Teacher’s tips for learning Arabic language — Part 1

Arabic is the 4th most spoken language in the world, with nearly 470 million people speaking it ‎worldwide. Learning a new language is always a big undertaking, but when the new language doesn’t ‎share a root with your native tongue, it’s even more difficult.‎

With any new language, there are keys to success in becoming fluent. You learn vocabulary, verb ‎conjugation, grammar, sentence structure, and then practice, practice, and practice. ‎

You immerse yourself in the new language. You may watch movies and listen to music in the new ‎language, speak it as well as you can as often as you can, and seek out native speakers and converse with ‎them.‎

Or at least that’s the idea. However, Arabic can present some unique challenges for new learners that can ‎slow the learning process down. ‎

Here are some examples:‎

‎1- Arabic uses new and strange alphabet.‎

‎2- There is no much shared vocabulary ‎المُفْرَدَات‎ between Arabic and Latin-based languages.‎

‎3- Arabic is a highly inflectional tongue.‎

‎4- There are 10 verb patterns and must be memorized for the active and passive voices.‎

‎5- Plurals ‎الجُمُوع‎ and their agreements with numbers are difficult compared to what are used to in Latin-‎based languages.‎

Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to make the learning conversational Arabic much easier. It ‎will take hard work, dedication, and time, but it’s certainly achievable.‎

Tip #01: You need to decide which Arabic you want to learn

Actually, there are many types of Arabic language. It is the mother tongue and official language of nearly ‎‎30 countries in the middle east and northern Africa. There are different accents. If you’re planning to ‎spend time in certain area, you’ll want to choose the accent of the people of that region.‎

Example the Egyptian Arabic ‎الدَارِجة المِصْرِيّة‎, which is the most widespread regional Arabic dialect ‎العَربِيّة ‏الدَّارِجَة‎ and is most often used in TV and Cinema.‎

However, you should consider learning Modern Standard Arabic ‎العَرَبِيّة الفُصْحَىٰ, the official language of 22 ‎Arab countries and one of the official languages of the United Nations ‎الأمُم المُتّحدة‎.‎

Tip #02: Start with the basics

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to learn Arabic by transcribing words instead of learning the Arabic ‎alphabet first. Think about how we learned English back in school. First, you learn your letters, then you ‎form those letters into words, then you learn how to form sentences, and then you learn more about ‎proper syntax and grammar. Taking shortcuts will only slow you down.‎

Tip #03: Learn to use the Arabic dictionary effectively

This is not as easy as it sounds. In an Arabic dictionary, words are generally organized around three-letter ‎or four root letters. To look up a word, you need to know what the root is and what letter the root starts ‎with – which is not necessarily the first letter in the word. ‎

Using the dictionary takes practice, but the sooner you learn it the better. It will make the entire learning ‎process easier and fruitful.‎

Tip #04: Immerse yourself in studying and practicing Arabic language

This is an important step in learning any Arabic language. The best way to learn a new Arabic word is to ‎see it, hear it, write it and speak it, so combine learning those skills as much as you can.‎

One of the most popular methods for beginners to learn a foreign language is to watch children’s TV ‎programs in the target language. The vocabulary ‎المُفْرَدَات‎ is simpler, and the educational nature of those ‎programs can be extremely helpful to new students of any age. ‎

Another method is to watch movies in the Arabic language with English subtitles on. That way you gain a ‎better “ear” for listening, and the subtitles give you the translation for what you’re hearing. ‎

Tip #05: Speak the language

It’s important that you converse in Arabic with other people. Actually, It could be difficult to find a ‎conversational partner if you’re not acquainted with native Arabic speakers. Thankfully, modern ‎technology like web and apps can do a lot to help you with this.‎

There are many Facebook groups you can join to learn Arabic language online, and it’s become much ‎easier to find tutors online who will coach you and help you in your learning journey. ‎

Tip #06: Never stop learning

It’s easy to start the journey of learning Arabic language, but the challenge is to continue. Mastering any ‎language requires years of study and learning Arabic language is not an exception, but gaining ‎conversation skills ‎مَهَارَات المُحَادَثَة‎ can be quickly if you dedicate yourself to the pursuit.‎Ready to start your journey of learning Arabic language? Try out our free App Aralingo. It will help you to ‎take your first steps to learn Arabic Right!

A list of Arabic proverbs & sayings

Proverbs are wise sayings about life. Arabic is the language of proverbs and sayings. Especially in dialects, people love to use proverbs which is a nice way to talk about certain things in life without mentioning it by name. Furthermore, you can express a whole chapter about moral teachings in a single line.

FAMOUS ARABIC PROVERBS AND SAYINGS:

1- Character, personality
2- Power
3- Revenge
4- Fate
5- Friendship
6- Business
7- Life

1- Character, personality
.السَّبْع سَبْع ولو في قَفَص

El sab’ sab’ walaw fi qafas means (literally): A lion is a lion even if in a cage.
Meaning: You can’t keep a good man down.

Someone with moral substance will remain so under duress. This saying is not very much in use, but listeners will get the drift if you use it. It is one of a genre of sayings that assert the innate worth of someone by repetition of the same epithet twice. In Egyptian Arabic, “el-Gada’ gada’” is another one that asserts that a “genuine person (is always) a genuine person.”

.أسد عليَّ وفي الحروب نعامة

You behave with me as if you were a lion, while in battle you are like a black ostrich (that flees even at the voice of a whistler.)

This is a famous line of the poet عِمْران بن حِطَّان (Imraan bin Hittaan).

Imraan (died: 703/84 AH) was an Arab poet who grew up in Basra (present-day Iraq). He was first a Sunni and is mentioned by Ibn Saʿd in the second class of the “followers” ( اَلتَّابِعُونَ‎ ) of Basra. It is said that he was converted by his wife to the doctrines of the Kharijites (الخوارج).

.إذا لم تكن ذئبًا أكلتك الذئاب

Be tough as a wolf lest wolves would eat you.

2- Power
.اللي له ضَهر ما ينضربش على بَطْنه

illi lu dahr ma-yindiribsh 3ala batnu) means one, who is strongly backed will not be struck in the belly.

It is a common Egyptian proverb that is often used in connection with police men. The wordضهر means back (of a human, animal). The Egyptian expression lu dahr (له ضهر) denotes he has backing; he has support.

Depending on the situation, the proverb may also express: The lone sheep is in danger of the wolf. (Chinese proverb)

3- Revenge
.على الباغي تَدور الدوائر

What goes around comes around. Or: Payback’s a bitch.

German: Wie du mir, so ich dir. Alles rächt sich irgendwann. Was man sät, das wird man ernten.

In general, the Arabic proverb says that oppressive people will be treated the same: that the status eventually returns to its original value after completing some sort of cycle.

4- Fate
.ساعة القدر يعمى البصر

Literally, ساعة القدر يعمى البصر (saa3at el-2dr ya3mee elbasr) means: When it is time for Fate (to be realized), (one’s) sight is blinded.

This is a very common proverb in Egypt. Meaning: No amount of wisdom can help one escape one’s fate. When time comes for a destined thing to happen, man can’t have much choice to change it. It’s mainly said with bad incidents that couldn’t be changed or avoided.

The verb عمى means to become blind; قدر means fate, destiny; thus, you may also hear: ساعة القضاء

An English translation may be: Accidents will happen in the best-regulated families.

5- Friendship
.أحذر عدوك مرة, وأحذر صديقك ألف مرة

Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.

.اختر الرفيق قبل الطريق

Choose the companion before the road/way.

It is a famous proverb that is common in many dialects as well. For example: دوّر على الرفيق قبل الطريق

6-Business
.أخلص النية وبات في البرية

Reached the goal and spent the night in the desert. General meaning: “The matter is first.”

In the Tatar language, it corresponds to a proverb that is identical in semantics:
Эш беткәч уйнарга ярый (Meaning: It’s okay to play when you’re done.)

7-Life
.الجعان يحلم بسوق العِيش

ig-ga3aan yihlam bi-suuq el-3eesh literally means the hungry man dreams of the bread market.

It denotes that one’s aspirations are determined by one’s needs.

The Arabic word عيش which literally means life is used in Egypt as the main word for bread.

It approximately means what the following Philippine proverbs denotes: There is no burnt rice to a hungry person. (Nothing comes wrong to a hungry man).

CEFR Levels: What they are and why they matter

In the language-learning community, we often hear other learners throw around certain terms when they’re talking about their level in a language.

“I speak German at a B1 level” or “I’m an A2 in Russian.”

But what do B1 and A2 mean?

These descriptors are skill levels in the CEFR system and they’re used by language learners to measure their ability in a language.

What are the Different CEFR Levels?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, often referred to as CEFR or CEFRL, is an international standard for working out your ability within a language. It was established by the Council of Europe and aims to validate language ability.

The six levels within the CEFR are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. With these levels, you can easily work out your ability in around 40 different languages.

The levels are often used casually by language learners to explain their ability at speaking, reading, writing and understanding a language. But there are also exams and certificates available to those who want to make their level official.

Let’s first take a look at what the different levels are and what’s possible for you at each level.

The “A” Levels: Basic User

A1 | Beginner

At the A1 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  1.  Understand and use very basic expressions to satisfy concrete needs.
  2.  Introduce themselves and ask others questions about personal details.
  3.  Interact simply as long as the other person speaks slowly and clearly.

A2 | Elementary

At the A2 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  1.  Understand frequently used expressions in most intermediate areas such as shopping, family, employment, etc.
  2.  Complete tasks that are routine and involve a direct exchange of information.
  3.  Describe matters of immediate need in simple terms.

The “B” Levels: Independent User

B1 | Intermediate

At the B1 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  1.  Understand points regarding family, work, school or leisure-related topics.
  2.  Deal with most travel situations in areas where the language is spoken.
  3.  Create simple texts on topics of personal interest.
  4.  Describe experiences, events, dreams, and ambitions, as well as opinions or plans in brief.

B2 | Upper Intermediate

At the B2 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  1.  Understand the main ideas of a complex text such as a technical piece related to their field.
  2.  Spontaneously interact without too much strain for either the learner or the native speaker.
  3.  Produce a detailed text on a wide range of subjects.

The “C” Levels: Proficient User

C1 | Advanced

At the C1 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  1.  Understand a wide range of longer and more demanding texts or conversations.
  2.  Express ideas without too much searching.
  3.  Effectively use the language for social, academic or professional situations.
  4.  Create well-structured and detailed texts on complex topics.

C2 | Proficiency

At the C2 CEFR level, a language learner can:

  1.  Understand almost everything read or heard with ease.
  2.  Summarize information from a variety of sources into a coherent presentation.
  3.  Express themselves using precise meaning in complex scenarios.

When do the Different CEFR Levels Matter?

The CEFR is often used by employers and in academic settings.

You may need a CEFR certificate for:

  1.  School admissions
  2.  University course requirements
  3.  Employment

A CEFR certificate is very handy for your CV or résumé, and they often don’t expire.

That said, many language learners use CEFR levels for self-assessment so that they can more clearly define what they need to work on, and work out what they would like to achieve in their target language.

Aiming for higher CEFR levels are also a great way to make the transition from an intermediate learner to an advanced learner, and Fluent in 3 Months founder Benny Lewis has used exams in the past to force himself to improve and refine his language skills.

If you’re looking for an extra push or for a way to break through a plateau, a language exam could be an effective way to do it. Motivation in language learning always matters.

When do CEFR Levels not Matter?

Outside of the professional or academic realm, CEFR levels are not as important. They’re really only necessary if you want to define where you’re at with your target language. In a more casual language-learning environment, or when you’re just learning languages because you enjoy them, then CEFR levels are just another tool to help with your language learning.

Sitting an exam requires a lot of study. If your goal is speaking a language, that time you spend reading, listening and writing to meet the exam requirements will be time you could have used to improve your speaking skills.

In the past I’ve done exams for German, French and Italian as well as the HSK exam for Mandarin Chinese. In preparation for all these exams, I had to study materials that were completely unrelated to my end goals for the languages.

So, if your language-learning goals do not align with the CEFR scale, and you don’t need a professional qualification, then you can safely ignore it.

How do You Work Out Your CEFR Level?

There are a few ways you can work out your CEFR level. Many learners opt for self-assessment, using the descriptions I shared above to gauge where they’re at.

For those looking for something a little more formal, you have the option of taking an official examination or a free online examination.

It’s worth noting that CEFR levels cover a variety of skills. A full CEFR exam typically measures skills in listening, reading abilities, speaking, writing, translating and interpreting. That’s why some learners segment their abilities, for example stating that their listening in a language is at a B2 level but their speaking is only at a B1 level. Others just average out their abilities and say that they’re at a B1 level overall.

CEFR Assessments and Tests Available

Some of your options for official examinations (or for courses with certification) include:

Alliance Française for French.

Goethe Institut for German.

Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge for Irish.

Instituto de Cervantes for Spanish.

CELI for Italian.

European Consortium for the Certificate of Attainment in Modern Languages for Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, and Spanish.

TELC for English, German, Turkish, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, and Arabic.

Πιστοποίηση Ελληνομάθειας for Modern Greek.

Language Testing International for multiple languages.

Lingoda for Spanish, French, German, and English.

ALTE for many other languages.

Online exams include:

Exam English for English.

Deutsche Welle for German.

Cambridge English Language Assessment for English.

Cambridge Institute for English, Spanish, German, and French.

Language Level for English Spanish, French, and German.

Macmillan Practice Online (paid) for English.

European Center for Modern Languages for self-assessment in a variety of languages.

Regardless of the exam you sit, language exams demand intensive study and are a great way to push your ability in a language to that next level.

What About You?

Did you ever sit an official exam whether it was based on the Common European Framework or not? How did you do?

How do you feel about using the CEFR scale to define your level in a language?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

And finally… One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.

Learning the 4 language skills plus the missing skill

When we learn a language, there are four skills that we need for complete ‎communication. When we learn our native language, we usually learn to listen first, ‎then to speak, then to read, and finally to write. ‎

These are called the four “language skills”. The five skills of language (also known as ‎the four skills of language learning) are a set of four capabilities that allow an ‎individual to comprehend and produce spoken language for proper and effective ‎interpersonal communication.

These skills are Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. In the context of first-‎language acquisition, the four skills are most often acquired in the order of listening ‎first, then speaking, then possibly reading and writing. For this reason, these ‎capabilities are often called LSRW skills.‎

1- Arabic Listening skill

We at Aralingo App believe that in order to speak Arabic well, ‎you must listen to Arabic well. Listening comprehension is a very ‎important skill in Arabic language learning. If you can achieve a ‎high level in comprehension, all other skills will follow.‎

Through listening, you can recognize the pattern Arabic ‎language follows and will be able to learn to speak Arabic ‎fluently and master the Arabic pronunciation skill. That’s why if ‎you focus and isolate a sound or some structure in the midst of ‎what you are listening to, you will able to retain the information ‎better and later you will be able to moving to be more confident ‎when speaking Arabic.‎

Without understanding input appropriately, learning Arabic ‎simply cannot get any improvement. In addition, without Arabic ‎listening skill, no communication can be achieved. Every study ‎conducted regarding language skills acquisition has proved that ‎when we communicate, we gain 45% of language competence ‎from listening, 30% from speaking, 15% from reading and 10% ‎from writing. This is particularly important when students want ‎to learn Arabic language, either Modern Standard Arabic or any ‎Arabic dialects.‎

Thus, listening Arabic precedes the action of when one might ‎want to learn to speak Arabic. That’s why Aralingo App offers ‎Arabic lessons and practices that develop the Arabic listening ‎skill, through the variety of professionally recorded lessons ‎including a huge variety of Arabic vocabulary.‎

‎2- Arabic Reading skill

Enhancing and developing the Arabic reading skill is important ‎as it enables us to comprehend the written equivalent of spoken ‎language. In the case of Arabic language, learn to read Arabic is ‎one of the first steps, along with Arabic writing. That’s why the ‎team of linguists behind Aralingo App noticed that the best way ‎to learn Arabic is by developing the Arabic reading skill along ‎with writing. ‎
When you start to learn to read Arabic, it actually helps with ‎developing Arabic language intuition in the correct form and ‎later on imitating the Arabic words and producing similar Arabic ‎sentences to express the desired Arabic meaning.‎

When you comprehend or understand written Arabic text, and ‎combine their understanding with prior knowledge, they are able ‎to identify simple facts presented in the script, make judgments ‎about the content of the written Arabic text and connect the ‎text to other written passages and situations. The possession ‎of a good Arabic reading skill will enable you to assimilate a ‎written piece of work within a short period while reading Arabic.‎

When you choose to learn Arabic, Aralingo App contains Arabic ‎reading exercises and lessons for every level from beginner ‎Arabic to advanced level.‎

‎3- Arabic Speaking Skill

Arabic Speaking is usually the skill that most Arabic language ‎learners wish to acquire as soon as possible, especially when ‎considering Arabic pronunciation. If you as an Arabic language ‎learner set your mind to learn to speak Arabic, this cannot be ‎achieved easily unless all the other Arabic skills are developed. ‎The best way to learn Arabic involves focusing on all skills at ‎once.‎

Nobody can read Arabic without writing Arabic first or speaking ‎Arabic before listening Arabic first. At the end of the day, all ‎these skills are connected, but the ultimate goal would be ‎acquiring fluent Arabic speech. Also, speaking Arabic used to be ‎the only language skill that was difficult to practice online. This ‎is no longer the case with the amazing Arabic learning app – ‎Aralingo App. The app contains 1000s of exercises and lessons ‎that ask the student to speak from the very beginning, based on ‎what she or he learned so far.‎

The Arabic speech recognition feature also shows how close the ‎speakers are to the natural Arabic pronunciation.‎

‎4- Arabic Writing Skill

Another desire you as an Arabic learner often express is to ‎acquire the ability and know how to write Arabic letters and ‎words. It helps understand the Arabic text and write Arabic ‎compositions, later on developing the ability to use the Arabic ‎language freely. When writing Arabic, you can gradually process ‎Arabic words, maybe even looking them up first before ‎transferring them onto paper or even a digital document.‎

With that, you’re also able to learn Arabic pronunciation and ‎spellings, and also learn basic Arabic words as you go. Once done, ‎you are advised to look back at your Arabic writing. Moreover, ‎writing Arabic is proven to be helpful in retaining information ‎because putting learning Arabic into practice is important for ‎cementing it in your mind. When writing Arabic, people put some ‎degree of thought into evaluating and ordering the information ‎that is being received.‎

That process is what helps fix ideas more firmly leading to a ‎greater recall. So, when you constantly practice Arabic writing, ‎you are less and less likely to forget what you’ve learned. Also, ‎the Aralingo App treats Arabic writing as a way to not just ‎applying knowledge, but also a tool to continually improve Arabic ‎vocabulary and Arabic sentence structure. Plus, you can also ‎practice Arabic reading skill with it!‎

‎5- The missing skill – Arab Culture Skill

If you want to learn Arabic language, you should realize that the ‎Arabic language is a way of communication that carries the Arab ‎culture. The things that people think are important, like family, ‎hospitality, social interactions and so on all deal with Arab ‎cultural values.‎

The knowledge of daily routines and behavior are all linked to ‎cultural behavior. On the other hand the development of ‎intercultural sensitivity and awareness, using the Arabic ‎language are linked to Arabic cultural skills.‎

A speaker cannot translate a native language word by word into ‎a target language or vice versa and meaning is carried through ‎the tone of voice of the speaker of a language; That’s why the ‎linguists who created Aralingo App came up with the idea of ‎introducing Arabic words and Arabic sentences that carry deep ‎Arab cultural meaning in Arabic language and with their Arabic ‎pronunciation.‎

Learning Arabic for beginners and advanced levels should ‎contain this important section (either separate or included ‎within other lessons) that helps you develop Arab cultural skills. ‎Arabic speaking is not enough if it’s not paired with intonation ‎or body language.‎
Aralingo App helps you to improve the 4 Arabic language skills ‎plus the missing 5th skill – Arab Culture Skill.‎

Get started today.‎

10+ Reasons to start learning Arabic language this week.

Maybe you are not sure if learning Arabic is really something for you. The following 10 points may help you get an idea:

1- Are you doing business with the Arab world?

The Arab countries are in the process of reforming and diversifying their economies. Business regulation is improved in order to make the economies more competitive and to attract entrepreneurs. In the Arabian Gulf, for example, huge investments are made in areas like construction, finance, telecom and tourism.

The size of the Middle Eastern economy as a whole has increased by
approximately 120% in the five year period from mid-2003 to mid-2008.
Egypt is on a path of vigorous economic growth. The Syrian economy is set on strong growth as a result of improved relations with the West.
Libya has come out of its long isolation, and is gradually opening up to foreign investment.

Knowledge of Arabic provides better insight into all aspects of business in the Arab World. The business culture in the Arab World is very much about building personal relationships of mutual trust. In this environment, knowledge of Arabic can be instrumental in fostering deeper business relations.

2- Are you into diplomatic or cultural relations?

Knowledge of Arabic is instrumental in building positive relationships of exchange with the Arab world.
The Arab World is moving towards a new era, characterized by more openness and liberalization.
Reforms aiming at more government transparency and increased public participation in decision-making, are beginning to change traditional patterns of governance.
This development benefits trade relations and cultural exchange with the Arab World. Knowledge of Arabic is an essential for anyone seeking profound understanding of the culture and thinking-patterns of the Arab world.

3- Do you often travel to the Arab world?

Arabs feel honoured when foreigners make an attempt to speak their language. Even a few phrases make a difference. Having sound knowledge of the language makes you a extra welcome and honoured guest.

Knowledge of Arabic gives you the opportunity to get closer to the locals and get better insight into their culture and traditions.

.. and wouldn’t it be nice if you were able to read and understand all written signs..?

4- Are you an expat in an Arab country?

Living in a country without being able to understand its language, can be frustrating. It makes you feel like a stranger, regardless of how long you stay.

If you are an expatriate in an Arab country, you have probably realised how much easier, and also enjoyable, your daily life would be if you knew how to read and speak Arabic.

5- Are you planning for a job in an Arab country?

With the Arab economies set on steady growth, professionals in various fields are in high demand.
Knowledge of Arabic can increase your chances of getting an interesting and rewarding job in an Arab country.

Examples of professions where knowledge of Arabic is desirable: Foreign Correspondent, Translator, Technical Engineer, Geologist, Banker, International Consultant, Foreign Service Officer, International Lawyer, Teacher, Researcher, Doctor, Nurse, Dentist, and Social Worker.

6- Are your activities related to Islam?

role in Islam. It is the language of the Quran, and the source language of Islamic jurisprudence and religious literature (read more by clicking on “What is the Role of Arabic in Islam?” in the sidebar).

The Quran in Arabic is the only version accepted as being “the Quran”. The meanings of the Quran can be translated to other languages, but these are only regarded as “translations of the meaning of the Quran”.

Arabic is the language of worship – prayers are read in Arabic, and the international greeting between Muslims is in Arabic. Non-Arab Muslims are encouraged to learn Arabic to enable them to read the Quran and improve their understanding of it.

Knowledge of Arabic is the best tool for both Muslims and Non-Muslims to understand what Islam is about. It also helps in building positive interaction with Muslim communities.

7- Do you have an interest in Arab culture and affairs?

“What would you like to drink?” A common question, and gesture of hospitality, in the Arab world.
Getting to the roots of Arab culture is best done through its most cherished treasure – the Arabic language.

The traditional hospitality of the Arabs, which visitors to the Arab world often have the pleasure to witness, becomes even more cordial when the guest shows an ambition to communicate in Arabic.
The guest is not expected to speak perfect Arabic, and it is the good intention that counts. Even a few words are appreciated.
Whether your contacts are social or business, knowledge of Arabic is likely to boost your status, and help foster trust and solid relationships.

8- Do you have Arab family members?

Maybe you have relatives or friends from an Arab country. Learning to communicate with Arab family members or friends in their own language can be both interesting and fun. It can add a whole new dimension to your life. It would enable you to better understand their emotions and thinking patterns. And you would surely benefit personally from the positive impact this would have on yourself.

9- Does your work involve contacts with Arab immigrant communities?

If your type of work includes contact with Arab immigrants, knowledge of Arabic can facilitate your work and improve relations between yourself and your clients.

10- Do you enjoy the challenge of learning new languages?

Maybe you are keen to learn a new language, but you want to try something different… something more exotic… a more “unusual” type of language…
Some simply start learning Arabic “for the heck of it”… Learning Arabic can be challenging, but the reward is great, once you begin to appreciate the unique beauty and richness of this great language.

Learn types of “speech” in Arabic language with examples.

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله

We’re going to dive into what is actually considered “speech” in Arabic. To start with, the definition in Arabic is:

الكَلامُ هُوَ اللَفْظُ المُرَكَّبُ المُفِيْدُ بِالوَضْعِ
كَلام (speech) is beneficial (مُفِيد), composite (مُرَكَّب) utterance (لَفْط), upon established rules (بالوضع).

The word كلام (kalaam) has two meanings, one in the the language, and one used in the science of grammar.

The linguistic كلام is whatever you get a benefit from because of it, whether it is an utterance or not (e.g. writing, drawing or pointing).
As for the كلام in the sense of grammar:
✔️ It must be an utterance
✔️ It must be composite
✔️ It must be beneficial
✔️ It must be set in the Arab way

“It must be an utterance”

It must be a sound that contains some of the alphabetical letters (ا through ي). Some examples are أحمد, يكتب, and سعيد. Each of these, when pronounced is a sound that contains four letters from the alphabet. Pointing, for example, is not called كلام by the grammarians because it doesn’t have sound, even if it called speech by the linguistic scholars because of the benefit attained by it,

“It must be composite”

It must be composed of two words or more. For example:

محمّد مُسافِرٌ – Muhammad is a traveler
العِلمُ نافِعٌ – Knowledge benefits
يَبلُغُ المُجتَهِد المَجدَ – The striver attains glory
لِكُلِّ مُجتَهِدٍ َنِصيبٌ – Every striver has a dividend
العِلمُ خَيرُ ما تَسعَى إلَيهِ – Knowledge is the best that you pursue

Each of these expressions is called “speech”, and each of them is composed of two or more words, as a single word is not called “speech” by the grammarians unless something else comes with it. This “something else” can be actual as in the previous examples. It can also be implied, as when someone says to you “Who is your brother?” and you say “Muhammad”. Then, this single word is considered as “speech” because the implication is “مُحَمَّدٌ أخِيْ” (Muhammad is my brother), as it is by implication three words.

“It must be beneficial”

It is appropriate for the speaker to pause such that the listener is not waiting for something else. If you were to say “إذا حَضَرَ الأُسْتاذُ” (“When the teacher comes…”), then this is not called speech, even if it was composed of three words because the listener is waiting for what you say after it (i.e. he’s thinking “What will happen when the teacher comes?”). If you were to say “إذا حَضَرَ الأُسْتاذُ أنْصَتَ التَلامِيْذُ” (“When the teacher comes, the students listen”), it becomes speech through attaining the full benefit.

“It must be set in the Arab way”

The words that are included in the speech are from the utterances that the Arabs have set for a specific meaning. For example, حَضَرَ is a word that the Arabs have set for a meaning (the occurrence of presence in the past tense). The Arabs have set the word مُحَمَّدٌ for a meaning, which is the entity of the person who named by this name. If you say “حَضَرَ مُحَمَّدٌ” (“Muhammad came”), it includes two words, each of which is from what the Arabs have set down. On the contrary, if you speak with speech from what the non-Arabs have put down, such as Persian, Turkish, Berber or a European language, then it is not called “speech” in the custom of the scholars of Arabic, even if the people of other languages call it that.

Examples of speech that fulfills all 4 of the conditions above:

الجَوُّ صَحوٌ – The weather is clear
البُستانُ مُثمِرٌ – The garden bears fruit
الهِلالُ ساطِعٌ – The crescent is shining
السَّماءُ صافِيَةٌ – The sky is clear
يُضِيءُ القَمَرُ لَيلاً – The moon lights up at night
يَنْجَحُ المُجْتَهِدُ – The one who strives will succeed
لا يُفْلِحُ الكَسُولُ – The lazy person will not be successful
لا إلَهَ إلا الله – There is no deity (worthy of worship) except Allah
مُحَمَّدٌ صَفْوَةُ المُرْسَلِينَ – Muhammad(S) is the elite of those sent
الله رَبُّنا – Allah is our Master
مُحَمّد نَبِيُّنا – Muhammad(S) is our prophet

Examples of single words

مُحَمّدٌ – Muhammad
إبراهِيمُ – Ibrahim
قامَ – He stood
مِنْ – from/of

Examples of speech that has more than 1 word but does not give a complete meaning:

مَدِينَةُ الإسْكَنْدَرِيُّة – The city of Alexandria (What about it??)
عَبْدُ اللهِ – The slave of Allah
حَضرَمَوتُ – Hadramaut
لَو أَنْصَفَ الناسُ – If the people were fair…
إذا جاءَ الشِتاءُ – When the winter comes… (What will happen when it comes??)
مَهْما أَخْفي المرائي – No matter how much the hypocrite hides…
أن طَلَعَتِ الشَمسُ – That the sun rises…

Questions to review

⃝ What is كلام (speech)?
⃝ What does it mean that it be an “utterance”?
⃝ What does it mean that it be “beneficial”?
⃝ What does it mean that it be “composite”?
⃝ What does it mean that it be set down in the Arab way?

Bring 5 examples that the grammarians would call “speech”

…. and you’ve just completed a lesson in Arabic studies. Maybe you saw some Arabic words that made you feel uncomfortable, but that’s okay. Things will become clearer in the next lessons إن شاء الله.

Until next time, السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

101+ ways to improve your Arabic language skills
— Part 07 —

In this post we still with the series of  101+ ways to improve your Arabic skills, I will try to highlight more methods that will be helpful to ‎you when you start learning Arabic language.

34. Read and learn everything.

At the opposite extreme, it can be hard work but very satisfying to get to the end of a book knowing that you have learnt every word in it. See other tips on this page to make sure it is a book that is easy enough to do this with and to ensure that the vocabulary you learn is useful.

35. Watching Arabic children’s films or TV programs.

Although some of the vocabulary you can learn from things made for children can be a bit strange (lots of animal names and maybe animal noises, including baby names for things), the fact that not only the language but the structure of the story is simplified can make it an easy and motivating thing to watch. Like good language learning materials, the same language is also often repeated to make it memorable, and the use of catchy songs etc. can increase this positive
effect on your memory.

36. Read Arabic children’s books.

This is very similar to watching Arabic children’s movies, but with the added advantage of there being more illustrations than adult books, which both helps you to understand the story and makes the page brighter and more motivating to read.

37. Keep a list of language to learn

e.g. a vocab list. Even if you don’t often find time to go though your vocab list and it keeps on building up, just the act of choosing which words you need to learn and writing them down on a special list can help you learn them.

38. Go through your vocab list several times every day.

If ticking off words on a vocabulary list on the train to work is inconvenient or embarrassing for you, you can keep your list of words to learn as an entry in your electronic dictionary, as a mobile phone to do list or as a text file in your MP3 player (e.g. iPod). Although the time spent transferring the information between different formats like these may seem wasted, in fact any time you spend using the vocabulary like this will help you learn it.

39. Convert your vocab list to Arabic only.

One way to stop yourself translating and therefore increase your speed of comprehension and production is to learn all your vocabulary without the use of your own first language. Ways you can write a vocab list in only Arabic include with synonyms (words with the same meaning, e.g. “tall” and “high”); with opposites (“high” and “low”); with pronunciation factors such as number of syllables (the number of beats, e.g. three for “de- ci- sion”) and the word stress (the syllable that is pronounced louder and longer, e.g. the second syllable in “baNAna”); and gapped sentences (e.g. “I am not ________________ in science fiction” for the word “interested”).

Arabic language tuition — Arabic class for and against.

One question I get asked frequently is about the optimal way to learn Arabic. Some people insist that you can’t really become fluent in the language if you don’t attend classes at some university or institute, while others say they don’t need any formal instruction at all.

The initial phase

I can only talk about my own experience and what works best for me when learning a new language. In general, I prefer to spend an initial phase of learning the language on my own, without any tutors, teachers or classes. In this initial phase I can get to know the language through some beginner textbooks designed for self-study. With languages such as Arabic, I can also learn the script during that phase.

Having a teacher correct me or having to listen to other learners in a class make mistakes and botch the pronunciation of the language are only a hindrance to me in acquiring a solid foundation in the language. Especially in the beginning, the speed of progress can be quite different for different learners and I find it frustrating that group instruction cannot account for that.

During the initial period I focus almost exclusively on listening and reading the language, not so much on producing the language myself.

After going through something like an Assimil or Teach Yourself course (or preferably more than one of such courses) in something like three or so months (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter), I am ready to apply my skills in an applied context. This means either going to a country where the language is spoken, signing up for class tuition or hiring a private tutor. Out of the three options, I prefer the first and the third, especially when they can be combined, i.e. a stay in the country where the language is spoken that includes some private tuition.

Disadvantages of Arabic classes

While I do sometimes find it enjoyable to be part of a group of people learning the target language, I feel that there are many drawbacks:

  • In a class tuition environment there is only one native speaker and several (sometimes up to 20) non-natives. The largest part of the lesson you will be listening to non-natives speaking the language, making mistakes and using incorrect intonation and pronunciation. Language is largely learned by imitation, so no surprise here that you will be copying the mistakes others make.
  • Progress can be too slow or too fast.
  • You are required to use language material and discuss topics you might have no interest in whatsoever. For instance, many advanced Arabic classes will discuss Arabic literature and poetry, but what if you simply aren’t interested in those areas, even in your native language?
  • Group classes almost always focus on grammar instruction. Don’t get me wrong, direct grammar instruction can be useful, but only in certain specific circumstances. For instance, often Arabic teachers will insist on teaching grammar terminology, e.g. maf3ool bihi, maf3ool fihi etc. But, why do I need to know the name of the grammatical concepts, rather than being able to use them spontaneously through having had enough exposure to them?
  • Group classes are often designed to make you dependent on them. What do I mean by that? Well, if you are using a book that mainly consists of exercises and does not provide any solutions, you will have to rely completely on the teacher. On the other hand, using material suitable for self-instruction (i.e. with more texts and solutions for any exercises) can make you independent.

Advantages of Arabic class tuition

Of course, learning Arabic in a class environment has its advantages too:

  • It can be fun to meet other like-minded people, who can be a source of motivation.
  • It might be informative to measure your own progress against that of your peers.
  • Usually, it’s much cheaper than one-on-one tuition.
  • You will learn to converse in Arabic with non-natives, developing a tolerance for slightly-off pronunciation and being accommodating to potential grammar mistakes etc.
  • At an upper-intermediate or advanced stage, you will likely benefit from discussions about mistakes your class mates make, as you already have a solid foundation and won’t be influenced as easily by the mistakes they make.
Overall, I feel that I profited much more from one-to-one tuition in my Arabic learning and made much quicker progress. More importantly, this form of learning allowed me to be pro-active in my language learning and enable me to include those topics in which I am interested.

What has your experience been learning Arabic?

Did you attend classes, use private tutors or learn by yourself? Which form do you prefer?

Arabic Short Vowels — What you need to know about it

Arabic Short Vowels (Tashkeel and Harakaat)

Arabic vocalization or تشكيل (tashkeel) is used to indicate the short vowels (a, i, u) that are usually not written in Arabic. There are three short vowel sings or حركات (harakaat) and a few more additional signs to indicate the absence of a vowel, the prolongation of an alif and the double pronunciation of a consonant. Let’s take a look at an example. Below is the Arabic word for “library” without short vowels:

“maktaba” without vowel signs

Were we to merely transcribe the letters that appear we would end up with <mktba> – the two short “a”-sounds are merely implied. The reader needs to know already that the word means “library” and that library is maktaba and not something else like muktiba or mikatuba.

So, what about the learner who just started out? Or the Arabic child who hasn’t mastered reading and writing yet? Here is where vocalization comes into play: through the short vowel and other signs any reader who knows the Arabic letters will be able to pronounce the word. Below is maktaba written with the short vowel signs added.

“maktaba” with vowels

As you can see there is now a small sign above the first letter from the right م (meem) that indicates a short <a>-sound. This little stroke is called “fatHa”. The next letter ك (kaaf) bears a symbol indicating that there is no short vowel at this point. This small circle is called “sukoon”. There is no sign above the fourth letter ب (baa’), because it is followed by a ة (taa’ marbooTa) that is pronounced as an “a”-sound in any case.

Below is a table summarizing the short vowel sings.

Sign Name Sound
بَ FatHa — فتحة a
بِ Kasra — كسرة i
بُ Damma — ضمة u
بّ Shadda — شدة doubles the letter underneath
بْ Sukoon — سكون no sound
آ Madda — مَدة prolongs the <a>-sound of the alif.

Should I use vocalization in my Arabic studies?

Some teachers insist that it is best to start learning Arabic without recourse to vocalized texts. Their reasoning is that almost all Arabic writing in real life comes without the short vowels and that it is therefore better to get used to reading unvowelled texts from the get go.

On the other hand, even Arab children start out by reading vowelled texts and continue to do so for a long time at school. I’ve seen textbooks for Arab kids in grade six and they still vocalize almost every word. It seems like it could take quite a while to build up the knowledge of words and grammar before children are capable of doing without the harakaat.

My personal take on this debate is that Arabic learners should pursue a double strategy. A text for study should first be read with all the vowel signs in place and repeated until the student has assimilated the pronunciation of all the words. In the next step, one can proceed to a version of the same text that lacks the short vowels. It should now be possible to read this version with the same confidence as the vowelled text.

An undoubted benefit of using fully vowelled texts is that the grammatical concepts are much easier to grasp, because all the endings are evident. To give you an example of this consider the following sentence, meaning “the weather was good”:

“The weather was nice” with no vowel signs

Without vocalization it is not immediately clear to the Arabic learner what case الطقس takes. Is it nominative or accusative? However, when the same sentence is vocalized, this becomes immediately obvious:

“The weather was nice” with vowel signs

Now we know that it’s al-Taqsu and not al-Taqsa.

While this might not seem important to some Arabic learners, these little details do make a difference, especially when the context of communication gets more educated.

So in conclusion: Do both! Vowelled and unvowelled material is both important.

Arabic Alphabet —‏‎ Three Problems & Solutions

The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters – only two more than the English alphabet. So what makes the Arabic alphabet so difficult to learn for beginning Arabic students?

There are a number of reasons for this. I explain the three most common problems and show you how to overcome them.

Problem 1: Arabic letters are different

The most important reason is probably that the letters of the Arabic alphabet do not look anything like our letters. We have not been exposed to the intricate Arabic shapes before, so there is nothing stored in our brains with which to associate the letters. Many Arabic learners who just start out get increasingly frustrated as they try to memorize the shapes of some new Arabic letter just to discover that they have forgotten the shape of the Arabic letters they had learned before.

Solution:

You need to find something familiar that you can relate the new shapes and sounds to. I developed a method that does just that. In my book The Magic Key To The Arabic Alphabet I give you a memory image (mnemonic) for each of the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet that will help you remember those shapes and associate them with their sounds without need for rote learning.

Problem 2: Short vowels are not written

In the Arabic script the short vowels, such as “a”, “i”, and “u” are not usually written. So a word like “could” would be written as just “cd” and a word such as “think” would be “thnk”. This can cause a lot of problems, especially early on when you stil don’t know that many Arabic words. For example, the letters “ktb” could mean “he wrote” or “book”, depending on the missing short vowels.

Solution:

Start with familiar words first. Using the unique method in my book you will be writing English words using the Arabic alphabet letters first until you are completely comfortable with the Arabic script. Only then will I teach you how to write Arabic words. This way you will learn the Arabic alphabet much faster than with traditional methods.

Problem 3: Arabic letters change their shape

The Arabic letters change their shapes according to whether or not they are connected to adjoining letters. Sometimes the changes are so drastic that it seems that there is hardly any relationships between the two shapes. This can be extremely confusing.

Solution:

The key is to understand why the Arabic letters change their shapes when they are connected to adjoining letters. And contrary to what many Arabic teachers will have you believe, there really are logical reasons for why the shapes change. For example, the letter “meem” (م) has a very long “tail”. But, it would be difficult to connect “meem” to another letter on the left if the tail was kept. So it’s only logical that the tail would be cut to make it easier to join with the next letter. In my book I show you exactly how the shapes of the letters of the Arabic alphabet change and why.

Learning the Arabic alphabet is easy with the right method.

So, in conclusion, while the Arabic alphabet really does have its difficulties, I strongly believe that with the right method anyone can learn to read and write Arabic and master the Arabic alphabet. So, check out my book on the Arabic alphabet.

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