I finished the Arabic course V1 to crown level 1! Here are my thoughts:
Keep in mind these are suggestions by someone who is familiar with Duolingo and language-learning, and has had experience learning Arabic (not very much, but enough to be familiar with many aspects of the course). Unfortunately, the Arabic course needs a massive overhaul. Thankfully, what is in the course is overall good.
What I would keep in the Arabic course:
I like the way the alphabet is taught. It shows how letters connect to one another and helps the learner get used to reading in the “opposite” direction early on.
I like the idea behind the structure. It eases the learner from learning the alphabet to learning the language proper.
I like the wording in the tips & notes, it’s very fun.
What I would do differently in the Arabic course:
Use more words in earlier lessons. (see below)
Teach letters in groups based on shape or sound (i.e, ب ت ث ن can be taught at the same time after ا و ي ). This will help people remember letters because many letters with similar sounds have similar shapes. The current order is somewhat confusing. It doesn’t hurt to teach random words early with no regard to grammar, especially if you are teaching a language with very different grammar from the learner’s native language. I feel like this isn’t done enough in the earlier lessons; the words aren't explained, just put together.
Revise the notes so they are at least twice as detailed, giving more examples. For the alphabet I suggest you show the different forms on their own (isolate, initial, middle, final), as well as what they look like in words. I would highly recommend re-writing the tips-and-notes in Alphabet 2 and Alphabet 3 because I feel like the explanations are sparse for complete beginners.
Use an alternative transcription system that people can better read. Many people find the current transcription system confusing because of the numbers. I would use a different transcription system with less numbers that English speakers can more easily read.
Cover more grammar and start teaching it earlier. Also start teaching words and their meanings earlier. This will help people learn the alphabet faster and know several more words once you introduce the grammar. I feel like the Arabic course is having the same problem as the Hindi course where the alphabet is given a lot more emphasis than needed early on. It’s best to learn the alphabet as you learn the language.
Audio needs fixing to be consistent MSA standard. It’s a bad idea to mix dialects, especially if people want to study a specific dialect along with MSA. Native speakers might be able to explain this better than I can, but I can tell the audio is not 100% MSA. However, I think it’s fine to accept answers that are not MSA, so people can still practice any dialect they need to learn.
Background: I have taken one college class in Modern Standard Arabic, Arabic 101. Before that, I taught myself the alphabet. Everything in the Duolingo course was at least familiar to me, which means that when you complete this course to crown level 5, you should have a elementary understanding of Arabic and read it well enough to be able to pronounce the writing in children's books. MSA is the Arabic used in the media, but you can understand most other dialects if you know MSA.
If you have anything to add or anything to comment on, don't be afraid to do so. The Arabic course needs feedback!
The Arabic course on Duo is the only reason I even thought to pursue learning the language.
Native Arabic speakers have said that the audio in this course is bad and to turn off the sound if you are decide to use Duo. DuoLingo uses a tts engine from Amazon called Polly and there are too many mispronunciations. I don't think Duo Arabic is quite ready and have decided to spend my time learning with sources that have native speakers and it is proving to be worthwhile.
I'll still play on Duo for fun but I have come to believe that DuoLingo is an inefficient learning method in general and more of a way to test what is learned than to actually learn.
Moreover, if you don't keep good notes on Duo lessons it is an absolute waste of time, imo.
The way things are presented and the hodgepodge of information leaves too much time between reinforcement and no continuity of concepts.
It would be nice if the entire course content were available in pdf so we could just study the lessons and then use the DuoLingo games to test what we have learned.
As it is now, again just my opinion, a person spends way to much time clicking through screens and not getting access to much material.
Increase the font size. When choosing one of the four combinations, I see every glyph and do not confuse one for another. But in all other cases - pairs, sentences - the font is so small that I see the glyphs as single dots, and sometimes have to guess based on the possible answers rather than read the letters.
there is an extension called "wudooh" for chrome and firefox that allows you to increase arabic font up to 200%
From the developer, "Wudooh (clarity in Arabic and Persian) is a simple chrome extension that makes reading Arabic text clearer and more pleasant.
Wudooh is the successor to Jackson Petty's Huruf.
Wudooh will update all Arabic script text across the browser and modify it according to the user's options."
Wudooh allows you to:
• Change Arabic text's font (from 35 fonts, including the no-font font lol)
• Change the font size from 100% (no change) to 200% larger
• Change the line height from 100% (no change) to 200% larger • Whitelist websites from being changed by Wudooh
Wudooh will do all this automatically to any Arabic text, meaning even newly loaded content with Arabic text will also update and become clearer.
This is not just for Arabic, but for any Arabic script, meaning this can work for Persian, Urdu and any other Arabic script language.
All fonts used by Wudooh are licensed under the SIL Open Font License. More information on the OFL can be found at http://scripts.sil.org/OFL.
Wudooh is developed by Bassam Helal and is free and open source http://bit.do/Wudooh
Doesn't help me on the app.
In a browser I just increase the size of the page. It works on my phone or computer.
I absolutely agree! To your point about the transcription, however, I think it should remain, but be thoroughly explained in the first lesson. Number substitutes for certain Arabic letters are quite common, learning and getting used to them will be useful, but they absolutely do need to be explained in more detail, especially to people who are just beginning their Arabic journey.
Also, off-topic, I love the way you styled your critique. Good luck with your languages!
Thank you! I think your alternative suggestion about the transcription is also acceptable, but either way, currently the alphabet is poorly explained pronounciation-wise. It might also be a good idea to point out different styles of transcriptions.
But they reinvented the wheel. There are lots of transliteration schemes, most don't use numbers. The first use of 2 I came across used it for حnot ء. I would strongly prefer they eliminate the numbers.
I like the transcription with numbers, without them we have too much H and 3 letters combinations, with one glyph it is faster.
I like the numbers although I think there should be a lesson on what they mean. When I first encountered them I didn't know what the numbers meant.
Great comments, DragonPolyglot.
I'd like a little more information in the notes. I ended up printing out some pages from another source with an explanation of the entire alphabet to help myself, as I found myself floundering at first trying to differentiate the letters and sounds. Still having some difficulty differentiating why some letter combinations have long sounds and some short. Would love real words instead of sounds strung together and people's names.
Not sure why the numbers in the transcription are confusing. I actually haven't paid attention to them. Are they supposed to be conveying some type of information that I am missing?
Anyway, thanks again for your comments.
Great question about the numbers! From what I understand, they are used often in Arabic texting and typing when an Arabic keyboard is not available. I guess native speakers prefer to use numbers because it’s quicker and easier. Personally I feel like it’s confusing because it doesn’t give any hints about pronunciation, just the shape of the character. This would make someone with no access to notes or who doesn’t look at notes frustrated. The transcription system I was taught in my college class (with no numbers) focused on getting the idea of the sounds across so you wouldn’t need to rely on a transliteration system once you knew the pronunciation or letters.
Interesting. I guess I'm not really understanding what numbers you are talking about, though. Can you give an example?
Some letters are represented as numbers, especially later on in the course. For example, ع would be 3, and so بَرع would be transliterated as "bar3" instead of something closer to how an English speaker would think of it (bara', maybe?). There are at least five letters with numbers for transliterations, some of which are slightly more confusing than this example.
Thanks. Guess I haven't gotten that far yet. Seems like a good way to confuse new learners, though.
You are completely right! But this is what Beta phase is for so we can make a great course together.
Okay, I have gotten to the part where they use numbers for the "English" transliteration and I was right: It's very confusing. I wish they'd just transliterate into the equivalent sound in English, rather than confusing the issue by throwing in the numbers. It's not helpful for beginners at all.
Well, there is no equivalent sound in English for those letters :-) Human beings are very flexible, it is easy for one to get used to using a digit as a sound placeholder. Because a numeric character is something you already familiar with, unlike the Arabic character it represents.
The problem is that using a number as a placeholder conveys no information about the sound. And there is nothing helpful about this usage of numbers in the notes. I had to go look elsewhere to figure out what letter/sound it is. I am familiar with the sound of the letter ayin ع, as it's a similar sound to the letter ayin ע in Hebrew, and I know Hebrew very well. But for someone unfamiliar with these languages, I think it's very confusing.