Arabic from scratch

Hi everyone,

As I’m about to embark on a new language (I can’t decide whether to choose Arabic or Persian yet, but I’ll probably go for the former), I would like to hear some thoughts from those of you who managed to learn a language with a different script than latin to a relatively high level. Ideally, I would love some Arabic/Persian learners to share their experience, but comments from Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Mongolian etc. learners will also be much appreciated!

The reason I want to pick your brains is because yesterday I had a long hard look at the Arabic script and I realised I had no idea at all how to deal with learning Arabic. I tried to pick some letters out from simple phrases, but I couldn’t dissect them successfully – I still have no idea where one letter ends and the other starts. Should I make learning the script the first priority? And should I write it by hand? Another question: will I ever be able to write Arabic on a computer? I don’t know which of my expectations are realistic and which not, that’s why I’m asking such questions. I’ve never tried learning a language with a different script before.

But then again: Does this mean I should postpone listening to Arabic until I master the alphabet? What about all these sounds that are unique to Arabic and hard to pronounce? Should I worry about them and try to nail them down first? Maybe it would be easier to listen to Arabic first and learn the alphabet only after I start to recognise sounds? That sounds almost impossible to achieve, but I remember Dooo’s thread about listening to Arabic intensively and I’m curious how far he has got eventually.

Any comments, thoughts, ideas etc are much appreciated!

I have learned Japanese to a decent level (mostly not at LingQ) and I tackled the basic stages of Arabic (at LingQ) which I chronicled here: … I didn’t continue because I wanted to try Chinese and eventually I realised I needed to get back to Japanese for family reasons. I will get back to both Arabic and Chinese though. What follows is what I learned from studying “hard” languages from scratch at LingQ:

If you are going to use LingQ effectively, you must have the ability to pick words out when listening. I found the best way to do this is to listen to very short dialogs (20 words or so) and LingQ every word. Then… while listening to the dialog…, do flashcards for that dialog like so: 1) look at the word 2) guess the meaning 3) try to pick out the word from the looping audio 4)flip to check the meaning and the pronunciation.

As you do this you will get used to sound-symbol correspondence in natural word-size chunks. This is important because studying the alphabet deductively from the beginning can be deceiving-- elided speech is quite different from discrete sounds.

After about 300 to 400 learned LingQs as above, however, I would study the alphabet deductively in parallel to confirm what I will have already started to sense inductively.

With the above method you do not need to use romanisation of Arabic script or IPA etc

As I have not tried to learn Arabic, take my advice with a grain of salt. I have learned to read Russian (Cyrillic alphabet) and Greek (Greek alphabet). Anyone who has learned Arabic will give you better advice than I do, as you know.

  • I would work on learning the alphabet right away. (It is what I did for Russian and Greek) Find some site on the web or a book to help you. The Arabic alphabet is more difficult than, say, Cyrillic, as the same letter is written differently in the middle and end (and beginning?) of words, I have heard. But this does not mean that you can’t start listening, too. If Dooo ws successful, than he can tell you to disregard my advice.

  • One can type in the Arabic script on the computer. But I do not know if that is possible at LingQ.

Arabic would be a marvelous language to learn. Best of success!

[ I see that Dooo has answered you. I’d definitely go by his advice.]

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When I started with Arabic, I spent a few hours just learning the script and the sounds.I think it’s much better to have at least an idea about how the writing system works before dealing with other aspects of the language. The sounds are important too because some of them are very different from anything you can encounter in a European language, and it saves a lot of time just having someone tell you how to actually produce those sounds. I did the same with hiragana/katana for Japanese (harder script, easy sounds for a Spanish speaker like me) and with hangeul for Korean (easier script, extremely difficult to get the sounds right, at least to me).

I recommend that you have a look at “Alif Baa with DVDs : Introduction to Arabic Letters and Sounds”. This is a very good introduction. It has very instructive videos teaching you the script, how people in Arab speaking countries write by hand (it’s not the same as what you get on the computer or in books) and how to pronounce each and every sound of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). There are also YouTube videos and a lot of websites teaching the same, but I haven’t seen one as comprehensive and well done as this book.

Having said that, don’t try to MASTER the script and the sounds at the beginning. As soon as you can move on to listening and reading. For a while you’ll probably be confusing some letters and sounds, but things will get clearer as you become more experienced. Do include the vowels in your Lingqs, or try to get texts with vowels to start. People in the Arab world spend a good part of their primary education reading texts with vowels and their languages are very close to MSA in most cases. There’s no reason to make it harder on yourself at the beginning.

Typing Arabic with a computer is very easy to do. It’s just a different keyboard layout.


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Thank you for all your comments! I gave them some thought and I also spent some time thinking about how I would go about learning Arabic and these are my conclusions so far:

I’ll start with learning the script first. To be honest, I’m not even sure whether I’m going to use LingQ for learning Arabic at all. I just can’t imagine importing my own texts, because I would have to master typing Arabic first. But maybe I’ll change my mind somewhere down the road.

I bought myself two books for Arabic: “Kaligrafia arabska” (“Arabic Calligraphy”), which is a practical guide to write in Arabic script in 7 different styles - I have to check yet which is the most popular one. The other one is “Arabic in a month” by PONS - obviously I don’t have such unrealistic expectations, but the book looks like a good introduction to Arabic and it has plenty of examples, grammatical explanations and charts.

Disclaimer: I’m definitely not going to break a world record in learning Arabic quickly. My two goals are to study the language thoroughly and to enjoy the process. I have three other languages to take care of (English, German and Turkish), so I’ll be perfectly happy if I manage to study Arabic for 2-3 hours a week (preferably in smaller chunks).

LEARNING ARABIC - total time spent: 1 hour

So far I’ve spent one hour studying the script, listening a few times to two very helpful videos on YouTube (Arabic Alphabet Arabe Arabische Buchstaben Arap alfabesi الحروف العربية - YouTube and Learn Arabic Alphabet by Madinah Arabic - YouTube), writing all the letters in isolation twice and then writing the examples from the second video. I started to notice certain things: the vowels are not represented by letters. They can be represented by those diacritics, but there will be no diacritics in newspapers and books. Which means that in order to learn a word, I need to hear it (and understand it) first! That will make things even more difficult. On a positive note: I was happy to recognise some words from my knowledge of Turkish. So not all the words will be completely new to me!

After one hour of study I recognise two or three letters when I see them :smiley: Hopefully the rate will increase over time.

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Of course you can learn to write and read. You just have to learn the alphabet letters and try to write them down. Try these links:

For illustrating better:
The first lesson: Persian/Lesson 1 - Wikibooks, open books for an open world

Farsi and Arabic alphabets are like each other. Their differences are comparable with Spanish and English.
By the way my native language is Farsi/Persian and I’m learning Arabic. My reading Arabic is intermediate & my speaking is beginner.
This statement is not correct: " there will be no diacritics in newspapers and books. Which means that in order to learn a word, I need to hear it (and understand it) first! That will make things even more difficult."
For reading the words and then texts you need to learn alphabet letters individually. It’s not very difficult. It’s just completely different from Latin languages. When you learn correctly & practice you will get used to it.

Hello friend !

I am native Arabic … Arabic has 28 letters … each letter has two ways to be written when it is alone ( not in a word ) , and when it is in a word ( linked with other letters) , Also when you write a letter in a word you have to consider the letter before and the letter after in order to write the letter correctly

for examaple … the first latter is arabic is " أ " which is " Alif " … in a word you just pronounce it " aa " like in " ant " aa nt
this letter canot be linked with a letter after it , for example if in a word comes this letter and other letter after it , this letter " أ " stays disconnected … for example , in a word we have the first letter “أ” and the second letter " ب " ( baa ) we write them that way " أب " Notice that the first letter remains unconnected with any letter that comes AFTER it … ( by the way the word " أب " which is combined of the first and second letter in Arabic , means "Father " in english … So , "أب " = " Father " and it is pronounced " Abb " … Sorry if my way of explaining is confused , I just try to help … Wish you good time learning Arabic and if you need help add me on Skype my skype id is : mfromyemen

we can talk in English and Arabic … I am Freelance Translator ( English into Arabic ) - 28 years old . Nice to meet you all :slight_smile:

Hello everyone!
Arabic is a nice language,
It is not difficult at all,
All one can need is to do it step by step enjoyingthe new letters and their beautiful look!
I can help using a white board on which we can write by hand at the same.
You can contact me on Skype.
My name there is:
You are welcome!
مرحباً بكم!

Hello! Try this site is designed for starters
Good luck!