ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
[personal profile] ajnabieh
This morning, I got a call from my mother, which is not so unusual. But what was unusual was that she wanted my help for one of her students (she works for a student support program at a community college). Her student was taking Arabic, and had to ask someone a list of questions. Could I do the interview?

I managed it, though my spoken Arabic is beyond rusty. (My favorite moment was her surprise that mish aindi siyara, I don't have a car. Askunu fi nuyurk, I said, nobody's got cars.). But it reminded me of how important Arabic language education is, and how many people want to learn Arabic, especially these days. (Sometimes, when I'm feeling tetchy, I like to point out that I started taking Arabic in September 2000. Suck on that, posers.)

If you're among them, that's great! I think everyone should learn Arabic, despite my tetchyness above. I would generally recommend you take a structured course to learn it well, whether at a university or community center or mosque. Arabic is a difficult language, with a lot of sounds not present in English (and one or two missing from most European languages). It's also got a writing system that'll be new to most non-Muslim learners, and the root system is complicated. AND AWESOME. Have I mentioned Arabic is the most awesome language ever? Because it totally is.

But, if you don't have access to a class, you can teach yourself some Arabic. Even if all you pick up are greetings and a notion of how it sounds, it's an awesome language to know.

Here are some resources I've used to improve my Arabic and keep in shape. (All of these are targeted to native speakers of English; I don't know about resources for native speakers of other languages, sadly.)

ArabicPod. This is the website for ArabicPod, but I actually just download the podcasts via iTunes and play them on my iPod. The podcasts are all level-specific (they claim on the site that only beginner are available free, but I've got a bunch of intermediate ones, so take that with a grain of salt), and last about ten minutes or a little more. They include a brief dialogue (which obviously gets more complex as the lessons go on), which is repeated three times; then the two teachers go through and take apart the vocabulary and grammar, focusing on pronunciation for words with a lot of non-English sounds. The dialogues are usually funny, and I like the hosts--they have pleasant personalities and have a good rapport with each other. They've also had both Arabic-language learners and other native speakers on to participate, which is nice. One very minor caveat: the English in it is British English, which I don't have any trouble listening to/understanding, but does vaguely color the way English is used. As you can see, they have a whole site with supporting materials for the podcasts; I've never used them, and can't see how much subscriptions are, but you can do a 7 day free trial.

Word Power Lite (for iPod Touch/iPhone): I had hopes for this program; vocabulary is my biggest problem in Arabic, so a flash card program should be really useful. But this one has a major fail. Not its fault is that the iPod can't handle Arabic ligatures, which means the letters appear as disconnected firms, not written together properly. (Compare: الجامعة vs ا ل ج ا م ع ة. If you can't see the difference between those two sentences, then your browser can't handle Arabic either.) But the vocabulary words they choose are random (seriously, Seoul is a very nice city I'm sure, but why do I need to learn how to transliterate it). They give verbs in the present tense, not the past; the past is the grammatical root of a word, and the equivalent of the infinitive, and it's just poor form, IMHO, to use the present instead. (I am a little rigid on questions of grammar.). What this program has going for it...is freeness. And it's worth every penny. If you know how to connect letters already, it does contain words. And it's there. Don't underestimate that.

Arabic in Ten Minutes A Day. This book will not teach you any grammar or anything useful about how Arabic actually works. But it will teach you a variety of important phrases and nouns and verbs. Plus it comes with stickers to put on stuff to label it, and pre-made flash cards. Their transliteration system is totally wack, though; learn pronunciation from somewhere else.

An Introduction to Modern Literary Arabic, David Cohen. This is an old gold standard for Arabic grammar. It's stogy, written by someone who was probably comfortable with the term 'Orientalist,' and hands down the most serious Arabic grammar I've ever seen. It's not that pricey, has decent exercises, and absolutely no bells and whistles. I bought it for my very first Arabic class, and um still finding of useful. It's a good thing to have. I should go through it again.

Georgetown's dialect books. Arabic is less a single language than a collection of them; modern standard Arabic is the formal language used in writing and formal speech, but Arabs speak dialects based on their country and region, many of which are barely mutually comprehensible. Most formal education in Arabic is in MSA, because you have to learn it eventually to, say, be able to read a newspaper. But some people argue that you should start with a dialect, since it gives you the immediate ability to speak with native speakers. I started the traditional way, learning MSA, and haven't ever picked up a dialect formally, though I'm most familiar with Palestinian Arabic. But Georgetown's dialect-learning courses are well developed and useful, as are all their Arabic grammars. I secretly covet their whole catalog. (The one exception to Georgetown's catalogue is that they don't have a course for Egyptian Arabic, which is probably the most-understood dialect in the region, because of the dominance of Egyptian soap operas and other tv shows; Kullu Tamam gets good reviews on Amazon, and I've flipped through it and found it okay.)

ETA: I totally forgot about BBC Arabic's streaming audio option. Ooh, and they've added TV since I was a regular user! The internet is so shiny.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-28 01:38 am (UTC)
viklikesfic: avatar me w/ trans flag, spiky hair, gender unclear, fun punky glasses & sarcastic expression to go w/purple ironic halo (Default)
From: [personal profile] viklikesfic
Awesome, thanks!

(Also, you might want to crosspost this to [community profile] language_learning.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-28 02:21 am (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
Oh, good thing to bookmark. Thanks!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-28 04:50 am (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
I took a little Arabic in college, but it was really frustating because my instructor kept insisting you couldn't teach "rules" for grammar, you just had to absorb it. Which was not very compatible with my learning style, hooboy.

It is a fascinating language/collection! Thank you for posting these resources.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-28 09:59 pm (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
Well, she was a native speaker, and I think she'd never had any formal instruction in how to teach Arabic. I guess it just all seemed instinctual to her--I mean, I know I can talk about grammar for Spanish or Russian much better than I can for English. But it was frustrating.

She mostly taught French, and I always wondered if she taught it the same way (I can't remember if she was a native French speaker, too, though).


ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
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