Quick Tip for Arabic Beginners from a Native Arabic Speaker
Hi all! I just wanted to share with you a quick tip from someone whose first language is Arabic. I have currently completed the Arabic tree and I do agree it needs some work but it is in beta so I understand that. My hopes are that it will get worked on and expand like some of the other languages here on Duo. My quick tip is to make sure that you are writing Arabic as you study it because this will help with the writing portion unlike with other languages such as Spanish where most of the letters are well known and there are only a few different letters. Arabic has a completely different alphabet so it would be helpful to start from the very beginning of the lessons and start writing Arabic. Trust me this will help you not only be able to better memorize and understand the letters but actually write in Arabic. I know that for many of you the goal is to be able to communicate and read Arabic but writing I feel is just as important and if you are learning the letters and recognizing words why not be able to write them? Another key thing when you begin writing is that Arabic reads and writes from right to left so begin writing from right to left. I know this seems like something most should know, I have seen countless people start the other way and this just scrambles things up for them. This does take quite a bit of practice and training at first, but eventually you will get the hang of it. I have noticed as well that there is not much Arabic grammar so if anyone would like help with grammar or with any lessons or anything in general. I would love to help. It is really awesome to be able to increase the number of people who speak Arabic.
Also, I have seen many people debate about the fact that the Arabic Duo has teaches you Egyptian pronunciation/accent. My thoughts on this are that yes definitely Egyptian accent isn't the only one and they do pronounce jeem quite differently than other Arabian accents as well as have some words that mean different things than most Arabic countries. My reasoning on why they did this is that Egyptian or Moroccan Arabic accents are probably the closest to French which a lot of people are learning so Duo was trying to make learning Arabic just a tad easier for those who know French especially since Arabic is arguably the hardest language to learn or at least one of the hardest languages to learn. This does not mean that Egyptian accent is the best one or is the dominant one, all it means in my opinion was that Duo was trying to help in a way that it could.
As someone who finished the course (and the only one I know of to be able to ask), I hope you would not mind a few questions from beginner me:
Is there any writing at all in the course? I have completed only Alphabet1 so far and it gave me no opportunity to write on my track pad or anything even in the 5th crown level. If not (and I suspect not) are there good resources online that you know of for learning handwriting for Arabic? I do want to make sure I'm writing correctly, and even my English handwriting is, well... They joke about doctor handwriting and that's me! XD
Are there any opportunities in the DL Arabic course for practicing speaking? I've tried on both Firefox and Chrome and throughout the whole Alphabet1 lesson (again, all 5 crown levels) I never got to speak! My microphone is turned on, as are all lesson types. I repeat back at my computer, but I'm relying on my own ear with no speaking lessons. Do they ever happen on here that you found? I can't seem to find any way to get to them...maybe it's just later lessons? Earlier ones where you are building a phonetic base seem like the best place for them, honestly. Or maybe they haven't added yet because it's still in Beta. I can't tell.
I know that dialects are an even bigger thing in Arabic than most other languages. I work with a lot of people from the Middle East both as refugees and coming through multiple Embassies for medical care (Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, etc.). Can I expect enough overlap with MSA to have a prayer of communicating basic ideas with children, learning just that (at least for the first year or so)? I can't really pick a single one as most likely for me, so I'm trying to do what I can for the most people. We have medical interpreters, but they only ever talk to the parents/translate what the parents are saying...and not the kids that I am actually treating. I'm trying to be able to have basic communication with these kiddos.
Thanks in advance for any thoughts!
I have visited the UAE many times. (My family lives there). Everyone speaks English there so you will have no problems communicating with people there!
Unfortunately I'm not going there. They come through Embassies to the medical institute where I work in the US...and most do not speak any English. Particularly not the children who I work with, who tend to have some profound impairments and often were never allowed to attend schools in their home countries.
Hi Kara T. Sorry for replying back to you so late but I was busy with other things. To answer your questions:
To tell you the truth I actually tested out of about half of the Arabic tree and the other half I completed their lessons until the first crown level. There was no writing in any of the stuff that I did but since I did test out of the first portion where all the alphabet is, there is a slight chance that there may be writing but I don't really think so. As for some good websites, I recommend going on Google Translate. Put translate Arabic to English and then in the bottom right corner there is an icon that says input method. Click on it and it gives you some options, scroll down to Arabic handwrite where you will be able to handwrite letters and it will interpret them to words. This way you can practice writing and see if your are able to write and it is able to recognize it and translate it correctly. I understand that Google Translate isn't the most reliable source for translating, but it has some good options for speaking and writing and I have not been able to find a better website.I tried to Google good websites to learn to write in Arabic but it just came up with websites like Memrise and Busuu to learn Arabic. I haven't tested these websites out to see if they offer writing either. My advice to you would be to also just take a notebook and go through the alphabet letters and write each one down. You can also google alphabet charts and they show you all the letters in their correct order. The order of the letters isn't really that important so don't worry about that.
To answer your question I did not get a speaking portion at all. I think because it is still in beta and such that is something that they will be working on. My advice to you is to go on google translate, type a phrase (maybe something medical related) and translate it from English to Arabic. Then, listen to the Arabic sound of it and click the reverse language button. Enable your microphone and click on the microphone icon that is on the bottom left corner. This will allow you to speak the words you just heard and this way you can see if what you said matches what you originally typed in English. I am sorry if this is confusing.
Yes I think that you will be able to have a basic conversation with the kids with the Arabic they provide here. The only thing is that the countries you listed all have a thick accent and different words mean different things than the MSA, so I am pretty sure a basic conversation can be made with most of the kids but with some I am afraid it will be more difficult but it is always worth a try. It's awesome hearing how much you are trying to go out of your way to have a conversation with these kids and not just what the parent is. We really need way more doctors like you who go above and beyond to meet the needs of the patients they are treating. I applaud you for the dedication you have and the effort that you are putting in. In the end, I am positive it will be worth it and I know you will be able to make a great impact on the kids. I really really hope that I was able to help someone like you and if you have any question please ask because this is why I am here and subscribed to the Arabic discussion section because I want to help amazing people like you. Thank you!
No worries, I don't expect people on message boards to get back immediately. ^_^
Thank you for the recommendations. I think the writing into Google translate may be the only option to have someone/something actually see if I'm writing nonsense or not. Arabic seems to work something like backwards cursive (to an English-speaker) and English cursive handwriting I stopped using when they stopped forcing us to in grade school. Such a mess. XD
I actually found Rocket Arabic on a LOT of sale this weekend (which teaches Egyptian, not MSA, but has lots of speaking opportunities from what I can tell looking it over). I think having both things available and seeing what differences are there between Duo's MSA and Rocket's Egyptian dialect will be informative, too.
I agree completely, it's exactly like backwards cursive. I'm lucky to be working with a native Arabic person but I'm not sure for how long. At least a few more months I hope.
Hi Kara. Thank you for the efforts you are going to to help these kids even above your medical training. Inspiring! I am just starting too so don't have tons of advice but just wanted to share another way I'm learning Arabic outside of Duolingo. It's a listening and speaking based podcast (i.e. no feedback on pronunciation but still useful). Language Transfer which is free and also offers a few other languages, including English for Spanish speakers if that is useful to some other clients in your medical center? https://m.youtube.com/user/LanguageTransfer
Re 2, my guess as a long time Duolingo-er is that there's no voice practice because it's in beta and/or a volunteer made course, unlike the original big three or so.
I was thinking this too. I really hope that as the course gets worked on more and developed that they will continue to add speaking, more grammar, and other important stuff.
You're probably right. I just know that when I did both the EN->SP and SP->EN courses (which I don't have anything left to work on now that the Strengthen features seem only to give me super-basics to work on and I did everything else, including Stories, to the max...I wish that function worked better), I didn't even know that there WERE speaking parts initially because Firefox didn't access them. I had to get Chrome to do them. So I wanted to make sure it wasn't an access issue, but actually a lack of lessons issue.
I'm still so happy Arabic is here at all! I initially joined FOR Arabic because it was supposed to be launching "in two months" and that was almost 500 days ago. XD Playing around with the two Spanish courses was just to get used to the platform and freshen up my very, very rusty college Spanish. I had almost given up hope of it happening!
Congrats to you because I know that going through those Spanish courses must have been quite lengthy especially with crowns and the tree updates. I remember when they first announced that Arabic was going to be coming and I was very excited for that but then the release date kept on getting moved but hey at least now its here. I started to lose hope after quite a bit of release date changes but I am very happy to see that it has finally made its way even thought it is still in beta.
I'm so lucky to be working with a friendly Arabic lady who's been translating sentences for me. I write them over and over. It's a beautiful, graceful alphabet. The only thing I'm struggling with is the kh sound. As a native English speaker, making this sound is very hard. I describe it to myself as a rolled k. I practiced it so much last night my mouth started to hurt.
Yes I agree the kh sound is very difficult for a someone whose native language isn't Arabic. I applaud you for all of the effort you are putting in. I am sure it will pay off. The Arabic alphabet is very pretty and poetic like but at the same time it does take some practice to be able to write well.
Thanks my friend, your English is impeccable! I have two things to say to you. Barak Allah fik! Yikhlif alek!
If you're a woman, fiki, and aleki.
(I hope it is appropriate to say that.)
Saying and practicing the word Yikhlif over and over is how I made my mouth hurt.
Thank you for the compliement on my English. I actually started learning English and Arabic at the same time. When I was 5 I enrolled in like normal school where English is spoken and I also enrolled in an Arabic school that I would go to on the weekends, at the same time of my normal English school, so I feel like I learned both at the same time.
Yes I have found the kh sound to be quite hard for people when they first learn Arabic since it is not a sound that normal people are accustomed to saying.
Thank you for the tip about writing Arabic - I agree with you. It is quite challenging, but it is worth trying hard. At least the writing from right to left is somehow easier for me as I am a left-hander ... :-)
That's really good. Another tip is to also practice speaking since I don't believe that there is a speaking portion on Duo. It is important to be able to communicate in Arabic, and not just learn it. A few comments above I gave some directions on how to be able to speak in Arabic and see if your speaking is good. If you want, take a look at it!
spanishmasterz - thanks for this. I did wonder which version of Arabic I was learning! If this is Egyptian then I can look forward to watching some good films in their original language before long. I know a little Iraqi dialect and the pronunciation and vocab is certainly a little different. Great to see Arabic language finally here - a wonderful, rich language. I will certainly do as you suggest and practise my writing along with reading. Good tip.
Sorry to disappoint you, but this course is teaching MSA. Dialect don't have "double vowels" like ـًا and they don't use the word ليس.
Also, MSA pronounciation of the letter ج is similar to the letter G in "gem" while the Egyptian pronounciation is like G in "good" (altough they pronounce it like in the Levant, as the French J)
Oh - I am a bit disappointed that it's MSA after all, but it will extend my knowledge in any case. My Iraqi consists mainly of greetings, basic vocabulary with a few common verbs and not much grammar. Perhaps this course will give me a grounding in the basics of Arabic grammar, which will be helpful.
Yes Iraqi dialect is pretty heavy and strong compared to other dialects. You are very welcome and I am glad to help in any way I can. If you have any questions, feel free to ask because this is what I am here for.
I didn't realise Iraqi sounds so heavy to the rest of the Arab world. It does have the hard "j" though (as in "jebel" etc) - totally unlike the pronunciation here. Just a matter of getting used to it. I don't expect to go back to Iraq in any case, but I aim to visit Jordan, Morocco and Egypt in due course. It will obviously be a big stretch to make myself understood. It looks like I may have to learn new words for all the basics. I don't know how much vocabulary the different dialects have in common. Many thanks for being here to help us with our baby steps in Arabic!
Of course. If you need any help please reach out to me either on this post or on upcoming posts that I will be making. :)
It's always great to read comments and tips from native Arabic speakers, thanks!
You're welcome! If you need any help with anything, feel free to ask. This is what I am here for!
I never thought they might have used the Egyptian and Moroccan dialects to make it a bit easier. They might have also done it that way because they themselves (the translators) speak these dialects. Whatever the reason, I think they shouldn't put in any kind of accent or dialect because most people that want to learn Arabic want to understand all Arabs/Arab countries, so they want to learn MSA. And from the lessons that I've gone through, some things were to me a bit weird? different? Cause there was some things from different dialects, rather than formal standard arabic? I'm not sure, but I do agree with others that the course needs working on and hope to see improvement (though I do appreciate that they have gotten the course out and worked on it even after it was dropped).
Yes when I looked at the profiles of those who contributed to this course, I found that they all speak Egyptian so that probably was a key part in it too. Yes I would have liked MSA instead of having a dialect since that is pretty formal and can be understood by many people in different countries. As someone who does not speak the Egyptian dialect but still can speak MSA and my dialect of Arabic I usually have a hard time understanding those who have an Egyptian accent, especially if they have a thick one or if they tend to speak fast.
I went to install Arabic on my Windows 10 computer and found there were 15 countries from which to choose! I asked someone about this but was told not to worry, that they were all the same. That doesn't seem logical, otherwise why would there be 15 to choose from? I have a QWERTY keyboard. What do you suggest?
Someone said that MSA was closest to the Lebanese and I believe the Syrian dialect. What is your opinion on this? What is your native dialect, btw?
One last question. I thought that Arabic vowels, unlike English vowels, only had one pronunciation. But, in the alphabet sections, I have heard "alif" and "fatHa" pronounced five different ways: a as in father, a as hat, a/ai as in bait or hate, a/uh as in a hut, eh as in bed/said. What's going on with that? I had expected alif/aa and fatHa/a to always have the sound of "a" as in father in MSA.
Thank you for being such a good resource for us here.
Yes you are right there are different dialects depending on the country, no two countries in the Middle East have the exact same dialect. A lot of the times the Arabic in Africa has a heavy French accent to it compared to the Arabic in Asia which is usually softer and sometimes spoken faster. I can see that you have learned some French so I would recommend picking a country like Egypt, Algeria, or especially Morocco since all of these dialects have a French sort of accent to them and will be easier to learn for those who know some French.
MSA is the formal Arabic used in like the government, and it is not close to any dialect really since the MSA doesn't really have an accent compared to the countries that you are talking about.
No Arabic vowels have multiple pronunciations based on grammar basically. It would be too long to explain in this answer but if you want I could make a post explaining the grammar and why the vowel sounds different based on where it comes in the sentence, etc.
If you need any more help, I am always here. Sorry for the late response!
If it wouldn't be too much trouble for you, I would like to know why the vowels change so much in their pronunciation. But please do it at your leisure.
What I was asking in question #1 was which Arabic keyboard is best to install on my computer. There were 15 from which to choose, and I don't know why there are that many.
Thank you for the tip! I have a stupid question - how . . . do I go about writing Arabic? I tried with a pencil and it looked REALLY bad. The Arabic I always see on the screen or printed in a book or whatever looks like it was done with a calligraphy brush or something; do I need to get something that's not a pencil, or do I just need to git gud?
A pencil will work just fine! I think the best advice that I can give you is to go out and maybe buying or looking up online and printing out pages of Arabic letters that you can write over and over again. As a native speaker, I also had to learn how to write thought but I was able to go to an Arabic school for this. I remember in kindergarten they would give us books and each one had a letter per page and you would write that letter so many times until our hands hurt. We would also write passages, paragraphs, and eventually essays all in Arabic to strengthen our handwriting. Really the best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice the writing. You could also look up the letters starting from the first letter (alif) and just write that single letter over and over again as you see it on the screen. Continue like this until you finish the entire alphabet. (All 28 letters). You can google Arabic letters chart and find a chart that has the letters in alphabetical order. I just wanted to say kudos to you for trying to write. Writing in Arabic is extremely difficult with all the dots and the way the letters are formed, so I applaud you for trying this out. Best of luck!
How do you get the like, variation in line width? Like in this character - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/01/Arabic_Jim.gif/1200px-Arabic_Jim.gif wish they would teach us the names of the characters at some point - the line halfway down, to the left of the diamond, is very thin, but then as it reaches the bottom it becomes very think. I know how to do that with a nice pen, but how do I do that with a pencil? Do I just go back and draw over the part that needs to be thicker? That seems like it would really slow you down.
The image you should me is more calligraphy like. Even I don't know how to write like that so I am sorry for not being able to help as much. All I can suggest is to practice writing Arabic normally and then your handwriting will get better. My handwriting at the moment doesn't look like that because that takes a lot of time and it is pretty rare to find people who still write like that because most will type things out and that creates a calligraphy look. They either have an Arabic keyboard or they go to google translate and use the Arabic keyboard there and copy and paste whatever they need. It is very hard to write Arabic calligraphy. I am not trying to discourage you from it at all, but my advice would be to practice how to write normally and improve your handwriting before moving on to writing very script like. I understand that most want to write Arabic like the one in the image, but the problem is that even we as natives don't write like that because it is very time consuming. I just write my letters normally, and don't really pay attention to the thickness, it's like you are writing letters in any other language. in English we just write letters, and Arabic is exactly the same. I hope I was able to help you!
That is very helpful and very encouraging, actually! I warned you it was a stupid question. I just don't think I have ever seen Arabic written normally - just like that, which I think is the way the font is on this site too? I wasn't sure it /could/ be done that way. Thank you!
Yes of course and really there are no stupid questions when it comes to learning!
On Youtube you will find many lessons where the teacher writes on a whiteboard or a piece of paper. And you will see that in most cases, their is no thickening and thinning of the line. As mentioned by others, this nice looking writing requires a special pencil. Again, you will find video clips on Youtube showing this calligraphy.