Whether you’re learning Arabic for beginners or your nearly speaking like a native, I have some advice for you: Don’t put all of your falafel in one sandwich. What that means is that too many times Arabic language learners will register for a class, go to that class two or three times a week, and at the end of the course, they wonder why their Arabic hasn’t improved much. Or they’ll get a book on Arabic with every intention of sitting down and learning Arabic. Maybe they’ll even do a couple of chapters before, months later, rediscovering that book covered with dust on their bookshelf and say, “I really have to start studying this book again.” Then five years later that book will still be on the shelf when there are boxing up their things to move into a new apartment. Why is that?
For starters, you may have heard the highly overused adage that “variety is the spice of life”, and as overused as it may be, it still rings true.
Many people start a class or buy a book with every intention of learning Arabic, and for many, they soon realize that that method of learning just isn’t working out for them. However, the solution is simple and can have them learning to speak Arabic in no time at all – and that is by diversifying their language learning strategy.
So how do you get started on the path of diversification?
Well, there are a variety ways you can add a little spice to your Arabic language learning strategy and today we’re going to talk about a few of them.
Put the “Smart” back in Your Smartphone
Let’s face it. Everybody and their granny has a mobile phone these days and it has become so easy to download apps for everything from managing your budget to learning how to make shawarma at home (or even figuring out if its spelled “shawerma” or “shawarma”). Arabic language learning apps are no exception to the thousands of apps that people download to their phones annually. No longer are you relegated to signing up for a course, buying the books, or driving miles and miles through traffic and bad weather to attend lectures that you share with 20 other students.
Nowadays, it’s never been easier to learn Arabic online with just a swipe of your finger from the convenience of your own home in as much or as little time as you want. And with the latest in mobile technology, colorful animations and graphics, and engaging and challenging exercises, learning Arabic actually seems fun!
Speaking of Kaleela is an Arabic app and website designed to fit the needs of any non-native speaker who wishes to learn Arabic online. Available for both Android and IOS, the app comes in a variety of languages: English, Spanish, Indonesian and Chinese.
The student can choose from a variety of online Arabic courses available. The Modern Standard Arabic (commonly known as Fusha) is designed to teach non-natives the foundation of Arabic language, regardless if the student has any prior knowledge of Arabic or not. The MSA lessons will aid the student in real life situations, from identifying objects, people and environments, forming and responding to questions, to producing sentences that are used daily. This course covers many topics such as basics, greetings, family, relatives and friends, housing and accommodation, numbers, weather, telling time, shopping, calendar, daily routine, common phrases, shopping, transportation, clothing, food, jobs, nationality and many more to come. The student can choose which topic they want to learn, rather than following a singular rigid path.
The Dialectal Arabic (Ammiyah) part of Kaleela consists of online Arabic courses that offer Egyptian Arabic and Palestinian-Jordanian Arabic. There’s one excellent reason any Arabic student should speak a dialect: it’s basically the only way to prove a person knows the language. Moreover, there is a specially structured course for Arabic letters that includes videos with transliteration and the correct path to follow when practicing the Arabic calligraphy.
Since language acquisition consists of many steps, at the end of each course, be it MSA or Amiyah, individuals will encounter fun, interactive and diverse quizzes which will enhance their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills altogether. The exercises scale in levels, starting from beginner to experienced, for which the guidelines of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages were followed to ensure international standards. Kaleela also offers extraordinary learning methods like teaching and memorizing information by building vocabulary gradually.
It’s also a fun way to dip your toes in the water with a new, exotic language if you’re looking to taste something different.
1. Podcasts and video channels.
Since most of us can’t just up and travel the globe for that authentic immersion experience we’re stuck at home, on our butts, with the not inconsiderable resources we have at our fingertips.
A lot of polyglots, linguists, and educators maintain active podcasts and video channels where they document their own learning processes or offer advice and basic listening exercises to their subscribers.
Most of these podcasts are free – I wouldn’t usually recommend using one that isn’t – and YouTube is always free, so there’s no reason not to check out some of these channels.
I’ve already done some of the work for you! You’re always welcome to check out our “Video Channels and Podcasts” page via this link or the tab at the to of this page for a list of some prominent vloggers and polyglot personalities.
We’re always looking to add more so if you yourself have a channel, either of your own work or someone that you follow, please don’t hesitate to send it my way!
You can do this with your mobile device too.
I know you still have some kicking around somewhere.
You remember them right? The paper things that you keep on a shelf, or in a bag, or in stacks on the floor. You may not have actually read one since school. Maybe you keep all of your reading on your mobile device now anyhow.
No matter where you keep your books today – when it comes to language learning, they’re still valid.
A couple months ago we actually did a survey here on this site that took stock of visitors’ favorite language learning methods. The winner by far was “books”. I’m not sure if only the traditionalists among you voted, or if books are genuinely still the preferred method, but either way their value, even among contemporary tools like smart phones and tablets, cannot be ignored.
You can find language learning books, dictionaries and texts online and in most bookstores. You may have to order resources online for some of the less commonly spoken languages, but books tend to be a relatively inexpensive resource – at least when compared with some alternatives.
Looking to save money? You can read an enormous selection of eBooks with the free Kindle Reading App available for most devices (including your computer!). Amazon has an enormous selection of language and linguistics books and texts for lower prices than hard copy equivalents.
3. Surround yourself with entertainment!
Movies, video games, music, everything else you can think of. Hopefully you know why you’re learning a given language, and hopefully it is at least in part because of a love for or at least an interest in the culture of its speakers.
Listen to their music, try to become accustomed to the way their voices rise and fall or how certain words are inflected. Listen to how they use slang or regional lingo.
Some have cited that watching foreign films and listening to music is not a seriously effective way to learn a new language – and I would agree that by itself it probably won’t do the trick, but the goal here is to keep your learning fun and entertaining. If you let your language project become a chore you’re more likely to lose motivation.
4. Take some time off to learn about the culture.
Grinding yourself into the ground focusing on grammar, vocabulary and new writing systems can quickly begin to wear on you and your motivation. Perhaps its just the anthropologist in me but I fail to see why anyone would learn a language without taking any sort of interest in the culture that surrounds it.
So when things start to bear down on you, take some time off to read about the people who speak the language you’re learning. Read about its history, where it came from. Spend some time learning about the language family it’s a member of and try to catch up on current cultural trends.
Taking some time off from active learning often gives me renewed energy when I start back up again a day or two later. You’d be surprised how much you do in fact remember and how easily it can be to slip back into your groove.
Sometimes the additional perspective alone is sufficient to reignite your passion for the language.
5. Speak a lot! Often!
What good would any of this be if you weren’t communicating in your new language?
It doesn’t really matter how you do this, be it a fellow language learner, learning with a friend or family member, traveling abroad, working with a teacher, online or in person.
Take any and all opportunities to speak your language to someone who will be receptive to working with you, or at least listening to you.
You can and should attempt to fit some sort of speaking exercise with another human being into your typical study routine. This can be difficult but there are so many people out there worth talking to and you only have so many years to reach as many as possible.
Better start now.