Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Must Haves: An Arabic-English Lexicon! FREE!

Ahlan wa Sahlan,

By far the most vast piece of work on the Arabic language. This Lexicon will provide you with detailed information on not only the meanings of words but the history behind them. It goes into tremendous detail and is one of the works which every serious student of the Arabic language must have. It was compiled by the Orientalist Edward William Lane in the 19th century and continues to be a priceless addition to any Arabic students library.

Prof. A.J. Arberry, who has translated the Quran, says, "It (Lane's Lexicon) is a work of such fundamental importance and of such matchless excellence that praise for it is quite superfluous. Every Arabist since Lane has had good cause to bless him for his superhuman labours ... It is certainly true to say that every work produces in this century relating in any way to Arabic studies has drawn heavily on the Lexicon."

You can download this work which has made understanding the language so much easier for English speakers at the following link:

You can also read it online here:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Must Have References for the Arabic Student 2!

Ahlan wa Sahlan,

Another great and wonderful reference for every English speaking Arabic student is W.Wright's A Grammar of the Arabic Language. I am lucky enough to have found a 2 volume cheap printing (very readable) in Pakistan published by Darul-Ishaat. The original is published by Cambridge University Press in 1896. It is, as it says, "translated from the German of Caspari and edited with numerous additions and corrections."

What is it? It is a complete reference for pretty much all you will have to know, and all you won't, concerning Arabic grammar. One of the greatest benefits I have attained from this reference is understanding the differences the various forms of the verb create in the meaning. As students of the language know there are commonly ten variations of most verbs. This reference explains in great detail what effect each variation has on the meaning of the original root word.

Being a two volume work you can be sure the knowledge contained within is plenty to keep you busy for a few years! The great thing is it is available for download at the following link!

Keep coming back for more useful references, lessons and various other discussions!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Importance of Arabic in Understanding Modern Politics

Ahlan wa Sahlan,

We all have our reasons for learning the Arabic language. For many Muslims the main goal is to understand their holy scripture the Quran and to study their religion in its original language by being able to read the sources. For many non-Muslims in the field of comparative religions, it is almost similar. Those interested in Near Eastern Studies or Middle Eastern politics also need to be able to understand and communicate in Arabic for their respective fields. But what about the average student like many of you? What are other benefits that Muslims, non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs alike can get from the language?

Getting a better understanding of the world around them! In these times the Middle East in general, and the Arab world in particular, is making the headlines on almost every network. How can you be sure that what you are hearing is that whole truth or the entire story? The truth is you can't! Unless you are a student of the Arabic language. You have the ability to search out the Arabic sources on the Web and compare what your own media sources in your country are saying compared to what those in the concerned country are! You can also read what the people who are making the news are thinking as many of them will be communicating in Arabic! 

Learning the language has countless benefits and making yourself into a more cultured, educated and open-minded individual is one of them. If you are in the beginning of your journey, know that you have lots to gain with your efforts, much more than any short-term or specific goal you have set. If you are speaking the language and can understand it with the help of a dictionary, look up the popular Arabic media sites and read, read, READ!

For more on what is going on in Egypt check out the Practical Muslims blog!

To help you out I've gathered a few links to get you started: - Al-Jazeera Arabic (Yes it is an actual news network and is more reliable than you think!) - Al Hayat. Beirut-based pan-Arabian newspaper providing in-depth reporting on the Middle East and the Arab world. - ANN - Arab News Network.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Must Have Resources for Arabic Students!

Ahlan wa Sahlan!

The serious Arabic student is willing to make the most out of anything he can get. Especially if that 'what you can get' is totally FREE! That's right. There are so many FREE resources on the web for the Arabic student that its actually an overload! From websites that will offer you how to say specific vocabulary like medical and political to actual books available for download written by professional Arabic teachers.

I'll share with you from time to time some useful resources that you can make the most of on your journey through the Arabic language. The first one I want to share with you is a wonderful website providing tons of vocabulary on various subjects ranging from the simple animals to the more complex medical, geography and media and arts! It is a wonderful resource for you to learn more words and it also contains various phrases and figures of speech that could be of use!

Check out:

Keep checking back for more Arabic lessons and useful resources!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Arabic Learning Process

Ahlan wa Sahlan,

There are many approaches and methodologies when it comes to learning a language, however some are far better than others when it comes to effectiveness. There is no doubt that when choosing a methodology you take into account the process in each one. Many people can learn better through certain ways than others and not every way suits everyone as a whole. I myself, in my efforts to learn the Arabic language have tried various approaches and would like to talk about them and their pros and cons.

IMPORTANT: The names of these approaches are not ''official'' but are my representations of what they are.

1. The Grammatical Approach
In this methodology the idea is learn the grammar and you understand how the language is supposed to work. After this process you can learn as many words and phrases as you want since you will be able to put them together in the proper way to form sentences, phrases and even write documents. This method does work and is taught mainly at University levels where the aim is to make the student understand how the language works.

Pros: good understanding of grammar, good understanding of how language works, learning the difference between the language as a standard and various colloquial uses

Cons: does not provide enough emphasis on the ability to speak, vocabulary does not become vast enough for everyday use, takes a lot of time to learn, can be difficult especially for those new to the language, heavy dependence on use of dictionaries.

2. Specific Area Language Learning
In this methodology you learn the vocabulary of a particular field of study that you wish to understand. For me, it was Islamic Arabic vocabulary. This process is very successful in teaching you the vocabulary of the specific knowledge field you wish to read and understand. This process is also used for those wanting to understand Islamic History and other fields related to Islamic knowledge, mainly the Quran.

Pros: field specific vocabulary enough to understand 80 to 90% without the need for a dictionary, provides basic knowledge of grammar, through understanding the language of even a specific field a basic understanding of how the language works is provided, learning speed is dependent upon individual effort.

Cons: almost no focus on spoken so communication ability is not strong, deep understanding of how the language works is lacking and is found much more in the first methodology, requires time to repeat and memorize the vocabulary words, self study courses can be harmful if no teacher is available

3. The Natural Approach
I call this the natural approach because this methodology teaches the new language in the same manner we learned our mother tongue. It depends heavily on listening and watching a speaker speaking and acting as he speaks. For example teaching the word 'jump' would be done by saying 'jump' while jumping. This is by far the most successful approach as will be clarified in the pros and cons.

Pros: heavy emphasis on speaking ability and building the confidence to do so, vast vocabulary for everyday usage, the ability to focus on a specific field and build a vast vocabulary through reading & learning that field in the language, the ability to be almost dictionary free even during the learning process, quickest approach for learning the language, memorizing vocabulary is easy as it is done though a natural audio, visual process that we are used to in our everyday lives, provides an excellent understanding of how the language works though usage and experience

Cons: does not provide deep understanding of grammar and the student must spend extra time in this regard, if not used and practiced often can lead to forgetting what is learned,

All of these, and other approaches, can be successful in learning the language if you keep in mind the pros and cons and work to do away with the cons. My learning process was in this very order and I actually found that the first two methods prepared me to understand easily the natural method as I was able to pick up on the beginner and intermediate levels fairly easily due to previously having understood how the language works through the grammatical method.

Everyone is different and not everything suits us all. Do not take any method for granted but take it as experience. Every method will give you benefit and if you choose to move on to another one you will find that the previous one will benefit you and ease the process in the next. There is no set order to move through these methods if you wish to and some people are able to master the language by just one as well.

It is my opinion and experience not only with myself but with my peers as well that the third method, the natural approach, is the best and fastest way for new comers and those with experience with the language to learn the language as a language.