Lingua Critic - Arabic

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Nancy Ajram

Arabic is a Central Semitic language, thus related to and classified alongside other Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Syriac. In terms of speakers, Arabic is the largest member of the Semitic language family. It is spoken by more than 280 million people as a first language and by 250 million more as a second language. Most native speakers live in the Middle East and North Africa. Different spoken varieties of Arabic exist and differ according to region. Not all of the varieties are mutually intelligible and speakers may use a sort of medial language with features common to most Arabic varieties to communicate with speakers of mutually unintelligible varieties. Standard Arabic is widely taught in schools, universities, and used in the office and the media.

Arabic has lent many words to other languages of the Islamic world. During the Middle Ages, Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. As a result, many European languages have also borrowed numerous words from it. Arabic influence is seen in Mediterranean languages, particularly Spanish, Portuguese, Maltese, and Sicilian, due to both the proximity of European and Arab civilization and 700 years of Arab rule in the Iberian peninsula.

Arabic has also borrowed words from many languages, including Hebrew, Persian and Syriac in early centuries, and contemporary European languages in modern times.

Michel Thomas ( by Michel Thomas)  No memorizing, no text books, no drills, no homework!
Due to popular demand the Michel Thomas institute has done a great job in teaching Arabic in a way that is easily understood. The narrators are Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar, who compliment each other very well and Mahmoud gives that final edge on the pronunciations. As with all Foundation and Advanced Michel Thomas courses, there are two students (male and female) who are learning from scratch and make mistakes which can sometimes annoy you. That said this would be the very best start to learning Arabic. The courses are all audio. Please also look at the reviews others have given. There is now an Advanced course.
 

Assimil Arabic With Ease ( by Assimil) 
Assimil has a glowing reputation for language learning based on their simple two fold approach. The first stage is known as "Passive Learning" which requires you to listen to the lesson, say it aloud (or to yourself) so you get pronunciation right and then to follow it again using the translation conveniently written directly opposite. The second stage is called "Active Phase" and starts approximately half way thorough the book. At this time you carry on doing the Passive phase (daily) then you revert back to the first lesson and translate it yourself without looking at the translation. It is more effective if you approach this as a written exercise rather than trying to recall it in your mind only. Then you do your next passive lesson and go to the second lesson of the book to translate and so on.... Don't worry, though, the instructions are clear and you won't go wrong. You need to do one lesson a day (also a translation when you reach that second stage which adds another half an hour). The dialogues are expertly written and played out by professional voice actors of the country. They are lively and humorous and keep your interest. The lessons are ordered so you build gradually on what you have learnt. Don't be tempted to do more than one lesson a day, there is a reason why its "little and often" so to maximise your learning capability. This is an approach that will take at least 6 months to complete and by then you will acquire a level of understanding comparable to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.  The lessons/stories are different for each language.

 

Mastering Arabic ( by Palgrave Macmillan) 
Mastering Arabic is produced in the same way as other languages from the Mastering series and was the template for the "Teach Yourself" series. This Arabic course has been devised in conjunction with Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar, the two people who also head up the Arabic teaching in the Michel Thomas range of languages and also the introductory Read and Speak  Arabic course. Mastering Arabic is essentially a  written version of the Michel Thomas course as it contains lots of shortcuts and techniques. Mamoud, as in the Michel Thomas range, provides the pronunciations and also explains some of the more complicated verbs and sentences. There is also quite a lot on Arab culture and customs. This course has been produced with real enthusiasm for the Arabic language and it shows in the success it brings to the student. It's not a course you will get quickly bored of and discard.
 

Pimsleur Arabic (Eastern) ( by Paul Pimsleur) 
Only the first 1-5 lessons of Level 1 are linked here. You should try these as samples to see if it fits your learning style. Pimsleur start you off immediately speaking and responding in Eastern Arabic. These courses are excellent but they are expensive and you may not be suited to this way of learning as its purely audio. Grammar is lightly touched on but mainly through association and what you have 'intuitively' picked up as the lessons progress, but there is an English speaking host who guides, prompts and gives you not much more than word meanings. However it is an extremely effective method and has been used extensively within Govt and educational establishments. You can read about the method here. Download more detailed information on course content here (PDF). Our advice is to not be tempted to move on to the next lesson until you have mastered the one you are doing. It is absolutely essential that you follow the lessons in number sequence! There are more user reviews contained in the links below.

Pimsleur Arabic Sets

Eastern Arabic Level 1 Egyptian Arabic Level 1

Complete Arabic ( by Frances Altorfa) 
Following hot on the heels of Assimil is this completely revised and user friendly pack for learning Arabic to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.  This is a more traditional learning process rather than the mainly "intuitive" learning you get with Assimils'

The thematic approach is much in line with traditional language learning and does cover the subject in depth and more importantly progressively so you can see progress being made. Each unit starts with a "Statement of Aims" and completes the section by

a) Presenting the language

b) Practicing it

c) Description of language forms: For producing your own sentences

d) Pronunciation and Intonation

e) Information on Arabs and Arabic Life

It is essential to have the CD's that go with the course to get the language practice, and work through the book, since a lot of the exercises are listening and commenting. It's a very bad idea to try and learn a language without hearing it!

A very enjoyable course indeed and a great improvement on the older versions. Extremely well taught and presented. We recommend that you follow only one unit a week and really absorb it ! There are 25 units in total so will take 25 weeks to complete. Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages compares to a good A Level.

 

 
Read and Speak Arabic  
This is a great little introduction to Arabic designed for absolute beginners. The authors, Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar are the best teachers in the business and contribute to other Arabic courses, most notably the Michel Thomas and Teach Yourself series. It is similar in the style of learning and teaches Arabic as understood throughout the Arab world. There is a 60 minute CD for pronunciation practice. Not for the advanced or intermediate student but a very very good start for the complete newbie.
 
 

 
VocabuLearn Arabic Level 1 (Penton Overseas Inc ) 
A strong contender to the Michel Thomas course is Vocabulearn's Arabic course. This will teach you 1500 commonly used words and phrases in a sensible and progressive way allowing you to learn structure and formulate your own sentences. There are also audio flash cards and the course is all audio so no books are required and you can learn anywhere by downloading the lessons onto your MP3 player or Ipod. This course is excellent value. VocabuLearn Arabic Level 2 is now available
 

 

Rosetta Stone ( by Rosetta Stone) 
This is the complete 3 levels of Rosetta Stone's Arabic course with audio companion. This course is the same effective immersion technique of listening, seeing, reading and finally matching up the words or phrases with the relevant pictures. As we have said, this is a very effective way of learning since there are no distracting translations and you learn to associate words with their meanings through your own interpretations of the pictures or video scenes. However it comes at a hefty price and so we have given it 4 stars only. Please note that this is version 3 and you need to check compatibility with your computer.
 
Recommended Study

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