Always a problem with reading Arabic online in my experience. Until Duolingo decide to increase the font size, I'd suggest using desktop and zooming in.
I use this plugin to increase the font size of Arabic OUTSIDE OF DUOLINGO, because it doesn't work here for some reason: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/huruf/lhdifindchogekmjooeiolmjdlheilae
It's the nominative indefinite ending, -un, which is rarely written, but if it were, it would be written as ٌ
Notice how the small symbol ٌ above the ج looks like two small وو linked together. The grammar behind when we use what when talking about indefinite things is a bit too involved to explain here, so what I suggest you do is pay really close attention to what you hear while following the Arabic letters with your eyes, and you'll eventually get a feel of what to use when. It takes a long time to acquire this skill, so just be patient and listen to a lot of Arabic while following text every day. You'll get there eventually :-)
PS: We also often drop the -un sound when reading out loud, so don't worry too much about it.
Thanks for pointing this out. I'm simultaneously using A. S. Tritton's Arabic (Teach Yourself Books, 1977 reprint) and he writes (24) that "the indefinite article n is put at the end of the noun, is not expressed by a consonant, but is indicated in one class of nouns by nunation...." In DL's brief overview for this segment, it writes that Arabic doesn't have a word for the indefinite article. That's accurate, it seems, because there isn't a word, but it would help to have added the information about -un or nunation.
To explain nunation, one needs to study it in the context of Arabic grammar. It’s hard to isolate one grammatical concept while skipping others. Many rules are related and need to be taught in a certain order with a lot of practice on each concept before moving on to the next. I think this is beyond the scope of this course. They’re just trying to teach a bit of practical language here.
Just to give you an example of how impractical MSA can be sometimes, I'm a native speaker and I just learned the word مِرآب from you! I'd imagine that none of the people I know have heard of it before either (I'm Lebanese). That's why it's always a good idea to listen to a lot of material when learning a language, to get used to the words that people actually use, because even in newspapers, journalists sometimes include words from dialects so their readers actually understand what is being talked about.
hmmm, do allow this bit of criticism I mean it respectfully.
But this is actually a pretty basic word in MSA, and if this basic word is unknown to you (be it by background or by research needed in course preparation), then there is a critical problem here of instructor eligibility. Again, this is meant respectfully. It is say if I am teaching 'English as a second language' and am not familiar with the most basic vocabulary, under the pretext that I am speaking solely a deep Scottish dialect and pass that for eligibility (although arguably Arabic dialects may very well classify as 'languages') to teach on a platform accessible by millions worldwide: what I call 'English'
Secondly, you are a native speaker of 'Lebanese Arabic' is what I understand. And that is not the course being taught here, the course being taught here is identified by Duolingo as 'Arabic' (Note what I said above above Arabic dialects that they may well classify as different languages, they actually are identified as such by many). Let's delve into what that word, 'Arabic' really means for a second, when presented to someone who does not know the language but wants to learn it.
It means a form of Arabic that is not 'street spoken' specifically in 'Lebanon' or even more broadly if you classify Levantine dialect as a language with regional variants, but it means a form of Arabic that all of the formally Arabic-speaking official countries agree, constitute to be the 'Arabic language,' the onus of definition being theirs, not yours subjectively. And they have agreed to this, it is called Modern Standard Arabic, beyond any dialectical. That is, in my understanding, the minimal expectation of the course learner when they want to study Arabic. Is this harder than any specific dialect? Absolutely. And yes it takes dedication and commitment, it is a brave choice to learn a language like this, but a very rewarding one. And because MSA is hard, that is specifically why Arabs prefer to talk in local dialects. However they ACCEPT and ACKNOWLEDGE that they speak in dialect and they ACCEPT that their pronunciation is not 'Arabic', and when they study or teach in respective countries, they do not teach their dialect as 'Arabic' but they teach it is 'Lebanese' or 'Egyptian' or 'Gulf' dialectical Arabic. And when they DO teach 'Arabic', (like say in schools or in language centers - they teach MSA). And that is the main difference here - you are presenting dialectical form - as 'Arabic', to the unknown reader.
What you are doing here - for lack of a better way of describing it, is not right. I have seen it in several examples already, you are teaching something that the majority of the Arab world has agreed, both a while ago and recently, to be unacceptable, which is presenting elements of local dialect, as 'Arabic', when it should NOT be presented as 'Arabic' but as 'local dialect'. The learner should be given this choice, whether to study dialect or Arabic. If there is a course in 'Lebanese Arabic' or 'Levantine Arabic' - then you can as such identify that as a format of language and pronunciation and provide exercises as such.
Here is another example, the pronunciation of the letter ج in the course (I will make this comment again where applicable), it is flat out wrong in MSA, no other way to describe it. If I understand correctly, you have explicitly defended it as 'correct' under a pretext of 'a mix between MSA and spoken Arabic' (again, there is no such thing as 'spoken Arabic' - there is dialect: spoken Lebanese, spoken Egyptian, etc. - you have called YOUR spoken Arabic as 'spoken Arabic', it is not to the vast majority of Arabs, it is 'Lebanese dialect' and their spoken Arabic is very, very different), you have put a Levantine dialectical ج (a soft j as in bonjour), which is very different than an Egyptian dialectical ج (a 'g' like in go), which is very different than a Gulf dialectical ج (a y as in 'yes'). You have effectively made a preference of one dialect over another and falsely presented it as 'Arabic' to the new learner, even explicitly said this is the right pronunciation, and it is NOT the right pronunciation of this letter in 'Arabic' (MSA), it is 'your local dialect'. The correct pronunciation recognized by the entire Arab world for ج is a hard j as in Jim (note: they ACCEPT this even though they all pronounce it differently). Here is the thing - if you ask ANYONE versed in Arabic, whether in Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf, anywhere, all who pronounce this letter differently in their own dialect btw, they will all say that their pronunciation is dialectical and it is NOT Arabic (MSA), and that is the real reference for the language - not 'local usage' but rather what the vast majority of Arabic speakers recognize to be 'Arabic' (rather than 'dialect').
I do understand this course is in beta stage however I urge you to consider this criticism as this is not right for the language, there are strong elements in this course that are NOT Arabic, and are falsely presented as 'Arabic', and this creates a strong regional bias to your subjective dialect - which the vast majority of Arabs do not speak. This calls for a paradigm shift in the learning philosophy altogether. There really is no such thing as 'spoken Arabic' - but there is: classical Arabic, MSA, and many dialects, each having its own right and respect. The reader who wants to study 'Arabic' should be taught MSA, that is what the Arab world collectively identifies as 'Arabic' to be taught and understood.
If someone wants to study 'Arabic' - the absolute right thing is to teach them MSA, as it is, it is a language of rules and the rules are taken seriously and are universal, from Morocco to Oman. Do not present a dialect or even more so, invent a dialect (halfway between MSA and 'spoken Arabic' to quote you) and present it to an unknown learner as 'Arabic'. That is not right. Moreoever, there is no such thing to begin with. It will create some very real complexities later.
For my own background, I am both Egyptian and Bahraini and I am bilingual and have a background in formal translation as well as teaching Arabic as a second language. I pray you take this critique in good faith. It is sharp but well intended.
I’m not a contributor to this course. I have no influence on its contents. I understand that your critique is well intentioned, and so is mine to you. Your perspective is that of a professional involved in language every day. Your vocabulary knowledge is much larger than that of an average person, and your perspective tends to be more academic. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to recognize that. My perspective is more that of someone who has learned many languages while prioritizing practicality over ‘purity’. Duolingo wants to teach languages in a practical way. That’s why for example, in their Spanish course, they include a lot more vocabulary from Latin American than they do from Spain, even though Spanish came from Spain, because more people in the world speak Latin American Spanish.
In several of my posts I mention that my perspective is that of a Lebanese, and that other experiences will differ, but that shouldn’t prevent me from sharing my experience with people, and many are finding my learning advice valuable, so I will continue helping them.
As for Arabic, I understand that ‘officially’, there is one MSA and all Arabs are supposed to be speaking dialects, but from an outsider’s point of view, their differences make them feel like different languages. Learners need to know that because it’s going to feel this way. And yes, there are variations in MSA rules. The MSA taught in Egypt has some spelling rules that are different than those taught in the Levant. If you don’t know that, I encourage you to broaden your horizons with an open mind to see things the way they are, not the way we’d like them to be. From my point of view, it’s ok to have differences, and I often mention that to people because they’ll encounter those in real-life. The effort of academics to reduce those differences by imposing rules on the way people speak often fails, because habits are hard to break. In most of my responses I tell people both what MSA is supposed to be, and how people say it around me (whenever that is relevant).
I appreciate your work as a translator and teacher, I just hope you understand that the academic perspective isn’t the only relevant perspective. A practical one is also valuable. We need both and I often help people with both (with the MSA I learned at school, which is slightly different than the MSA you’ve learned. Both are ok in my eyes)
Thanks for the feedback, I do appreciate your time and effort, even in difference.
I have made an assumption given that in your answers you give the impression of defending the manner of course presentation unconditionally and a strong awareness of the content, leading to my assuming you are the content maker. For that assumption I stand corrected and apologize.
On the other hand you also have made an assumption I am a language academic. I am not, I am a very average Arab, who speaks two native dialects (Gulf and Egyptian) and familiar with standard MSA as taught in public schools. I do some translation as part of my work and have taught Arabic as a second language to those interested, but I am not a certified instructor. My Arabic is, infact, very average, and not larger in vocabulary than any one who has learnt MSA as a first language in any public school system.
I understand how Duolingo wants to speak languages, I have been following it for a while, but like I said, the rules of any specific language, especially if this debate has been had by the native speakers of the language - users and academics, for around 150 years, take priority over the rules of Duolingo. All the debates with which I am sure you are familiar, of modernizing Arabic from Classical to MSA, from the days of Tahtawi and the linguistic reform, to the debates on writing various Arabic dialects and formalizing their unique rules as different languages, still ongoing, take precedence over how Duolingo wishes to teach Arabic. Moreover, like I said, the onus of defining what constitutes 'Arabic' rests with the native Arab speakers as a collective and the nations that represent them, not with Duolingo. And MSA, is relatively and significantly more practical than classical Arabic, but not practical relative to a vast majority of languages. ARABS decided, collectively, that MSA with its rules and its pronunciations, would be 'Arabic', and not any specific dialect. This isn't official, or academic, this is in every school all across the Arab speaking world.
It is admirable you share you experience, your dialect with others, I personally admire Levantine dialect and even specifically Lebanese linguistic identity. I did notice your sharing them every here and there (for example - when you stated why 'Bob' is pronounced as such in Arabic because of French influence). But: the problem is, you are presenting it as 'Arabic' - when it is not. It is Lebanese dialect. You have justified the pronunciation for instance by it being due to 'French influence' - but that is untrue, that is French influence on LEVANTINE dialect, Egyptians (about twice as many as Levantines) or Gulf states (around 20% more than Levantines) pronounce it the same with absolutely no French influence on the language - but simply because of transliterating written English. You are also presenting a justification of teaching dialect as 'Arabic' as 'how a standard newscaster would speak' - and that is also quite untrue. All major viewed transnational Arabic channels speak a strict MSA - BBC Arabic, AlJazeera, etc, exactly the same.
The references for MSA do stay the same - I am unfamiliar of spelling differences of the same word in MSA between Egypt and Levant, but I would be interested to know. Maybe it is incorporating unique dialectical words into the MSA vocabulary, or maybe these are borrowed proper nouns, but: MSA really does follow rules derived from classical Arabic and simplified.
It is ofcourse okay to have differences, the Arab speaking world is many nations, many identities and many histories, reflected in their dialects, which are as you stated earlier, far enough to be considered 'languages' in their own right and I agree. But: when one says 'Arabic' - one teaches 'Arabic' - and the definition of that word is: MSA, not any bias towards any particular dialect. And you ARE effectively biased towards a dialect, yet presenting it as 'Arabic'. I once again cite the most common mistake: the pronunciation of ج as presented in the course, which is flat out wrong in MSA. It is a dialect for the Levant indeed. But what is that population in total? Say Syria Lebanon Palestine and Jordan - around 40 million?
Egypt alone is around 90 million, twice as much, and have an entirely different ج Infact if you count Arab speakers as a whole (around 440 million), LESS THAN 10% pronounce this letter, as is presented in the course, this is ONE dialect of Arabic.
And yet it is presented as 'Arabic' (or as you put it 'halfway between MSA and spoken Arabic'). It may be 'halfway between MSA and spoken Levantine', but that is a bias towards how 10% of Arabic speakers speak, where 90% don't speak in that manner. Do you not see this as unfair to the learner?
I am neither a translator nor a teacher, just an Arabic speaker. I do these things like translation and teaching because I like doing them, and so my perspective, is that of a layman really, just versed in Arabic, as I am in English. But I do not teach specifically a dialect spoken by 10% of native English speakers, presenting it as standardized English, and using justifications as 'this is how newscasters speak' or 'this dialect is closest to standardized English' especially if there was an agreed upon standard of English language.
Arabic words for 'jacket' 'garage' or the pronunciation of ج are all known in MSA, and I am quite surprised at how they are presented, or how you learnt them in school if you may, because mind you, in both Egypt and Bahrain, they use different localized word for these things, however, when you study Arabic at school or at a local language, you would learn the exact same word, and the exact same pronunciation of the letters in both countries, free from regional variants.
Dialect is okay in my eyes ofcourse. But it is what it is: a dialect (or even: a different language, with its own regional and historical linguistic identity), but: it is not to be presented or taught as 'Arabic' when 'Arabic' is what a learner is expecting.
Wow guys. I wish all online diffences of opinion could be handled this politely. Kudos to the both of you.
That said. I am new to the Arabic language, and indeed I like to study languages out of linguistical interest. Honestly, I would prefer Duolingo to either offer the standard MSA, (which would be more practical than a Levant dialect), or at least call this course "Arabic (Levant)" or something.
It irritates me a lot that Duolingo keeps doing this. As you said, the Spanish learnt in the Spanish course here, is not very useful in Spain (as a LOT of vocabulary is different). The same goes for the Portuguese, which is good for talking to Brazilians, but you wouldn't keep up ten seconds in a Portuguese conversation. (and there's more examples like Dutch, Chinese, Russian,...)
So I understand your remark, FiX, if when starting a new course, why make the same mistake again...
I had no idea Thomas, this is useful to know actually...
It is many languages I suppose - that there is a difference between the dialect and the standard form. The issue in Arabic however is that Arabs acknowledge and identify that and choose to differentiate between the many dialects, and the standard written form, as two different languages almost, altogether.
The main issue is being misled here: that there is 'no' language 'between standard and spoken Arabic dialect' (and there is no 'spoken Arabic dialect' - there are 'spoken dialects' from various countries), and this only creates confusion and inconsistencies that hurt when one hears and sees them, given the aesthetic value Arabic places on pronunciation and grammar. and secondly: this is NOT how newscasters in trans-Arab stations speak - they speak proper MSA.
So the information upon which the paradigm of the course is based is misleading. Diving deeper into the course one can even see the course makers are not 'thinking' in Arabic in many sentences, but are thinking in translation, which is problematic, like some sentences and phrases are directly translated from say English ('heavy rain', 'easy car' etc.) and they do not make sense in Arabic as the adjectives are not applicable in this language...
So the whole paradigm is wrong. It strikes me as: 'we are not very fluent in MSA so we will invent our own nonexistent language and brand it as 'Arabic')
Oh there are language bias issues even in the Hawaiian course. There are dialect issues even there and users have pointed out the bias of the writers of that course. It is indeed an issue all over. That is why these forums are essential to help clarify differences and such and for questions.
I agree with Thomas, this discussion has been very helpful. I appreciate learning here that the different letters are pronounced differently in different countries, and all the other useful info you both posted. I'd guess they started with words that English speakers could recognize since it gives us something familiar to start with, especially with a brand new alphabet to learn.
OK, even an "excellent" garage. What makes it excellent? That it doesn't leak or fall down? That it has excellent cars in it? I'm just being silly here, actually. It's just another one of those funny phrases in Duolingo that makes one smile, and that stick in one's head for their humor.
Yes, the vowel markings can be left out. The one you're referring to is called "damma" and makes the "u" sound. On the QWERTY keyboard, first type the letter miim م then hold down the shift key and type "E" and you'll get ُ : مُمتاز .
Are you getting the option to type in Arabic with your lessons? I am not. I just have the option to click on the Arabic words.
Not to nitpick, but in some places this sentence makes sense. Maybe it's like basements: some places simply cannot have them. In some parts of the US, garages can be a major extension of the home where the guy (it's usually a guy) works on his car and fixes stuff, gets away, listens to music, etc. They sometimes fix them up and add a sleeping area on top. The US has something of an obsession with cars. Racing is a huge sport. This phrase is feasible in the US.