Make Arabic Great Again

jokes aside

I would like to propose a little project between LingQ and the Arab students and friends of Robert “lovelanguages” B., to improve the Arabic library and maybe have a win win win situation for all.

My preliminary dabbling has me concluding that overall the beginner content we have on here is hardly usable, and definitely not enough by itself to really get launched to intermediate purgatory. Of course Arabic is in Beta so it’s not like there is any fault, but this important language should really be nudged to supported status.

The audio quality of most all the beginner material is very bad and the speech is fast and mumbled. Together with a lack of Romanization, it is an unnecessary uphill battle to decipher and remember what the invisible vowels are and what the whole word is actually supposed to sound like.

There is no “Eating Out” or “Greetings and Goodbyes” and “Who Is She?” stops short of part 6. All the other beginner material is just too skimpy and the available intermediate content is just too dense to close the gap.

If it was just for myself and if I was in a hurry, I would just buy a beginner book at some point. Luckily I’m not in a hurry and between Robert’s students, other Arabic-lingqers including insha’allah future Steve, I got the idea of including and thereby helping more people.

So similarly to how Steve hired Romanians for content production, and maybe as a lingqesque version of this project we can connect interested students of Robert’s and Arabic-lingqers, either on lingq or another platform that enables payment, for example elance. I am definitely willing to chip in, if we can find just a few more learners to chip in, as well the lingQ business account. I think from lingQs point of view the eventual return on investment is easily there. Another factor could be winning some of them as lingQ members in turn.

Some suggestions of what I think we could use:

Eating Out
Who Is She (complete!)
A comprehensive collection of basic patterns
An ArabiclingQ podcast, maybe even with Robert as the interviewer (like Steve was in some languages)
Diaries about life in the home country or as a refugee

All of this in good audio quality and clear MSA

If Robert will be able to mobilize some students, maybe Mark Kaufmann and Robert could look into how the payment platform or other rewards could work. There is no hurry. Any time after Robert’s return from Jordan would be great.

Meanwhile, all you LingQers who are interested in having an improved Arabic beginner library, please report on this thread en masse to assuage the ROI concerns of those evil, icy, calculating lingQapitalists Steve and Mark over there in Vancouver! ;PPP


I agree wholeheartedly! I was very interested in learning Arabic and studied for a long time before I came to lingq… but gave up because it was simply too time consuming and cumbersome to deal with the lack of resources and all the confusion of diglossia, dialects, and the difficulties of building vocabulary… when the words are written without vowels!

They really need to get some good Egyptian or middle eastern speakers to record and put up good beginner material for the spoken dialect as well as Modern Standard so people can learn both using the lingq way. I think if done right, lingq would be a godsend for us frustrated arabic learners. It is amazing that one of the worlds most spoken languages has been neglected by the language learning world for so decades and the few resources that are out there are usually only for standard arabic… Which is like learning to read and speak shakespearian old english to communicate with the english speaking world.


The bottom line though: Arabic will be given the full treatment of learning material only if people are interested and the demand is there.

Largely agree with you. Though I’m a bit more of an “MSA first, hold the dialects for now” kind of guy. Here is how the global content situation looks to me.

The dusty old textbook method has been associated with MSA, and for the longest time there was little basic material for the dialects. Then, the rise of alternative/natural language learning products, which aimed to be natural, fun, more immediately applicable, came with a mentality that emphasizes the dialects, and either thinks MSA has been well covered by the books, or wants to disregard it.

If you want dialects, there actually seems to be just enough out there to work with. I recommend the Mezzofanti Guild, which looks like it’s the best link-hub for independent Arabic learners. The man Donovan also has his own product, TalkinArabic which looks like a very good collection of dialect material. If that thing had MSA I probably would’ve considered a purchase sooner, but without MSA I may consider that purchase only later.

So the combinations

MSA + traditional hardly digestible grammar method / bad books
Dialect + natural methods

are actually represented more or less sufficiently.
The combination that doesn’t seem to have arisen much at all is

MSA + natural method (LingQ method)

So to me the problem is that the ‘alternative learning method revolution’ has mostly been claimed by the dialects and left MSA back in the bad book method.

There seems to be a little market gap, if I’m not completely mistaken. (please someone point out if I am)

I think since the LingQ philosophy tends to include an emphasis on reading and aiming at a holistic intelligent competence in the language, it would also tend to be in the “MSA first, hold the dialects for now” camp.

“like learning to read and speak Shakespearean old english to communicate with the english speaking world.”

Robert wrote about this here How Useful Is Msa? - Language Forum @ LingQ and my sense too is that this whole Shakespearean thing is very misleading. What they mean is that the difference MSA-dialect is about as much as Early Modern English - Modern English. That it is a slightly older version of the language with somewhat shifted (more) grammar and lexical choices. MSA may sound stilted, stiff, overly formal in some situations, but Arabs hear it on the TV and radio and read it every day, so there is no way that it sounds as strange and unusual to their ears as Shakespeare does to non-theater-freak-Anglos. On paper the difference might be comparable, but my strong guess is that is not how it is perceived and used at all. Looks like there is even more misinformation about Arabic out there than about Chinese.

“The bottom line though: Arabic will be given the full treatment of learning material only if people are interested and the demand is there.”

The demand side is not the immediately deciding factor. That’d be the roundabout way. 10 basic account members assuring the lingQ team they will upgrade to a year of premium if lingQ provides content itself? Too complicated.

More immediately on the supply side we just have to lay down a few bucks for natives to simply create the content, as Steve did in Romanian. I think that LingQ can’t make a mistake dropping a few bucks into the fund as well.

I don’t think we can expect interested learners of language X to show up to a site that doesn’t have anything there, and then hang around for weeks making their interest known and lobbying for content until they have critical mass. In my opinion LingQ can’t make a mistake investing a bit in making sure the supply of decent beginner content is there to begin with, and only then will interested learners step out of the dark and register.

The LingQonomy needs to be stimulated on the supply side.
No content → no activity
Content is there → people will show up

So when I read about Robert’s students and putting them on LingQ, I thought why not make the connection with the content problem and get that out of the way. The alternative is that LingQ remains unusable for Arabic beginners for another long while, if/when Steve gets around he would most likely buy beginner material on his own dime again then, and Robert’s students don’t have the chance to connect with lingq and make some tea money on the side.

But this way we can share the cost, share the benefit, maybe give them a good rate, afford more content and have a sense of helping and exchange.

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Hi Tommy, sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been tied up with the launch of the new reader as you can imagine. I hesitate to say we will participate in any Arabic initiative, only because it will tie up resources that we simply don’t have at the moment. If and when we do free up resources, we will first want to focus on improving our Asian languages which already have issues that make them less good than they should be.

I would be reluctant to take on Arabic which has its own unique requirements until we have resolved some of the Asian language issues. Having said that, we do recognize that Arabic is an important language and we would like to be able to move it from beta to supported at some point. It’s more a question of when and, as you point out, getting the content.

I’m not sure if that helps answer your question. We certainly hope to see more quality content in Arabic as that is the first step in the process.

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Thank you for the response. Understood the situation.

There are two separate tasks that got a bit mixed up:

  1. Getting some beginner content

  2. Beta to supported

  3. being a prerequisite for 2)

Completely understand that point 2) can’t happen so fast, for the reasons you gave. As for point 1), that mainly depends on Robert’s side of things. It sounded like his students and he may have enough time and interest to produce content sometime, so I proposed that LingQ and a few of us members could share the little fee that they deserve. This would just be a way of getting the beginner content a little sooner than would otherwise happen and increasing the all-around benefit.

This would take hardly any resources out of LingQ. Maybe somewhere in the order of $100 and an hour or two to process everything through a site like elance.

But I won’t press the issue any more, since most of it depends on Robert, God of simultaneous interpreting, and his students :wink:

I was aware that you are a bit spread out with the resources, since LingQ is renovating, improving and expanding ever more. Growing out of the garage-project phase so to speak :wink: Congrats on the launch! Looking good.

Sometimes it’s hard for outsiders to appreciate how tricky things are behind the curtain, and that most things take longer than some of us users, in their mad rush, would like.

It’s clear that the Asian functionality needs to be ironed out first.

In Chinese it would be ideal to be able to convert the whole text between simplified and traditional. Right now the ‘traditional’ option only puts a tiny traditional supratext above a simplified text. Actually the new learning page even neutralized my external simp-trad convertor, whereas it continues to work in the classic view.

On Arabic:

I second everything usablefiber commented. There really is relatively little content out there, and a well-stocked LingQ would stand out as a beacon of light.

An automatic diacritic function would be ideal, though I imagine that to be extremely tricky to create. Wouldn’t that need to have a databank in the background that takes the unvoweled word and matches it with a voweled word out of the databank? If that databank doesn’t already exist… As neglected as Arabic is, in terms of digital learning tools, I’m not so sure.

The alternative may be that we make clear requirements for beginner and maybe low intermediate content to be transcribed using vowel diacritics / parallel Romanization / very clear and slow audio.

Anyway. Thanks for the hard work, Mark!

As much as I’m likely to start with some dialect, a better selection of of MSA would be great.
I know itès unlikely to happen soon, but it would be nice to at least have the paragraphs properly justified. There is one small problem I’ve noticed in the Hebrew. I don’t think it happens as much in Arabic, but terms like ‘F-16’ completely mess up the word order of a sentence. I think most Arabic publishers transliterate the F, but some specialist websites don’t. Just in case anyone is making a list!

Oh and a young Makram Koury with some simple Arabic ג'ארכ קריבכ: שו האדה? - YouTube
The situations and dialgue are a bit stilted, but even I’m beginning to recognize a few words.

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Hello Tommy, I am just back from my vacation, so I haven’t got time yet to read this whole conversation. Indeed, I tried to be a beginner in Arabic, but LingQ is useless here. The main problem is indeed lack of very easy content with good audio. Also, the lack of support of the diacritics is a problem. I ended up copying and pasting easy content from elsewhere, removing the accents, and creating private lessons. All this takes a lot of effort. For me, even a Eating out or Who is she would be far too difficult, because I cannot read the arabic script, I am still deciphering. I would need practice in a lot of easy short scripts. I took audio from e.g. This is… - Arabic language Course - Madinah Arabic, but a little bit of more variation and real text should be available to easily progress.

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Hey Silvia!

Dank je wel for the support!

The madinah site looks pretty good. I’m still exploring it, but it looks almost ideal for learning the script and there seems to be quite a bit of content there. Good online content is so scattered and far between that LingQ could really jump into the gap with some quality and mass and probably reap enough additional members to pay for any inconvenience.

But alas maybe this will only happen when Sheikh Steve al-Qawfmahni himself turns his mind on the language.

What was the “easy content from elsewhere” that you imported?

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