Hey everybody. I know that "English for Arabic" is currently a course, and it would be neat if an Arabic for English course came out... but that's not what I'm writing about.

I'm completely new to arabic (And I mean completely. I don't even know the basics of the alphabet). Does anybody have any valuable resources out there for picking up the basics? I've looked into Rosetta Stone, but on Arabic, I've gotten nothing but bad reviews (From Arabs who state that it's riddled with mistakes, and English speakers who complain that it doesn't teach anything about the alphabet before thrusting you into it).

I'd love to learn a bit about the language, as I have a number of friends who speak the language, and used to think it would be impossible (I thought the same about German, and now I'm watching television in German and fully understanding it).

If anybody has any resources, that would be amazing.

September 29, 2014


Unfortunately, the existing on-line resources are rather limited, that said - Memrize would still probably be not a bad starting point, in terms of the alphabet and some vocabulary. However, I fear that this is not sufficient in the long run. Frankly speaking, I did not study Arabic using on-line resources, but I would make the following suggestions:

  • As has been previously noted, you should definitely decide on which aspect of the Arabic language you would like to focus, based upon the purpose for which you want to study Arabic. Notwithstanding, I would recommend (of course, after learning the alphabet, which is not that complicated) to get a solid basis of standard Arabic grammar.

Perhaps you would not like to focus on that too much if you wish to study a spoken dialect, but from my experience it is easier to learn a spoken dialect after learning the basics of standard Arabic, rather than vice versa. Although you will probably find the rather concrete rules of standard Arabic only partially connected to the grammar and syntax of a spoken dialect, it would be much more difficult to understand the rules of standard Arabic after you have studied a spoken dialect for some time - and that may hinder your ability to use and understand standard Arabic (which can be quite useful, since especially if it is not your native language, knowing one spoken dialect will not guarantee that you understand other dialects - although some are quite similar - and will probably not help you if you encounter a text). And still, it should be noted that one would not normally use standard Arabic in everyday communication - either a spoken dialect or a mix of a spoken dialect and standard Arabic - hence knowing only standard Arabic will be of little help if you are actually planning to speak with people and understand what they are saying.

  • Given the situation with on-line resources, I would recommend to find good books and perhaps take a short course (or a few lessons with a private tutor) in order to get a jump-start and to be actually able to continue learning it on your own. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend any books in English, since I did not study it from such books. I can, however, recommend the translation of Caspari's "A Grammar of The Arabic Language" by William Wright as a reference book (definitely not as a textbook). It is arguably the most comprehensive source for Arabic grammar. It might not be quite suitable for beginners, however you can find there an explanation to almost any grammatical topic. You can find both volumes here:

If you are looking for a decent dictionary (with all due respect to Google translate and various on-line dictionaries) I would definitely recommend "A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic" by Hans Wehr ( One could argue that it is not as easy to use as on-line dictionaries, but using this dictionary (or any other dictionary that uses the same system) deepens your understanding of the structure of Arabic words (especially verbs) and their meaning.

  • Last but not least, after all that heavy grammar, in order to practice your understanding of spoken Arabic I would strongly recommend listening to Arabic music (personally, I prefer Lebanese music - for example Fairuz and Majida El Roumi - which are somewhat more classical - and Mashrou Leila - if you prefer more modern things and it's great for those interested in the Lebanese dialect) as well as watching films in Arabic (Egyptian films may be especially recommended). And of course, if you have an opportunity to speak with people that speak Arabic as their native language - it would be invaluable. The only effective way to learn spoken Arabic is to speak it and to spend time in an Arabic-speaking environment.

Well, I'm sorry for this rather lengthy comment. I hope this might help, although part of the aforementioned is probably more suitable for somewhat more advanced learners. Of course, the mentioned arguments are not an objective truth, but rather my conclusions - surely, one can find other, equally valid, contradicting arguments.

I found this after googling a little, don't know if you have already seen it but it might be of use to you. :)

Why three dislikes for looking for Arabic resources in the duolingo community? It's not like I'm insulting Duolingo. I love it and use it daily. But I'd like to prepare myself a bit in the event that Duolingo DOES add an Arabic for English course.

Possibly trolls, possibly a case of people not actually reading it before giving it a down vote. It's a totally valid question. I gave you an upvote. I don't have any resource suggestions though. I would post to the course contributors and ask them if they have any suggestions. ^_^

EDIT: PS it is a good idea to change the subject line as well to "Arabic resources". The way it is now matches a lot of people's inquiries as to whether Duolingo will be getting an Arabic course and could explain the down votes, unfortunately. -_-

For any of the languages not yet on Duolingo, the first piece of standard advice is to use Anki or Memrise to learn the writing system and some vocabulary.

Also, the old FSI courses of dozens of languages (including Arabic) are free for download in various places around the internet.

An early step in learning Arabic is deciding whether to concentrate on MSA ("Modern Standard Arabic" - a literary standard understood by formally educated Arabic speakers throughout the world), Koranic Arabic or a modern spoken dialect. I believe that the Duolingo course will concentrate on MSA, but, depending on how you wish to use your Arabic, it might be better to learn a spoken dialect, such as Egyptian.

I'm not criticising the comment or something but to be honest, I wouldn't go for a dialect if I were you because it's just harder and then (say you learnt Egyptian dialect) then if you go to Egypt it would be useful, but if you don't go or you decide to leave to a different Arabic country it's pointless because there is quite a big difference between the different dialect so it would be totally useless, if you learn standard Arabic then everyone would understand you wherever you went (even though you'd sound like a freshie but they'd probably know you're not Arabic and they'd be jealous cus you can speak their language and they may not be able to speak yours) and yeah... :P

Why not start with this course on Memrise, which starts teaching the alphabet, and then continues with basic words:

There are plenty of other Arabic courses on Memrise, which you can check out here:

PS: I haven't tried any of the Arabic courses on Memrwise, but I am from an Arab country myself, and even here the resources for foreigners to learn Arabic are scarce, especially online ones. I think the courses on Memrise are the best ones you can currently find, based on my overall experience with Memrise using other languages.

Look up Saqib Hussain on youtube he has fantastic free arabic resources as well as an option for paid proper courses.. its all Modern Standard Arabic though I believe so if youre after a particular regional dialect you'll have to look elsewhere. At the very least you'll learn the alphabet

Thank you. I've started watching him and I like the way he covers the alphabet.

Any body knows when the course is about to come up?

Memrise or maybe Busuu? IDK I learnt Arabic by watching TV - the kids tv shows are really good for learning but they can be extremely boring (you could put on subtitles as well). I think maybe if u start with Memrise then when u get a bit better u could try Busuu as well :)

You could possibly try Livemocha. I don't like their new website much, but it does teach the Arabic alphabet and has native speakers. (I've looked at it). To get the lessons on Livemocha, you have to earn the points to buy it by helping people with English or you can run their demo over and over. They give you points for each time you run the demo and if you keep running it enough times, you'll get enough points. Then it asks you a few questions, and then has you submitting spoken and written exercises to the community, to be evaluated by native speakers (which you have to pay points for). You can earn the points by helping people with English. Livemocha also doesn't give any advice about typing in Arabic. They expect you to figure that out for yourself.

As well, there is Memrise, which is something like Duolingo, also FSI courses.

For the past 2 years I've been emailing with a young guy who is a native Arabic speaker. He wanted help with English. I referred him to the English for Arabic speakers course on Duolingo. He did a little on it when it first went into beta and then wrote me, "The Arabic on there is stupid".
Anyway, he'd probably be glad to help you with Arabic. Let me know and I could email him and tell him. He's told me that Arabic is a very big language with a complicated grammar and that he was poor in Arabic grammar in school, but he's a native Arabic speaker, anyway and can read Arabic. He's in the U.K. now, since last Friday.

HI YOU CAN GO TO GOOGLE AND TYPE ( ARABIC FOR BIGINNERS ) it is simple and easy and i think it will help you

YouTube has great bit-sized lessons on learning the Arabic writing system from scratch.

Just type Arabic Alphabet for beginners and a slew of videos pop up.

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.