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”

Arabic Vocabulary – build it daily

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Arabic Vocabulary

Arabic Vocabulary – build it daily

15 Essential Skills of an Arabic Learner

Build your vocabulary daily by adding at least one new word or expression to your repertoire each day. There will be days where you will learn much more than one item, but by setting a minimum of one term per day, you will ensure that your mind stays freshly focused on expanding your active vocabulary at all times. Over time, this will lead to a significant increase in your ability to understand and express yourself in Arabic.

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

Cairo hotels on the Nile
Photo: Vyacheslav Argenberg.

My wife and I walked into the five star hotel, surrounded by people dressed in all kinds of chic, formal, and dazzling attire. My wife looked incredible. I was feeling pretty good. The wedding reception we were attending was fun. The music was loud. The moon was reflecting off of the pyramids nearby. Cairo nightlife at its best. Arabic vocabulary was not on my mind.

Needing to make those final last minute adjustments in front of a mirror before stepping into the ballroom, we made our way to the front desk to ask about the whereabouts of the washrooms.

Andrew: mesaa’ il-kheer / مساء الخير  (Good evening)

Receptionist: mesaa’ in-nour / مساء النور (Good evening)

Andrew: feen il-________ / فين ـــــــــ  (Where is the ___________?)

Substitute in the blank space above a crass, inappropriate word for “restroom facilities”. Use your imagination. Or don’t!

Wife: <facepalm>

Receptionist: (awkwardly) hinaak / هناك  (Over there…)

You may be wondering why this was so awkward for my wife and the receptionist. It was my choice of vocabulary for the washroom. I had learned the word on the street, and didn’t realize that it was not considered “polite language” for the setting that we were in (for those with any background in linguistics, you will recognize this as a sociolinguistic plot twist).

This is what I call a ‘Vocabulary Incident’. That is not a scientific term, or a term based on research. It is just my term that I use for situations involving Arabic vocabulary when something doesn’t work. I use it to refer to times when:

  • I don’t know a word in Arabic that I need to know
  • I know a form of a word that is not appropriate to the context I am in (such as the situation above)
  • I think I know a word or expression in Arabic, but the word/expression that I know is not the correct one

Continue reading “Arabic Vocabulary – build it daily”

Modern Standard Arabic, anyone?

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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?”