Arabic Calligraphy Guide Available Again

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Arabic Calligraphy Guide

Timeless Beauty الجمال الخالد

 

This past week as I was looking over my Arabic learning materials, I came across a guide to Arabic Calligraphy that I had put together about 2 years ago, shared with a few people, and then forgot about.

I actually really like this guide, and thought I’d share it with my readers.

It’s called Timeless Beauty (الجمال الخالد), and it gives a brief overview of the 8 main styles of Arabic calligraphy, with lots of colorful examples, and some background on the form, use, and history of each one. The reason that the beauty of the Arabic script is timeless is that unlike most other languages, its basic form has not changed over the centuries. Many of the calligraphy styles that are shown in this 17-page booklet were used by teachers, governors, religious leaders, merchants, philosophers, doctors, and other literate people over 1000 years ago. Continue reading “Arabic Calligraphy Guide Available Again”

Using apps to learn Arabic

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Using apps to learn Arabic

15 Essential Skills of an Arabic LearnerTake advantage of the increasing number of computer-assisted language learning tools that are available for Arabic learners, to work specific language skills. These apps, whether websites or software that runs on your computer or mobile device, can be used to provide the time-intensive drilling and practice that is usually not feasible in class. They can provide excellent exposure and practice in comprehension, pronunciation, and structure.

“Any technology that allows students to do more and better mechanical work on their own, outside the classroom, is something that we need to be thinking about” (Kristen Brustad)

This article is based on the 15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner.

Using apps to learn Arabic

There’s no question that using apps to learn Arabic is important part of an Arabic learner’s tool kit. But many language learners discover that finding useful computer-based language learning programs, let alone making good use of them, is often not very easy.

Back in the day, when I was completing my Master’s degree in teaching English, I had an opportunity to take the first course on Computer Assisted Language Learning that was offered in my university. I enjoyed the course a lot, although it wasn’t mostly because of the curriculum that we were taught. My favorite part was sitting in the back row of the computer lab for the entire semester, using web searches, hacks, and authoring programs to begin to formulate all kinds of wonderful apps that would help me teach languages, while pretending to pay close attention to the lecture.

Most of these apps failed. And apparently I was not successful in fooling my professor, who later told me that despite my thoughtful nods during class, she was aware that I was doing my own thing on my terminal there in the back row. Apparently she wasn’t threatened by this, but felt it was an important part of the learning process. Al-Hamdu li-lleh for great teachers!

However, something must have connected in my brain, because I spent the following two decades developing educational software and working as an educational technology consultant.

Based on my experience over the past 20 years, let me give a few thoughts about what software (which I will from now on call “apps”, referring to programs running on any kind of device, whether desktop or mobile, including web-based tools), can and cannot do when it comes to helping you learn Arabic. Continue reading “Using apps to learn Arabic”

Arabic classes – how to choose what works for you

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Take Arabic classes

Arabic classes – how to choose what works for you

15 Essential Skills of an Arabic LearnerTake organized Arabic classes given by a skilled instructor, in order to be able to follow a learning curriculum that has been set by someone who has experience in facilitating Arabic language learning. Classes provide a framework that can dramatically accelerate your progress in all areas of Arabic. They also provide feedback and evaluation, which are essential to prevent the recurring mistakes we make from becoming a permanent part of our language (a process known as “fossilization”). These classes can be in person or online.

“In class they are going to show you why it works this way, or why it shouldn’t work this way but perhaps does…” (David Wilmsen)

This article is based on the 15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner.

Experiencing Arabic classes

Over the past months I have been writing about mindsets and daily habits that can help you become a more effective Arabic learner. This week I will shift gears into the next section of the 15 Skills of an effective Arabic Learner, and begin to look at organized Systems that can help you learn more effectively.

Perhaps the most common system that we think of, when it comes to learning any language, is the classroom.

In a best-case scenario, a classroom provides:

  • a set of objectives and a framework for your learning that lets you make systematic progress toward your Arabic goals
  • a skilled teacher who knows the obstacles and hurdles that you will face at given points along the way
  • immediate feedback on your Arabic that is friendly and gentle, making you feel empowered to improve
  • ongoing evaluation of your overall progress that is clear and encouraging
  • an experience that is centered on you and your fellow students
  • all of this in an environment that is enjoyable, not stressful, and worth the financial investment you have made

If your Arabic class provides you with all of these things, please stop reading this blog post right now and take a minute to write a thank you note to your teacher. Then continue reading.

If your current experience does not match this, then you are in the same situation as many learners who take Arabic classes. Unfortunately, although we all hope to have good class experiences, it doesn’t always work out that way. Continue reading “Arabic classes – how to choose what works for you”

Listen to Arabic – resource list and strategies

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Listen to Arabic daily

15 Essential Skills of an Arabic LearnerListen to Arabic being used – spoken, sung, or recited – every day. This is foundational to building understanding, pronunciation, and a sense of the rhythm of how the language is spoken. By listening every day, you will develop an ear that can comprehend verbal Arabic effectively. This listening can be include some periods of active listening, but also longer periods of having Arabic playing in the background as you do other tasks. Daily listening builds your confidence and level of comfort when it comes to engaging in conversations in Arabic.

“It is very difficult to reach a high level of proficiency in speaking without being almost native in listening…the listening builds up vocabulary, and when you are listening the grammar and pronunciation become correct.” (Abbas Al-Tonsi)

This article is based on the 15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner.

Listen to Arabic – Resource List and Strategies

Magnetic reel to listen to Arabic
When I first began to listen to Arabic as a structured part of my learning, it involved signing out the old 7” magnetic reel audio tapes from the language lab at the American University in Cairo. Before you start thinking that I am a true dinosaur, in my defense I plead that the technology being used there was not entirely up to date for its time. It was 1991.

Cassette to listen to ArabicBack in my student apartment, I was using more conventional cassette tapes to record Arabic news broadcasts from the radio.

56k Modem to listen to ArabicAround 2000 and 2001, I remember the excitement of realizing that I could download an increasing number of useful audio clips and movies from the internet. This was at times an excruciating exercise because we would go online with a 56K modem connection (in 2001 I did manage to upgrade to a dreamy 128K).

YouTube and Podcasts to listen to ArabicFast forward to 2007 or 2008, and I was able to happily listen to Arabic and view it on YouTube, and other media sites. In the past few years, I have started listening to podcasts that automatically download onto my phone and iPad.

Whether you are an old-timer or relatively new as an Arabic learner, listening plays an important role in your becoming fluent in the language. Research has shown that listening typically takes up to 40-50% of our total communication[1]. Continue reading “Listen to Arabic – resource list and strategies”

Read Arabic daily – 7 helpful sources

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Read Arabic daily

Read Arabic to develop proficiency in the language

15 Essential Skills of an Arabic LearnerRead Arabic daily, and push yourself to complete reading something in Arabic every day. Reading is foundational to enriching your vocabulary and engraining Arabic structures and styles of discourse into your thinking. It is not difficult to find materials to read in Arabic, whether news, commentary, religious, social media, or many other forms. Try to read things through to their end even when you don’t understand every word. The discipline of reading to the end (whether a chapter, blog entry, tweet, or article) overcomes our tendency to drop focus when we don’t understand everything.

“… we help them to get really good at reading…the proficiency that they develop and the confidence that they develop doing that spills over…” (Kirk Belnap)

This article is based on the 15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner.

Reading Arabic as a life skill

I remember standing in Tahrir Square in Cairo in 1991 with a friend who was telling me where he lived, and he pointed in a certain direction and said “Do you see that billboard for Mustapha Ali?”. Mustapha Ali was a company that sold, if I recall correctly, lighting fixtures. My eyes scanned the multitude of billboards in the busy square, and suddenly found the Mustapha Ali one… written مصطفى علي. Suddenly, I felt this incredible feeling of accomplishment, that I had actually negotiated one very small aspect of life using my newly developed skill of reading in Arabic.

7 great sources for those who want to read Arabic

Let me start this post by getting straight to “the goods”. Many people who want to read Arabic just need someone to point them to useful places they can read things. Here’s my current list of 7 very useful places on which you can read Arabic in a way that contributes to your learning the language.

Al-Jazeera resources to read arabicAl-Jazeera Learning Arabic site – An absolutely great site with huge amounts of useful reading materials, fully vowelized, on a wide variety of topics from news and current events. Includes questions, vocabulary, and exercises. Highly useful for intermediate to advanced readers. My current top pick for Arabic learners who want to read.

Read Arabic siteRead Arabic! اقرأ العربية site. Funded by the US Department of Education, the materials of Read Arabic! were developed to provide online e-learning reading lessons aimed at beginning and intermediate students of the language. Good stuff here. Continue reading “Read Arabic daily – 7 helpful sources”

24 ideas to activate your Arabic today

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Activate what you learn

15 Essential Skills of an Arabic LearnerUse what you have already learned in Arabic immediately. One of the dangers that some people fall into is growing in their knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, or pronunciation, but never taking initiative to actually use it in real life. If you make a daily habit of using your Arabic in some small way, you will have broken the inertia of passive learning and will be actively increasing your Arabic level.

“To keep [Arabic] in your head, you have to use it.” (David Wilmsen)

This article is based on the 15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner.

Habits for learning Arabic

What habits do you have that are helping you learn Arabic? What habits do you wish you had?

AristotleAristotle said, about habits, We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. 

This week, I’ll begin to discuss some of the daily habits that make up a solid Arabic learning strategy. With the right mindsets in place, choosing what you will repeatedly do will form habits of excellence in you as an Arabic learner.

Over the past weeks I have discussed the five key mindsets that are essential skills of an Arabic learner. These include setting fluency as your aim, committing to interact, being enthusiastic, accepting ambiguity, and making mistakes. I call them skills because they are mindsets that are intentionally developed through conscious effort, not gifts that are endowed on random people. Each of these mindsets came up repeatedly as I discussed learning Arabic with 6 thought-leaders in the field of teaching Arabic. If you develop these mindsets, you will be positioned to learn Arabic effectively.

What I am trying to do with this applied research and discussion is to help you form a learning strategy for acquiring Arabic. If you have not yet read the overall strategy given in The 15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner, I recommend that you download that now and skim through it. Then come back to this post.

The first habit is to activate the Arabic you learn by using it daily. This post is going to give you 21 ideas that you can put into action today to begin to use your Arabic. Continue reading “24 ideas to activate your Arabic today”

Commit to Interact in Arabic

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Commit to Interact

Activate your Arabic by Interaction

15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner

Communication is your primary means of learning Arabic. It is not a mystical goal that is only achieved at the end of the journey. You will learn Arabic as you use it to interact in real life situations, and so at every step along the way, be sure to use each new thing you learn in a conversation with someone. Using your imperfect Arabic for partial interaction will activate and solidify what you have learned, and position you to learn even more.

This article is based on the 15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner.

Learning without interaction – my early days

I clearly remember when I began to interact in Arabic, instead of just academically studying the language. The contrast could not have been more pronounced.

I had put in many hours in Arabic language lectures, and in the underground library at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, using my Hans Wehr Arabic-English dictionary to help me decipher medieval texts. I am thankful for those days because they gave me some foundations in reading and writing. But I didn’t actually interact in any meaningful way in Arabic, and that made it hard, dry work, with little appreciable outcome. Continue reading “Commit to Interact in Arabic”

Egyptian Arabic Absolute Beginners Workshop – your sneak preview

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Egyptian Arabic Absolute Beginner's Course

Why should you care about Egyptian Arabic?

Welcome to the Egyptian Arabic Absolute Beginner’s Course. It’s great to have you here! You have made a smart choice by wanting to learn Egyptian Arabic. These past few years, Arabic has been designated as one of the top priority languages for learning not only in the United States, the UK, and other western countries, but literally worldwide. Whether it’s for business, education, government, or humanitarian work, there are opportunities for people who can speak Arabic in literally every part of the world. And the Egyptian dialect is the most-spoken dialect in the entire Arab world.  This course is going to get you up and running fast. My focus is on interaction – giving you the most important words and phrases that will allow you to begin establishing relational connections in Egyptian Arabic.

Hold on a second…

You might be wondering what you’re reading here…. Let me explain.

Over the past month I’ve been working hard at putting together a new course that helps teach Egyptian Arabic to absolute beginners. This course is not designed to be a complete treatment of the language, but it’s meant to bridge the gap for people who want to get up and running in the language, but are not sure where to start or don’t have access to teachers or courses. Continue reading “Egyptian Arabic Absolute Beginners Workshop – your sneak preview”

Modern Standard Arabic, anyone?

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NCLRC

A free website  focused on Modern Standard Arabic

Over the years, I have gradually ended up using my Egyptian colloquial Arabic (عامية) much more than Modern Standard Arabic, but it remains a very important and helpful part of my Arabic. I use it for reading news articles, instructions, legal stuff, religious texts, general history, and more. Since 2011, being able to read Arabic on Twitter and Facebook has been an essential part of living in the midst of the Revolution and the upheavals that took place. This week I am reviewing a website that is great for learners of Modern Standard Arabic.

The site is a project of the National Capital Language Resource Center, and uses news broadcasts in simplified Modern Standard Arabic to provide a “stepping stone” between the classroom and authentic Arabic news media. I have spent some time going over it this past week, so I thought I’d share a bit about it with you. While I am not going to do reviews of every resource for learning/teaching Arabic that I find, this one caught my attention, and so for what it’s worth I am sharing it with you. While the content does have somewhat of an American focus in certain sections, it is nonetheless useful for learners of any nationality.

Simplified Modern Standard Arabic Webcasts آخر الأخبار باللغة العربية المبسطة 

On the site, there are 16 webcasts. Each webcast includes approximately 5 different lessons, and each lesson includes:

Continue reading “Modern Standard Arabic, anyone?”

Arabic Without Walls Online Course

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Arabic Without Walls

Arabic Without Walls

This is a full fledged online course in Arabic by the UC Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching that is designed around two textbooks with accompanying DVDs: Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic Sounds and Letters and Al-Kitaab Fii Ta’allum Al-’arabiyya Part 1 by Kristen Brustad, Mahmoud Al-Batal and Abbas Al-Tonsi.  Its program includes sections on: Continue reading “Arabic Without Walls Online Course”