Classes for my graduate program start back up again in less than a week, which I suspect means that my days of focusing on Arabic are numbered (as well as my days of sleeping well, watching television, etc.) Oh Arabic! I don’t want to abandon you! This summer I’ve been able to spend many happy hours studying this language I love so much. I must say I haven’t studied very ambitiously, or aggressively, but I do know that I have progressed, and what’s more important, I’ve loved every minute of it.
As this summer draws to a close, I thought I would share with you some of the resources I’ve been using. A couple of caveats: first of all, like I said, I haven’t been studying aggressively, and I’m by no means an expert. If I’m being generous to myself, I’m sort of a high-beginner. So take what I say here for what it’s worth. Secondly, I am focusing exclusively on MSA. Eventually I do want to study dialects, but I wanted to have a really solid foundation in Modern Standard before I ventured out from there.
So, with that in mind, here are some of my resources!
- Mastering Arabic – I’ve flirted with a few different textbook lines, both in formal classrooms and on my own, and this one takes the cake. It is well-written, engaging, and clear; it’s also fun, with plenty of drawings and lighthearted practice, without any of the sacrifice of content that “fun” usually implies. The audio on the CD is also very clear, and the authors stick to MSA, while also offering the occasional note about how the grammar might look in truly classical Arabic. I’m almost done with Book 1, and I’m so happy they’ve come out with a Book 2 as well!
- Mastering Arabic Activity Book – I’m kind of obsessed with workbooks. I’m a visual learner, so I really like having a lot of written practice to help me solidify what I’m learning. I was thrilled to find that this textbook line offers a supplemental workbook.
- Easy Arabic Grammar – This is by the authors of the above two books, and it is absolutely perfect. If you are under the impression, as I was, that the words “easy” and “Arabic grammar” are contradictory, you need this book. It is so slim, just under 150 pages, but it makes everything crystal-clear and painless, and also includes some brief exercises. It’s a great supplement to any textbook, as well as just being a handy reference. (Obviously it does not cover every minute aspect of Arabic grammar, but it is perfect for what it is.)
- Build Your Arabic Vocabulary – Pretty straightforward. Lots and lots of vocabulary sensibly organized and well-presented. The words are presented in three columns: English, transliterated Arabic, and Arabic, and the audio CD reinforces the pronunciation, which is great for beginners. The little pre-made flashcards at the back are a little silly, way to teensy for me and they aren’t perforated, but I don’t mind because I learn better when I make my own flashcards anyway.
- Arabic Pod 101 – how on earth did it take me so long to discover language-learnng podcasts?? iTunes has a plethora of free ones, in every modern language and some not-modern ones, and I’ve been voraciously downloading ever since this discovery. For Arabic, this is my very favorite. The two narrators speak clearly and each dialogue is quite short, is repeated multiple times, and is usually interesting and topical (for instance, learning how to make restaurant reservations, or how to buy a ticket to the Olympics.) From what I can gather, most dialogues are MSA, but occasionally are Levantine or Saudi, and the narrators will be careful to point this out. There is an associated website with additional content, including lesson transcripts, for a small fee, which I have not yet tried.
- The Arabic Student – This is a really, really fabulous blog, by a fellow American Arabophile who is very generous with his lessons. Most of his content is in Levantine dialect, and is aimed at more intermediate-advanced learners, but he also occasionally posts MSA and beginner-friendly lessons, like this one for learning how to count and this one which features a simple Arabic proverb.
- Cairo: The City Victorious – Okay, so this isn’t strictly speaking a “language learning” resource, except in its motivational capacity :) This lovely book did absolutely nothing to de-exoticize Cairo to me, and did quite a lot to keep me wanting to plug away at learning Arabic!
So those are some of the things I’ve used as a student of Arabic language. I am lucky to be studying a global language with so many really quality resources out there. If you’re studying Arabic as well, I hope these suggestions have been helpful, and if you’re studying something else, I hope that maybe you’ve gotten some new ideas or at least inspiration!
And if you’re not studying any language…well, why the heck not? 🙂