill in the gaps between the parts you can understand and the parts you don’t understand by making reasonable assumptions.
As you try to guess what is being said, look for contextual clues such as tone of voice used, the body language of the person speaking (if it is a video), facial expressions, music from the background, etc.… All the clues can be useful to you.
Read more: 6 secrets to speak Arabic quickly
4. Ask for help
This is very important for those who learn Arabic with the help of an instructor and those who learn Arabic abroad. Never hesitate to ask for help, even if it means asking for it frequently.
When you are faced with a problem understanding something, don’t hesitate to ask a speaker or your instructor to help you understand one or more words over and over.
Ask them to repeat something for you, say it differently, or speak more slowly. A good listener always triumphs over their fear of asking for help when it is really needed.
5. Surf the web to find your listening resources
If you are using any online resources to improve your listening skills in Arabic, here are some additional tips that will help you deepen your daily listening practice.
First, focus on strengthening your understanding of general contexts and themes. Focus on the details later. For example, if your online resource has an audio file of a text passage, spend time familiarizing yourself with the context of that passage.
Who wrote this? Who published it? What was the purpose of this text? Then listen to all of the audio at least once. Too often, learners try to understand each sentence or line well before moving on to the next sentence.
After you complete a full listen, break the resource into smaller segments and listen to each segment individually to better understand that resource as a whole.
These two measurements will help you understand the overall picture. Getting specific details later will be easier for you.
6. Find listening resources with exercises
Many Arabic audio resources have accompaniment exercises, which is great for first-time learners. For example, you can start with audios and learning exercises from Al Jazeera.
With a resource like this, always start by familiarizing yourself with the exercise questions first. If new words are introduced in a particular exercise in your listening resource, don’t just read them.
Take your time to learn them first. The best way to do this is to listen to the words repeatedly and repeat them out loud. Your next step should be to make sentences using those words and repeat those sentences repeatedly.
If you do this, it will be easier for you to finish the exercise after listening, which means you are on the right track. Keep a pen and paper handy before you start an exercise so that you can write down any words and phrases you don’t know.
Take breaks, but never give up. Remember, you are not alone. Anyone who has decided to learn the Arabic language or any language has encountered difficulties during its journey.
When you are faced with such an obstacle, please take it as a personal challenge. If you don’t see success for a while, take a break from exercising and come back later with a fresh mind. Arabic is one of the most widely used languages globally, but it is also one of the most difficult to learn, especially for Westerners.
Nonetheless, many people enthusiastically enrol in Arabic language learning courses, both online and offline. Remember, this is meant to be a fun experience! While many people learn a new language as a hobby or travel, there are just as many who do so to maximize their chances of getting a job abroad.
The demand for learning Arabic has increased, along with an increase in employment opportunities in Arab countries. Learning to improve your listening skills can certainly go a long way on the road.
Regardless of your language goals and your study focus, we sincerely hope this article has helped you in any way.
The Al Madina Center offers three months of intensive courses to learn Arabic for non-Arabic speakers in its institute in Medina, Saudi Arabia. If you would like to join our intensive course, please contact us.