Do you want to “learn Arabic”? Here is a very ambitious project.
If it seems possible to learn languages that are close to us, such as French, Spanish or Italian on our own, what about Arabic?
With its alphabet totally different from Egnlish and its phonetics that are the most distant from ours, is it even possible to try your luck? Yes, yes and yes!
Here are some erroneous assertions:
“Arabic has too many exotic sounds, impossible for foreigners to learn.”
FALSE. Only two or three sounds are not found in English, and these can be learned easily by imitation.
“Arabic has a huge vocabulary: 400 words for a camel, 200 for a lion, etc.”
FALSE. Ancient poetry has a very complex and varied vocabulary. But the vocabulary of Modern Standard Arabic is more complex than the vocabulary of another modern language.
“Arabic Grammar is incredibly complicated.”
FALSE. Its verb system is quite easy. For example, there are only two tenses – past and non-past.
Well, yes, absolutely. So please don’t wait any longer for a new session of Arabic lessons to open its doors and set off on your own to conquer the Arabic language!
Is it difficult to learn the Arabic language?
Before starting to learn Arabic, the difficulty of this process may be the first obstacle. And yes, speaking Arabic is not possible with the snap of a finger.
Learning a language involves dealing with certain difficulties! Will you be able to overcome them to learn the Arabic language?
The level of learning difficulty
The United States Department of State (in public management training) estimates that it takes 80 to 88 weeks (about a year in the full-time classroom and a year in the country) to get to a decent level of Arab. This includes the oral and written level. In theory, it would therefore take 2 years of intensive learning to speak Arabic as a bilingual.
Basics that are easy to integrate and remember
However, the first Arabic lessons can be easy to access.
If you want to learn the basics of Arabic, a few lessons may be sufficient.
For example, a student noticed that certain elements of learning are easier to access:
- In Modern Standard Arabic (the official language you learn at school), it’s effortless to say nominal genders. All feminine words end with the letter ta Marbooda (ة).
- Direct and indirect objects are simple (add a suffix to the verb).
- The adjective variations are EASY. You add ta marboota at the end.
Conversely, once these concepts have been assimilated, we have to face some difficulties:
- Vocabulary is very different from Indo-European languages.
- Spoken Arabic is very different from written Arabic.
- The reverse reading direction.
- Foreign sounds and pronunciations.
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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.
Can you learn to read the Quran alone?
Reading the 114 suras in Islam’s holy book can seem daunting, especially when one does not speak the Arabic language perfectly.
To read the Quran in its original version, it is best to work on the oral pronunciation. With phonetic transcription, it will be easier to assimilate the vocabulary of the language of Ishmael at the beginning.
The most practical way to learn how to read the Quran in Arabic
Download the suras in the MP3 version on your mobile phone and listen to them in a loop in a calm atmosphere. Then, the learner must consult the English translation of the Quran to compare the two versions: in two steps three movements, you will remember the linguistic meanings without even realizing it!
The learning must be broken down to make the job easier: start by learning one verse a day, and in a year, you will have already learned over 300 Quranic verses!
Studying the Quran allows you to practice the 3 memorization methods:
- Reading the Qur’an makes your visual memory work.
- Writing the Qur’an makes your motor memory work.
- Listening to the Quran makes your auditory memory work.
The student should first test their brain before choosing the method that is best for them. Some prefer to retain the writing, others the sounds …
If you cannot memorize all the Quranic verses by heart, rest assured: it takes an average of 30 years to remember them all.
4 tips for properly learning Arabic on your own
Registrations to introduce you to the Arabic language are now closed at the mosque in your city or language institutes? It’s infuriating. All the more so if you have to wait until the next school year to get started with Arabic finally. How to do then?
And why don’t you tackle the language on your own? A crazy challenge when you think about it, but is it impossible? Recently we were wondering how long it could take to learn Arabic. Let’s focus on solitary learning today.
Let’s not hide the truth: studying Arabic alone will be very hard. All the more so if your culture is above all English and you start from 0 or almost. But who says difficult does not mean impossible!
We, therefore, offer you some tips to make your life easier …
1. Learn the Arabic alphabet above all
If we had to choose one rule to remember above all and before all the others, it would obviously be this one! Reading Arabic, writing Arabic, and enriching your vocabulary with beautiful Arabic words: the alphabet will be your starting point.
To tackle the Arabic language is also to give up an alphabet that has served you all your life. Of course, in English and surely in French, Spanish, German, learning this new language will inevitably accompany a whole new alphabet.
Learning Arabic alone is, therefore, equivalent to assimilating the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet. We are talking about literacy, quite simply. Also, you will need to record the pronunciation of these different letters. Visual memory, as much as auditory memory, are therefore called upon in this enterprise.
Finally, it is important that you also know that each letter includes 3 shapes depending on its place in a sentence: start, middle and end.
2. Forget English grammar
You who have always thought in English will need to assimilate Arabic, a notion when you learn Arabic quickly: stop thinking in English.
This is true for any new language you discover. Arabic is, therefore, no exception to this state of affairs: learning Arabic, alone or not, is above all to start thinking in Arabic.
You cannot literally translate English into Arabic. It will therefore be necessary to seriously learn the grammar and syntax specific to the Arabic language.
3. Make files
Another tip you could use in your solitary learning Arabic is to make index cards. To register this brand new alphabet first. Writing and rewriting letters will allow you to memorize them faster.
But beyond that, the cards will allow you to accumulate vocabulary. We, therefore, invite you to proceed as follows: write several vocabulary sheets, each according to a particular theme.
Obviously, start with the most important topics in your daily life—a sheet on action verbs, for example. Then on the human body, fruits and vegetables, jobs, numbers …
Once done, you will only have to learn ten words or more per day and quickly enrich your vocabulary.
4. Make the difference between dialect Arabic and literal Arabic
4th tip we wanted to share with you: the importance of distinguishing between dialect and literal Arabic:
- This is most likely the second you will learn to familiarize yourself with the Arabic language. Literal Arabic includes Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic.
- On the other hand, Dialectal Arabic is “a derivative” of the Arabic language and of neighbouring languages that can be found in particular in the Maghreb and the Middle East.
Apps to learn Arabic
In this age of digital and high technology, as you can imagine, many smartphone and tablet applications have been created to allow you to learn Arabic quickly!
And for those who do not necessarily prefer the “private lesson” option, this solution is often the preferred choice for students wishing to learn Arabic independently.
3 dictionaries to learn the Arabic language and its words
To learn to speak Arabic, you must have a minimum vocabulary base (at least 200 words). What’s more, phonetics can help you read better and especially pronounce Arabic.
To help you, here are some English Arabic dictionaries available …
Some of you may not agree with this recommendation, as Google-stamped translations were once rough, but think again!
In 2016, the American giant modified the algorithm of its translation tool by adding neural machine techniques. All for more precision!
Before you learn to read Arabic from right to left completely, you will need to assimilate many Arabic words, verbs and other expressions.
And for that, the Glosbe site and its English-Arabic dictionary will prove to be very useful!
Dictionary and foreign languages specialist, Glosbe.com now offers nearly 90,000 translated sentences! And for each translated Arabic word, you will also get, like Reverso, examples of use.
websites to improve your learning of Arabic
Al-dirassa is one of the first Arabic language learning sites to emerge. It offers to learn to speak and write literary Arabic and the Arabic of the Quran and Islamic sciences since 2012. You will find Arabic lessons for children and adults, beginners as well as advanced.
The teachers involved in these courses are all graduates of learning Arabic for non-Arabic speakers. You can choose packages or tailor-made courses, group or individual lessons to receive a boost in your learning Arabic on your own.
Memrise is a website that allows you to learn the Arabic language according to your level, whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced student. You can choose to learn the Arabic language alone or even to work several languages at the same time by choosing English, for example.
The Memrise community is the one that itself creates the exercises and quizzes to make the experience interactive. Thus, you work on your Arabic while discovering the work of your colleagues. This site is also available as a smartphone application.
Study the Arabic language on your own, with MOOC courses
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course in English) are online lessons available to everyone for free. Here, the lessons are written by qualified teacher-researchers from major English or international schools.
As an average Internet user, it is quite possible to access MOOC language courses without completing major studies: the review sheets are available to everyone.
These free virtual schools allow students to contact teachers or other students to discuss the language lesson’s academic difficulties.
MOOC courses sometimes offer to validate a language certification using finances: this certification does not replace a formal diploma but can be a huge asset on a CV!
Be careful, however: MOOC courses all have a deadline!
5 tips for learning Arabic while having fun
1. Have an Arabic correspondent to speak the language
No more hassle of having to find a local correspondent by searching the newspaper classifieds … Today, thanks to Allah then to the Internet, English students can maintain a long-distance friendship with their Arabic-speaking colleagues!
To learn the official language of 26 states, English people of all ages can take the opportunity to experience a new culture and even learn more about Arabic dialects.
Chatting virtually with an Arabic correspondent allows you to train your conversational skills and to discover Arabic grammar thanks to fun language exchange and no fuss!
Here, it is the “real” Arabic that prevails: you will train your ear to understand the language of the natives by studying, for example, the slang of the country or the idioms of the language of ḍād.
Several platforms offer linguistic exchanges between English and Arabic speakers:
- Students of the World
- Penpal Tradition
Thanks to your friend from Algeria or Morocco, you may be able to organize a language exchange with a host family to be completely immersed in the Arab world and make your new friendship more concrete.
Useful when you want to do an internship abroad in a Maghreb country or the Emirates!
2. Educational games
Why not learn a new language in a fun way?
Aimed at children and beginner adults, free online educational games allow English people who only know their mother tongue to learn while having fun.
Educational games concern the Arabic language: you can also learn Arabic geography by finding the big metropolises on virtual maps or discovering the Arabic names most used in North Africa.
Online games allow you to improve your skills in the language of Ishmael and exercise your brain through training in memory, linguistic analysis, and Arabic phonetics.
On websites specializing in games in Arabic, several activities are offered to students:
- Memo-letters to work on your writing
- Memory games to learn colours
- Online activities to find out the names of animals in Arabic
- Calculator games to remember Arabic numerals
- Musical games to retain Arabic sounds
The main goal is to increase their final score each time: children will naturally remember Arabic terms and improve English-Arabic translation without realising it.
If you want your child to become bilingual in English and Arabic later on, it is important to start learning before the age of 10, since it is during this time that a man retains a new language best. Online educational games are, therefore, a gentle way to teach Arabic to the little ones!
3. Can we learn Arabic on videos?
Youtube now has dozens, if not hundreds, of videos inviting you to learn Arabic on video. Real teachers take the stage to offer you their lessons. It’s up to you to make your selection once again among this jungle of solutions and Arabic courses.
4. What about books specializing in learning Arabic?
After reviewing the tools that digital technology offers you (websites and apps), how do you feel about going back to the good old books method of learning Arabic?
Do you like it? So we take our eyes out of the screens to immerse them in a book recommended by many Arabic speakers for learning the language.
5. What about the trip?
One final solution for the more adventurous and explorers among you is that of learning Arabic abroad.
You may not have considered this possibility before, but why not try the experience of immersing yourself in an Arab country to learn the language there? A method that has always proven itself, whatever the language concerned.
Our advice: assimilate the basics of the Arabic language before leaving its alphabet and the letters’ pronunciation to progress more quickly! The goal here is not to start from 0 when you get there to save time.
Subsequently, whether in a job you have found or even in your social life there, you will be surrounded by Arabic speakers.
Bathing in a whole new linguistic environment in this way can only stimulate you and increase your ability to learn Arabic on your own.
There are many ways to travel abroad to learn Arabic. The shortest way is to go on vacation for a few weeks or to take a language course. If you decide to go alone, it can sometimes be complicated without an organisation, especially if you do not have any basic knowledge of Arabic. However, if you really go on your own, you will have one advantage: you are more open to new encounters.
Indeed, it is proven that leaving alone promotes meetings. Not only will locals come to you more easily, but you too will be more apt to strike up a conversation since you are not busy chatting with your friends. This will make learning faster.
You can also decide to move to an Arab country. For several months or several years, this kind of project allows you to take the time to learn the language. You will then immerse yourself completely in the culture, and this is a big plus for learning the language and all its specificities. This will allow you to speak fluent Arabic after a few months if you put in a real effort. In addition to increasing your language skills and acquiring local vocabulary that you wouldn’t learn in Arabic, you are bound to have a gratifying adventure.
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.
Learning the Arabic language by listening
All linguists will tell you: to learn a language, you must inevitably go through listening!
In its 2015 annual report on language learning, the Language Resource Center explains:
“Listening focused on detailed understanding will be more like a moment of study. The goal may be mastery of vocabulary and grammar or pronunciation and intonation. Many learning methods are accompanied by cassettes, CD-ROMs … and exercises of this listening. The Internet will provide you with some as well. “
You have understood it: to know the Arabic language well. You have to learn to listen attentively and not to grasp the general meaning of a work.
Find out what are the best hearing resources to improve your Arabic skills!
Arabic series for learning the language
In Arabic countries, series can be watched as a family: young and old get together to enjoy the television entertainment offered every evening by terrestrial or cable channels.
The period of Ramadan is particularly conducive to “binge-watching”: in the Maghreb, people spend on average 5 hours a day in front of their TV during this period, twice as long as the rest of the year.
For an improvement in the Arabic language, TV series are ideal!
Start by watching the series in VOST, remember the lines of dialogue, and understand general history. Gradually switch to the original version with Arabic subtitles to easily remember the writing of the terms used.
The most expert students can even do without the subtitles and enjoy the “show” without looking down! Series or films allow learners to study the language while having fun. By passionately following the characters’ intrigues, we undoubtedly learn more about the Maghreb traditions and the country’s customs!
Work on all aspects of the Arabic language
In the West, modern languages’ learning is done a great deal through written expression and comprehension. The high school program is particularly geared towards text study and analysis. Which surely makes us one of the worst countries in foreign languages. Because, in fact, when learning a language, you must not forget all the aspects of the language:
- Oral expression
- The written expression
- Oral comprehension
- The written expression
When you find yourself in front of an Arabic speaking person, you will not be able to take the time to write a text to give it to him. You will have to speak to him directly. And for the latter to understand you, it is essential to work on his pronunciation. This is an essential part of learning a language well. Some languages are obvious on paper, yet pronunciation can get really tricky.
If you are learning Arabic on your own, you have to find a good balance between learning to write and pronounce pronunciation. Do not hesitate to listen to Arabic radio or watch TV series to get your ear used to recognize certain words.
You can find a pen pal or go abroad or to polyglot cafes when it comes to speaking.
Go to polyglot cafes.
It is not always necessary to travel abroad to learn a foreign language. Some people do not have the means, or the inclination, to go abroad long enough to learn the Arabic language. It is then possible to go to polyglot cafes.
These cafes are mostly found in large cities. These are not cafes dedicated to language learning, but many more city cafes turn into polyglot coffee for an evening. Many people who speak English or speak a foreign language meet to discuss in Arabic or another language. Most of the time, a specific café hosts a language evening. The Irish pub will organize the English evening. The tapas bar will organize the Spanish language evening, etc.
Associations, often students program these evenings.
The advantage? Arabic speakers can practice English to progress, and English speakers practice Arabic.
The exchange system happens naturally. You may speak in Arabic, and that your interlocutor answers you in English. In this way, everyone can practise the foreign language they are learning. It is also possible that everyone speaks Arabic or English. There are no other rules than having a good time and taking the opportunity to progress and learn vocabulary.
You will thus make a friendly network and perhaps exchange regularly with people speaking Arabic.
To find this kind of party, go to Facebook to find an organizing group. The dates, times, and location will then be shared on social networks.
What is Modern Standard Arabic, and why should I study it?
Unless your interest is limited to a particular country, the safest option is to learn a version of the classical language known as Modern Standard Arabic.
It is used across the Arab world but is generally limited to writing: literature, newspapers, education, radio/television news programs, political speeches, etc.
What is Classical Arabic (Quranic), and why should I study it?
If your interest is more specific to Islamic or Medieval Arabic studies, then a Classical or Quranic Arabic course will meet your needs.
It is the Arabic used in the Holy Quran, the Arabic of religious, intellectual, legal and classical texts.
It is the basis of modern Arabic. For in-depth learning, it is, therefore, preferable to have notions of classical Arabic.
What is Dialectal Arabic, and why should I study it?
If you have decided to live in the Arabic world or visit a specific Arab region or country, don’t learn dialect Arabic.
It diverges strongly depending on the regions (Mesopotamia, Persian Gulf, Arab Egyptian etc …).
Dialectal Arabic is a vernacular language spoken daily. It can be transposed to:
“the expression of the appropriation of the language of the conqueror by the local populations, a process started from the earliest times of the expansion of Islam”.
If Arabic is not your mother tongue, we wish you Happy learning (“in sha Allah“)!
You now know everything you need to know to start learning the Arabic alphabet on your own. To learn more about how to learn Arabic, you can read our other articles.
You can also join intensive Arabic lessons with the al Madina centre in our institute in Madinah, KSA.