Beverly Hills Lingual Insitute
Beverly Hills Lingual Insitute
Beverly Hills Lingual Insitute
Beverly Hills Lingual Insitute

Blog   |   Language, Learning and Culture

Classes in More than 25 Languages return to blog index

The Challenges of Learning Arabic

First, the good news. Unlike Chinese, which draws from a set of thousands of characters, Arabic has an alphabet. The alphabet itself is not difficult to learn to read, and to write - even right-to-left. There are just twenty-eight letters.

It has been said, too, that those good at math can conquer Arabic grammar. Related words are often simply different forms derived from the same root. If you know that "kataba" means "to write," you may deduce that "kitaab" means "book" and "kaatib" means "writer." Once one knows the forms, rudimentary Arabic can be similar to algebra – itself an Arabic word, from "al-jabr," meaning "reunion of broken parts."

The challenge begins when you realize that most of those twenty-eight letters have four different forms, depending on whether they stand alone or come at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. Verbs, too, are tricky, even as Arabic has just two verb tenses. Although the verb system is simpler than those of other languages like Spanish, the language has different endings (or prefixes) for the different forms.

Many masculine nouns have plurals that don't follow a simple rule (like adding "s" in English). Number-noun agreement is also somewhat complex, with all sorts of different rules depending on the number.

Vocabulary can be tough for learners with an Indo-European language background. Arabic belongs to the Semitic family, which includes Hebrew, Amharic, and Aramaic. These languages have few cognates with English.

The cursive Arabic script may make words look impenetrable to the uninitiated reader. A particularly demanding aspect of Arabic script is that in Arabic, as in Hebrew, short vowels are not included when writing. Beginner's textbooks annotate these vowels as little marks above and below, but moving beyond them requires being able to see whole words at a time.

Finally, there are major differences between written and spoken Arabic, with no universally agreed method of transliterating Arabic into English. Extra care has to be taken with pronunciation.

The written language is taken from the Classical Arabic used in scripture. It has today been updated to Modern Standard Arabic, or "fus-ha" (literally, "the purest"). The distinction between the two is akin to that between the English of Shakespeare and a modern newspaper.

However, no native speakers actually use Modern Standard Arabic.

Traveling through all twenty-six countries which speak Arabic natively, almost four hundred million people in the Arab world will understand you; but you, in turn, might find it hard to comprehend their replies.

If, as the British Council cautions, you try speaking "fu-sha" in the souq, unless you can throw in the odd bit of colloquial Arabic to pitch yourself at the right register, you risk coming across as though chatting to Cretian locals in Ancient Greek.

Indeed, spoken Arabic has evolved constantly into a variety of dialects. Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian Arabic dialects are full of French words. All spoken Arabic is colloquial, so that while Arabs from Morocco and Syria could read each other's newspapers, they may have trouble carrying out an intelligible conversation.

Travel phrase-books tend to use Egyptian Arabic, which is understood throughout the Arab world due to Egypt's prodigious output of films, television programs, and music. This does not always make for smooth conversation.

A visitor to Sudan, for instance, might refer to a camel as "gamal." However, the "g" in Egypt is pronounced as a soft "j" in Sudan. Hence, to the Sudanese, the camel is "jamal."

What Did Helvetica Tell You Today?

What Did Helvetica Tell You Today?

2017-09-25

Spanish Shark, Korean Coup

Spanish Shark, Korean Coup

2017-09-22

Filibustering, Gerrymandering Lame Ducks

Filibustering, Gerrymandering Lame Ducks

2017-09-21

Learning Language is Child's Play

Learning Language is Child's Play

2017-09-20

Nostalgic for a Friendlier Future

Nostalgic for a Friendlier Future

2017-09-19

Language as Jazz

Language as Jazz

2017-08-25

It's All Polish To Me

It's All Polish To Me

2017-08-24

Boas Noticias - You Know 40 Portuguese Words

Boas Noticias - You Know 40 Portuguese Words

2017-08-21

Farsi is Sugar

Farsi is Sugar

2017-08-18

76 Common Verbs for Dutch Learners

76 Common Verbs for Dutch Learners

2017-08-10

Which Are the 'Easy' and 'Hard' Languages?

Which Are the 'Easy' and 'Hard' Languages?

2017-08-09

So You Want to Learn Hindi?

So You Want to Learn Hindi?

2017-08-08

Ingrid Bergman on Language

Ingrid Bergman on Language

2017-08-07

The Origin of Lean Production

The Origin of Lean Production

2017-08-04

The Secret to Reading Japanese

The Secret to Reading Japanese

2017-08-03

Losing the War One Slide at a Time

Losing the War One Slide at a Time

2017-08-02

British car, Japanese origins, French fans, unsure Germans

British car, Japanese origins, French fans, unsure Germans

2017-08-01

Blowin' in the Wind

Blowin' in the Wind

2017-07-31

Getting Around

Getting Around

2017-07-28

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie

2017-07-27

Choosing a Language to Learn

Choosing a Language to Learn

2017-07-26

Are You a Dog or Cat Person?

Are You a Dog or Cat Person?

2017-07-25

The First Volvo

The First Volvo

2017-07-24

Improve Your Public Speaking

Improve Your Public Speaking

2017-07-21

Where Did I Come From?

Where Did I Come From?

2017-07-20

Happy Emoji Day

Happy Emoji Day

2017-07-17

Czech Out the First Robots

Czech Out the First Robots

2017-07-14

Local Tastes, Global Image

Local Tastes, Global Image

2017-07-13

Mind Your Grammar

Mind Your Grammar

2017-07-12

Lipstick is Always a Good Idea

Lipstick is Always a Good Idea

2017-07-11

Is this a BMW?

Is this a BMW?

2017-07-10

Whose Pasta is it, Anyway?

Whose Pasta is it, Anyway?

2017-07-07

Learn French - The Language of Diplomacy

Learn French - The Language of Diplomacy

2017-06-29

How Many German Words Do You Know?

How Many German Words Do You Know?

2017-06-23

East Germany's Trabant People's Car - a Reprieve

East Germany's Trabant People's Car - a Reprieve

2017-06-22

Como agua para chocolate

Como agua para chocolate

2017-06-21

Traveling Tips

Traveling Tips

2017-06-20

You Know More Spanish Than You Might Think

You Know More Spanish Than You Might Think

2017-06-19

Happy Birthday, Peugeot 405

Happy Birthday, Peugeot 405

2017-06-16

I Love Daddy

I Love Daddy

2017-06-15

You Know at least 78 Words in French

You Know at least 78 Words in French

2017-06-14

The Challenges of International Marketing Research

The Challenges of International Marketing Research

2017-06-13

Volvo wants Engineers, and they want Volvo

Volvo wants Engineers, and they want Volvo

2017-06-12

Reasons Our Students Choose Italian

Reasons Our Students Choose Italian

2017-06-09

We'll Bring the Coffee

We'll Bring the Coffee

2017-06-08

All Things French: Fashion Capital of the World

All Things French: Fashion Capital of the World

2017-06-07

Why is Having a Bilingual Brain a Benefit?

Why is Having a Bilingual Brain a Benefit?

2017-06-06

Spain's Youthful SEAT Car Brand

Spain's Youthful SEAT Car Brand

2017-06-05

A Guide to Summer Shopping in Italy

A Guide to Summer Shopping in Italy

2017-06-02

The Challenges of Learning Arabic

The Challenges of Learning Arabic

2017-06-01

Pick-ups Over Here, Hatchbacks Over There

Pick-ups Over Here, Hatchbacks Over There

2017-05-31

Tulipmania

Tulipmania

2017-05-30

Saving Hebrew

Saving Hebrew

2017-05-29

The First Modern Hatchback

The First Modern Hatchback

2017-05-26

Keeper of the Bridge

Keeper of the Bridge

2017-05-25

The Anti-Pensioner Volvo

The Anti-Pensioner Volvo

2017-05-24

Introduction to the Philippines

Introduction to the Philippines

2017-05-23

Where Women Brew the Village Beer

Where Women Brew the Village Beer

2017-05-19

Bewitchingly Flawed

Bewitchingly Flawed

2017-05-18

Just the Happy Country Songs, Please. We're Japanese

Just the Happy Country Songs, Please. We're Japanese

2017-05-17

Japan's Caprice

Japan's Caprice

2017-05-16

The First Martians

The First Martians

2017-05-15

Dolma or Tolma?

Dolma or Tolma?

2017-05-12

Jetta: Hip to be Square

Jetta: Hip to be Square

2017-05-11

Speisen wie Gott in Frankreich: Wiener Schnitzel

Speisen wie Gott in Frankreich: Wiener Schnitzel

2017-05-10

The Big-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride

The Big-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride

2017-05-09

Dutch in Paradise

Dutch in Paradise

2017-05-08

The World Envies Us for One Thing

The World Envies Us for One Thing

2017-05-05

Nyusu Flash: You Know 26 Words in Korean

Nyusu Flash: You Know 26 Words in Korean

2017-05-04

La Tour Eiffel: Ça, c'est Paris!

La Tour Eiffel: Ça, c'est Paris!

2017-05-03

When I See an Alfa Romeo go by, I Tip my Hat

When I See an Alfa Romeo go by, I Tip my Hat

2017-05-02

How Does the Bilingual Brain Work?

How Does the Bilingual Brain Work?

2015-08-19

Reasons to Learn Italian

Reasons to Learn Italian

2015-03-24

Reasons to Learn French

Reasons to Learn French

2015-02-27

3 Unbelievable Spanish-Speaking Travel Hotspots

3 Unbelievable Spanish-Speaking Travel Hotspots

2015-01-14

10 of the Weirdest International Slang Phrases

10 of the Weirdest International Slang Phrases

2014-12-17

How Bilingualism Improves Your Health

How Bilingualism Improves Your Health

2014-10-14

Why You Should Learn a Language Today

Why You Should Learn a Language Today

2014-07-16

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

2014-07-10

Why Adults are Better Language Learners than Children

Why Adults are Better Language Learners than Children

2014-07-01

How the Brain Benefits from Being Bilingual - Infographic

How the Brain Benefits from Being Bilingual - Infographic

2014-01-15

A Proven Approach to Language Lessons

A Proven Approach to Language Lessons

2013-12-23

Top Quality Spanish Teachers

Top Quality Spanish Teachers

2013-12-23

Affordable French Lessons of the Highest Quality

Affordable French Lessons of the Highest Quality

2013-12-23

A Better Way to Learn Italian

A Better Way to Learn Italian

2013-12-23

High Quality Spanish Courses

High Quality Spanish Courses

2013-12-23

Italian School

Italian School

2013-12-23

Top Quality French Teachers

Top Quality French Teachers

2013-12-23

Finding the Best Language School

Finding the Best Language School

2013-12-23

Italian Tutors

Italian Tutors

2013-12-23

New Year's Resolution

New Year's Resolution

2012-12-12