As a native speaker in an Arabic-speaking country, I was asked a few times by non-natives who came to Saudi Arabia either to work or in a vacation: How can I learn Arabic? Is it possible to master the Arabic language? I am interested in the Arabic language, where do I start?
Well, First: Answer this question: Why do you want to learn Arabic?
Defining your main goal behind learning the Arabic language will defiantly mark a huge difference in the amount of time you will spend learning it. For example:
- Are you moving to an Arabic-speaking country? For work? A vacation?
- Is it an interest in the language/culture which pushed you to pursue learning the Arabic language?
- Do you want to learn Arabic to communicate and understand people in Arabic countries? Just for fun?
Your answer will set the road towards your Arabic language acquisition journey. For example, if your objective is solely to communicate with your colleagues at work, you can manage by learning the most common phrases and words used in your workplace and field.
If your interest is to write and read in Arabic as well, you will have to tackle the grammar, Arabic verb conjugation, Arabic alphabet, pronunciation, etc…
Second: Pick your Dialect!
There are nearly 25 countries that claim the Arabic language as the official language, which explains why it is considered to be one of the most widely spoken languages. That also explains why the Arabic language has many varieties and dialects.
You should first be familiar with what kind of variation are you interested in: Egyptian Arabic, Gulf Arabic, Levantine Arabic, etc…
Learning Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) would be suggested if you want to learn how to read in Arabic. While MSA is not used as a spoken language, in the Arab world it is still the official language and is used mainly in writing and formal settings. However, when it comes to spoken, every-day-to-day life Arabic, it is better to stick to the variant you are interested in the most.
Third: As obvious as it is, Alphabets:
The alphabets in Arabic are called (al-abjadiyah), and it contains 28 letters. I noticed that a lot of people tend to stick with transliteration at the beginning of their journey, I understand, it is much easier that way. However, it is not really sufficient as the pronunciation of Arabic words and letters cannot be figured out depending solely on transliteration.
The best way to learn the Arabic alphabet is to have quality material, listen to audios to help you get a grasp of the pronunciation
Fourth: Immerse yourself in the world of your target dialect:
At your starting point, just sitting around natives and listening to them speaking would do. I cannot stress that enough, being around native speakers, listening to audios made by natives, watching Arabic shows in your target dialect is the wisest move. This will help adjust your ears and mind to normalize the Arabic language and ease it in other aspects of learning the Arabic language.
Fifth: Practice, practice, and MORE practice!
Especially when it comes to speaking the language, memorizing words and phrases, learning the alphabet, grammar, Arabic verb conjugation, and pronunciation will not be enough to master speaking the language.
Instead, make sure to involve yourself with native speakers, have hours and hours of conversations with them. Ask them for word meanings if you stumble over a word you do not understand, observe how they apply the knowledge you gained into real-life situations.