How to learn Arabic without really trying

You can’t. It’s impossible. Even native speakers struggle with it. Turn back, turn back now.

When you take Spanish in an American school system, the main barrier to learning the language has less to do with the language itself and more to do with bad instruction, insufficient time, and a lack of inter-staff communication leading you to learn the same level over and over and over again. The language itself is rather easy to learn from English. They both come from Latin, they both like to link together subjects and actions with lots of little words like the, in, to, and is, and most importantly they share largely the same alphabet. Meanwhile, عرابdoes not have the same alphabet. Nor does it like to use linking words, and similar linguistic roots? لا, لاواحد

Another thing is that the language reads right to left, meaning if you read that last sentence in Arabic as “not one no” and not “no not one,” then congratulations, you have made your first mistake in Arabic. Your next logical question after “how on earth could I read the individual words if I don’t know enough about the language to tell which way it reads” of course would be “wait, the sentence has two words. Why does it translate to three?”

Well that’s just another wonderful feature of Arabic. Half it’s meaning is communicated in prefixes and suffixes. For instance, dad is والدThe dad is الوالدmy dad is والديand her dad is والدهاYou can say a five word sentence in English in just one or two Arabic words. Which is great if you’re tweeting but absolute horror if you’re reading. Don’t know all of a word’s possible prefixes? Haven’t memorized every possible prefix and what it means? Well, if so, get ready to do a lot of contextual detective work because you’re about to encounter a lot of words you think you know but you don’t.

And once you’ve figured out all of that you can get ready to throw it all out the window the minute you need to speak to someone, because doing so employees an entirely different language. Arabic is a language of poets and scholars, meaning any common folk trying to understand it are going to get very confused. Luckily for them they can just use the colloquial language, which is completely different from the formal written language ادرسfor instance becomes بدرسin the Jordanian colloquial. Which would be simply annoying if it wasn’t for the fact that the first letter of the the word is supposed to signify it’s association. Meaning not only is the spelling screwed up, but a big important grammar rule has gone right out the window alongside it. And on top of this, as my qualification ofبدرسas being the Jordanian form of the colloquial tongue might have made you guess, each region has a form of colloquial all their own, so have fun learning a completely different colloquial language if you want to be understood by people in regions outside your own.

With all that having been said, if you want to learn a language solely for the sake of learning a second language, I highly suggest Arabic. Arabic is hard, like really hard. But you can learn it. I spent only a month on the language on an intensive program and I can already read the language phonetically and speak a few words. It’s a challenge, but a challenge that opens your mind to a knew way of thinking linguistically like nothing else.

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