It has to do with the order of adjectives which is common in English, and which is common in Arabic. In Arabic, the adjectives that are about the identity come first (after the noun) and then quality adjectives (like "smart") come after.
In English, it is commonly like the example above; The quality adjective (smart) comes first then followed by personal or identity adjectives that describe the person or the thing.
It is called Tanwin or Nunation. I've explained it in other posts so I will just talk about it in short here: Tanwin can be in 3 flavors (-an, -in, -un) depending on the status of the word. It has several jobs in Arabic, however for the basic level, you can consider it as the indefinite marker for the word (something like a/an in English). So, Tanwin and (AL) cannot occur in the same word. I don't know why Duolingo is not showing these markers though.
Not a native English speaker but when I first read your sentence I thought you were talking about 2 girls, an American and another who is an Arab. I think the "and" here gives the impression that there are 2 girls instead of 1.
That aside, the Arabic sentence here does not include وَ (wa: and) originally.
TJ: I know you are a native Arabic speaker, I must say, though, that you write as well as any native English speaker; even better than many. ; ) I'm curious how you became fluent in another language. Did you train as an English teacher or live in an English speaking country? I'm big on privacy, so if you answer this, and don't want your answer to remain on the thread, just let me know and I will delete this question after I read your response, which will also delete your response, as well.
It's OK. Nothing private about it really. No, actually, I didn't "train" nor lived in an English-speaking country. From a young age, I was actually interested in scripts and languages in general but I didn't really "learn" any language except for English because it is the 2nd language here and taught in schools. Worth noting though that in school they teach British English but in college most of the books are in American English. Anyway, from a young age, like 12 or so, I've started listening to English music -not for the language but merely for the taste itself- and beside watching these TV shows and movies. Probably I wasn't able to really communicate in English until I was 20 or so because I was in college then and I had to use it to communicate with professors and so on. In high-school I used to translate some scientific articles for the school (in hope to get extra marks because I really sucked in everything else) and back then there was no internet really. We had the library and the lucky ones (like me) had a PC at home with some Encyclopedia CDs. It was like a ritual every year to get some Encyclopedia CD; My favorite ones were Compton's and Encarta. My uncle got me Encarta 1994 I remember and that was the spark for the love of languages. This encyclopedia had valuable info about many languages with voice recordings - and it was that time when I set my eyes on Irish. I hear of Ireland, but never thought that there is such a language and such a culture. Beside other things related to the culture, found myself really sucked in into learning Irish. Didn't have a good source to learn till recent years with Duolingo really. All that time I would check some websites, and before that try to find some books and order them via some concierge service (because I didn't have a visa). From an early age, I realized that to learn a lot about this world (because I didn't and couldn't travel) I would need to focus on English, because, unfortunately, the Arabic educational culture was lagging behind in the production of books and education resources.
Worth noting that I was a loser in Arabic classes at all levels in school. I could barely make it out of any class. I didn't get the sense and the feel of my own culture and language, until I reached about 29-30, when I started to travel on my own and learn more about languages (which eased for me some obscured things that I couldn't understand while studying Arabic in Arabic). Adding to that, the "going down" in the musical taste made me turn back for inspiration and muse into classical Arabic music; To me, it was like re-discovering myself. I was surprised myself that there are such gems that I was completely ignorant of. I'm not into the new music though; It's tasteless, culture-less, with no emotional value to me.
This said, I use English daily as well. Either on the internet or in my workplace where many co-workers are non-Arabs. So, English is the lingua franca here. There was a time when speaking standard Arabic here was a sign of an educated high class, then things changed and people started showing off by putting English words into their speech to show that they are educated (and I mean this out of the technical circle). And now, with all these smart devices, things have gone out of control I guess and speaking standard Arabic at some point might sound weird to some.
Not a single course on Duolingo will make your fluent. That's a fact. Duolingo is just an aid and a memory activator somehow. You have to do some work somewhere else; Social media, videos and so on.
For Arabic, many people prefer learning a dialect rather than MSA because this is what people use in their everyday life, and when you plan to travel to somewhere this is supposedly what you will be using and expecting to hear from locals (depends on the area, English and French are used widely as well).
Sticking to English first:
In English, the attributive adjective (which attaches itself to the noun) comes before the noun. So, to see the difference between the two, we have to treat the noun and its attached adjective as one entity:
- A smart Arab (American girl).
- A smart American (Arab girl).
The rule is, the most close or relevant adjective comes directly before the noun.
In the first sentence, the girl is originally "American" and for some reason she adapted to be an Arab.
In the second sentence, the girl is originally Arab, but now she's American (living there, or got citizenship, anything like that).
So, the order of adjectives does change the meaning, in English and many other languages.
Same thing is applicable to Arabic, except that adjectives in Arabic come after the noun not before. Thus, the most relevant adjective is the one right after the noun.
It's just the opposite, TJ. An Arab American is an American with Arabic ancestry just as a German American is an American whose ancestors/grandparents/parents or they themselves came from Germany. Unless we're specifically talking about our ancestry, though, we usually just use these terms to describe someone who immigrated to their new country themselves.
As a rough guide, in these situations with such adjectives following each other, you can say that the adjectives order in Arabic is the reverse of the English order. So, if it is: an Arab American girl in English, the order in Arabic would be like reading from the right: girl/American/Arab.