Saturday, December 29, 2018

So You Want to Try Arabic?

You may recall I did a previous post on recommended resources for intermediate and above Arabic learners, but I've been meaning to do one for true beginners as many have asked me where to start. I started Arabic class in college, but I realize many don't have access to university resources or diplomatic training. As a result, I've tried to focus on more public and accessible options here.

As always, I highly recommend the free app Anki, which I wrote a separate blog post for here. You can enter your own vocabulary or download decks others have already created.

With all that being said, here are my top recommendations for true beginners:

  • Learn the Arabic alphabet and sounds. Arabic is a phonetic language with a non-Latin alphabet. You need to learn the letters and sounds before pretty much anything else. How you do this will vary based on personal preference. If you want a textbook, I recommend Alif Baa (the first in the famous - or infamous - Al Kitaab series used in almost all university Arabic classes). There are also plenty of free guides online including webpages like this and videos like this.
  • Check out your local mosque. No, seriously. Arabic is the language of Islam and the Holy Qur'an, so many mosques offer reasonably priced or even free Arabic lessons. I've found many mosques extend this opportunity to non-Muslims as a means of sharing culture and religious knowledge, as well.
  • Subscribe to ArabicPod101. ArabicPod101 is a podcast that starts from a true beginner level with useful conversation phrases. You can sign up on their website for free or just subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Support refugees with NaTakallam. There's really no substitute for conversation practice and cultural exchange with a native speaker. For $13/hour (as of the writing of this post), you can sign up for Arabic classes online with native speaker refugees on NaTakallam.
  • Read the Transparent Language blog. This blog has great cultural and language information about Arabic, but the posts are written primarily in English for maximum accessibility.

There are a few additional options I'm aware of specifically for people in the Washington, DC area. These include:

  • Join the Global Language Network. You can take in-person beginner classes from the Global Language Network, which opens classes for registration each semester. Their first class is called "Foreigner" and they offer an Arabic Foreigner class every semester. You can see their schedule and registration information here. Each semester costs only $85 (as of the writing of this post) if you have good enough attendance to get most of your deposit refunded. You can see more details about the pricing model here.
  • Apply for a scholarship at the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center (SQCC). The SQCC in DC (supported by the Government of the Sultanate of Oman) offers a range of Arabic classes, including a summer intensive session and an after-work course schedule. I took one of these classes myself while I was home and loved it, and they offer a full range of skill levels. If you earn a scholarship, it's completely free! You can learn more here.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Please let me know in the comments below if you have any favorite recommended resources for beginners I missed!

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