Students of Arabic may ask themselves “What’s the fastest way to learn Arabic ?” Although the word “fast” here is relative and can be rather vague, the fastest way to learn Arabic is to follow these practical steps whether you plan on learning only the basic survival skills of Arabic for a short visit to Cairo , or you seek to reach an advanced level to become a diplomat or journalist.
Don’t believe the hyped up internet ads and the self-proclaimed language gurus. It is a process; there is no magic bullet.
1- Set small goals and work to achieve them.
This is the foundation of any learning endeavor. You will need to establish long and short term objectives. For example, you can establish a long term goal of reaching an intermediate proficiency level within 18 months and visit one or two Arabic countries for tourism without relying on a local guide or translator.
A short term goal could be the ability to have basic conversation with native speakers, such as introducing and talking about yourself while using the correct Arabic grammar and pronunciation.
A learner should be ready to revise these objectives as necessary depending on the progress being made.
2- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; learn from them.
Language acquisition experts agree that adopting an inhibited approach toward learning a foreign language is very effective in acquiring language fluency and accuracy at a much faster rate. And you can incorporate this strategy in your overall learning approach.
Do not worry about making mistakes, simply because you are a student of Arabic and you are not expected to speak like a native. So, don’t put too much pressure on yourself that should not be there to begin with.
Getting corrected when you make a mistake is a great learning opportunity. Actually, you will very likely not repeat the same error you get corrected on because that moment gets registered in the memory for good because of the emotion it had triggered (slight embarrassment, awkwardness or laughter, etc.).
3- Stay motivated
Studies indicate that motivation plays a key role in the successful learning of any foreign language, and particularly for Arabic students who do not live in an Arab-speaking country. The reason for that is that the reward of learning it while living in China, USA or Malaysia is delayed. However, a westerner who studies Arabic in Tunisia, for example, knows very well that she can use her acquired Arabic skills immediately, increasing the quality of her daily life and interactions with the locals. This is an example of an immediate reward that acts as an incentive to language immersion students.
Regardless of where you are located, ensure you remain motivated and seek to make small and gradual gains that will boost your confidence and consequently keep your motivation levels high. Joining an online Arabic learning community will be a tremendous source of motivation and a great platform to exchange tips and good practices. For instance, you can use sites like Meetup, or your local library, to connect with groups near you for conversational Arabic practice or language exchange.
4- Always carry a notebook to expand your vocabulary.
Vocabulary is the backbone of learning any foreign language as it enables us to communicate clearly and understand each other. It also requires studious practice in both the interpretive (reading/listening) and expressive (writing/speaking) modes.
Use a notebook to record new Arabic vocabulary , morphology and grammar. Experts concluded that handwriting your notes helps with information retention more than digital devices do. You can also use it to jot down your observations or review your lessons on your daily commute.
5- Seek language immersion
Language immersion is the mother of all foreign language learning strategies. The ideal situation would be to move to a country where Arabic is the native language. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to afford this unique experience.
Luckily technology has changed our lives radically as we now can use the internet to emulate an immersive learning experience. For instance, you can watch and listen to Aljazeera TV , the Arab media standard for Modern Standard Arabic; you can read the news on the TV network website ; and watch a plethora of Arabic shows, vlogs and subtitled clips on YouTube if you are learning a dialect.
If you live in a city with a large Arab community, you can hire an Arabic instructor or make Arab friends for conversational practice.
6- Practice all language skills (reading/writing/listening/speaking) daily
It is necessary to maintain a balanced approach in your journey of learning Arabic. Make sure you spend equal time and effort in learning to speak, read, write and listen to Arabic. It is equally important to practice what you learn because the truth about any language is that if you don’t use it, you will simply lose it.
You can ensure daily practice by seizing every opportunity to put into practice what you learn. Speak to yourself in Arabic; tell a story in a coherent way and make sure you record yourself. Listen to Arabic songs while following along the lyrics and make it fun and entertaining. If it is within your learning level, read a short news article and summarize it.
And the list of possible activities goes on and on.
7- Speak with yourself and record it daily or weekly
Speaking proficiency is the most exciting and impressive skill as you get to communicate with native and non-native speakers alike and show off your Arabic oral abilities. You can practice speaking by talking to yourself and recording it, if possible, in order to track your progress. Foreign language teachers recommend this strategy because it helps learners prepare for speaking in front of their classmates and with reducing the anxiety that comes with it.
8- Use a dictionary
Students of Arabic need to learn how to use the Arabic dictionary at an early stage as it gives them access to organized and nuanced synonyms, antonyms and the various combinations of prepositional phrases and their respective context. If you cannot find a dictionary book , use online dictionaries as an alternative .
However, a pocket dictionary or an app would be your best friend for easy 24/7 access. Al-Maany dictionary is a great tool.
9- Develop Arabic learning strategies such as interpreting meaning, roots and patterns
Teachers of Arabic should demonstrate to their students how to develop these strategies, such as using the root letters and the context to figure out the meaning of new words.
Students have to learn how to independently interpret text based on the context , word roots and morphology patterns before resorting to using the dictionary or asking a friend. This will gradually develop a mental skill that can save you a lot of time and effort later in your learning journey.
10 – Pay attention to conjunctions, synonyms and antonyms
In order to improve your Arabic fluency and accuracy, make sure you expand your repertoire of synonyms , antonyms and conjunctions because they will allow you to express different logical and chronological ideas.
As you become an advanced beginner focus on Enriching your language tools. Be familiar with conjunctions, synonyms and antonyms as they will allow you to improve your expressive skills. You will be amazed at how you can easily put your ideas and thoughts into coherent sentences without getting stuck searching for words.
You will also be able to tell a story with its series of events fluently if you master chronology words and conjunctions. Similarly, by knowing synonyms and word opposites, you can express yourself with fluency as you make an argument, compare ideas and make logical conclusions to your listener.
This will boost your confidence and push you to converse more comfortably with native speakers. By acquiring these linguistic tools, you will start enjoying reading and interpreting more abstract and complex topics, and consequently engaging in a positive learning cycle.