Everything Up to Level 5 on the Arabic Tree!
This is the first time I've gotten all the lessons up to level 5 on a language. I have way more crowns in German, but German has a lot more lessons.
I thought the Arabic course was great. I can't wait until more lessons are published!
Just did the same as you (without any previous knowledge whatsoever on arabic, and without even being native english speaker).
What a nice journey, and what a pride to be able to at least read arabic alphabet and understand and say some basic words and sentences. It is the first time I spend time on my smartphone for something that really makes me a better person. Thanks to the team who developed this very helpful and well designed material.
I am anxiously waiting for the next lessons to be published, as I am convinced it is possible to go further using this fantastic Duo platform. Can I expect to see them soon?
I have been doing French for about ten months but since I have recently met several Chaldean people whose ability in English is not a lot better than my ability in Arabic, so I switched over Arabic just over a week ago. The first few lessons are all about the alphabet, so I am feeling more than a little lost at this point. I am hoping it gets a lot easier once the alphabet lessons are done. Wish me luck.
Did I learn Arabic from scratch? Yes. I have never taken an Arabic class at university, hired a private tutor, or done anything like that.
Does all my Arabic knowledge come from this Duolingo course? No. I have some self-study courses but, honestly, I haven’t had much luck with them.
What is my opinion of how much Arabic I learned from Duolingo? It's a high opinion. For a free course, that has so few lessons, this is really, really good. For example, I have found nothing better for learning the alphabet.
It is impossible to make a single Arabic course that will please everyone. Arabic varies from region to region as much as the biggest Scandinavian languages do among themselves. For example, if you learn Norwegian you will be able to read a lot of Swedish and Danish but you will be lost when they start talking to you—especially the Danes. There will even be varieties of Norwegian that will be virtually impossible for you to understand at first.
If you master Norwegian, most varieties of Swedish will take very little effort to understand, as will the other varieties of Norwegian that were once unintelligible. With a little effort, Danish will become understandable as well.
Arabic is a lot like that—but we call all the different varieties Arabic instead of separating them into different, but closely related languages.
The more formal and technical Arabic is, the more alike it is. We call that الفصحى/al FusHa or Modern Standard Arabic—a variety of Arabic which all Arabs learn in school. It is the only written variety, but Arabs speak it very, very little in everyday life. This means that legal documents, and scientific articles, are pretty much the same regardless of where the Arab comes from. When speaking about these formal subjects, at a high, technical level, the Arabic will be mostly the same, regardless of where you are in the Arab world.
The more informal and colloquial the Arabic is, the more different it is. Also, the farther away the Arabic speakers grow up, the less alike their dialects are. This means that a Sudanese person and a Chadian will be able to understand one another effortlessly, or almost effortlessly, but a Moroccan and a Kuwaiti will have great difficulty communicating.
It’s not quite that simple though. Egypt has the most robust media industry in the Arab world, so all Arabs grow up listening to Egyptian songs and watching Egyptian TV programs. Therefore, everyone understands the Egyptian dialect at least reasonably well. Lebanon has a media presence that is disproportionate to its small size, so Arabs also tend to have a good ear for the Lebanese dialect—and therefore Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian are a little easier for them to understand.
Iraqi and the Gulf dialects, e.g. Saudi, Qatari, etc. are going to be a little rougher for most Arabs who are not from around there. I’m told they can get by if they speak slowly and are patient with one another. Western dialects, i.e. Moroccan, Libyan, Tunisian, and Algerian, are notoriously difficult for all Arabs from outside that region. It takes a lot of effort and exposure for, say, Yemenis to understand Algerians.
So, when you are making an Arabic course, what do you teach? No matter which dialect you teach, be it Modern Standard Arabic, Egyptian or Lebanese, much of what the students learn will not be applicable depending on which Arabs they speak to.
If the people at Duolingo really wanted to do an over the top, amazing job with Arabic, they would make a different course for all the major dialects: Moroccan, Egyptian, Lebanese and Saudi. Some would make an argument that Iraqi should have its own course.
That’s asking a lot of them though.
If you are interested in Arabic, I highly recommend this course. It teaches the Modern Standard dialect.
Just don’t expect the sun the moon and the stars.
Everything you learn will be useful—especially the alphabet—but there are lots of things you will not learn. If this were French or Russian—languages that are surprisingly consistent regardless of where you go—then you would not have this problem. This is due to the nature of Arabic more than the failings of the Duolingo staff and volunteers.
I was, and am, a native English speaker.
How well do I speak Arabic? Not very.
Can I read and sound out words? Yes! I get on BBC Arabic and have fun reading like a six-year-old. Duolingo does a good job of teaching you the Arabic alphabet. I can even sound out words in Persian.