Arabic in Two Weeks? Here’s My Learning Experience.
In November, I challenged myself to learn Arabic and Portuguese in two weeks. I wanted to show you how much it’s possible to learn when you have a busy life, which is my case because I have a fulltime job.
In my previous post, I described how I learned Portuguese in two weeks. This time, I want to share how I learned Arabic in the same amount of time, my experience, and how much progress I could make.
Summary of my learning schedule
Unlike Portuguese, I didn’t feel like practicing every day on the train when I was going to work. Arabic requires special attention because of its complexity. I tried to practice it at least once for 2 days in the evenings.
The first week, I focused on the alphabet and the way words are written. The second week, I focused on basic grammar and vocabulary.
I focused on Standard Arabic
Each Arabic speaking country has its own dialect. I’ve understood from my Arabic speaking friends that there are certain differences between the dialects. Sometimes people who speak one dialect have difficulties in understanding someone else who speaks another.
Nonetheless, there’s also something called Standard Arabic. It’s the standardized and literary variety of Arabic used in writing and in most formal speech throughout the Arabic speaking world.
I wasn’t sure whether I had to focus on a dialect so I decided to learn Standard Arabic. Someday, if I want to learn Arabic again, I’ll go for a dialect.
Learning the alphabet
As previously mentioned, the first week of my challenge, I focused on learning the Arabic alphabet. Fortunately, I had learned the alphabet earlier in my life so I only had to refresh what I forgot. The alphabet can be a little complicated if you’re not familiar with it.
Unlike in English, you have to learn how the shape of a letter changes depending on the position of a letter in a word. Look at the chart below. Do you see how the letters look different in the beginning (start), middle and end of a word?
Learning how to read words
Interestingly, in Arabic, the vowels are not written. You write words that only consist of consonants. For example, the word hello is marhaban in Arabic. But it is written like this:
Thus, you have to guess which vowels are pronounced between the consonants.
I, personally, think that this is one of the reasons why Arabic is a bit of a challenge. Sometimes I know how a word is pronounced but I don’t exactly know how to write it. And sometimes I know what a word means when I hear it. However, I don’t recognize it when I try to read it.
Arabic it requires practice. I’m sure that as I get used to it, I’ll have fewer difficulties in writing and reading words.
Learning how to write
If you’ve never written in Arabic, you’ll feel like a child because you’ll feel like you’re drawing random symbols on a piece of paper. This is my piece of art when I tried to write my name for the first time.
I wrote the words and sentences I learned every day. Each time I noticed that my handwriting improved.
Learning the vocabulary
In the second week, I learned the basic vocabulary.
As I speak Turkish and Spanish fluently, I knew that approximately 10% of Turkish and Spanish vocabulary come from Arabic. That didn’t make Arabic easier for me but sometimes I was able to recognize some words that I came across. For example, mashur sounds like the Turkish word Meşhur. Both words mean famous. Or qamis sounds like the Spanish word camisa. Both mean shirt.
However, it took me a lot of practice and repetition to remember new words. Especially because of they are not written in the alphabet I’m familiar with.
Resources to learn Arabic
I think that if I really want to learn Arabic someday and speak it very well, I should buy a grammar book that helps me remember the vocabulary, practice my handwriting, and practice grammar at the same time. But during my challenge, I used some online resources like:
- Mondly Arabic
- Forvo – This is a pronunciation dictionary. I used this website often to listen to the pronunciation of words that I had written in my notebook
- One of the PDF’s I found after searching for “Arabic grammar” on Google
At the end of the 14 days of practice, I recorded myself saying “I can’t speak Arabic very well.” (See video below). I felt like I hadn’t made a lot of progress, but I’m satisfied with my pronunciation and the way I can write.
What about you?
Are you learning Arabic? How are you learning Arabic? What resources do you usually use?