The video sharing platform is awash with free Arabic language tutorials for anyone interested in learning the language. However, a closer look at the content reveals that quality content is drowned by the large quantity of improvised lessons that do not meet the minimum standards of instruction.
I can imagine how difficult it could be for any beginner to make an informed decision to commit with one YouTube channel over another.
The goal of this post is to share with you the best available channels that I selected based on specific criteria to ensure you start on the right foot.
These five YouTube Channels meet the needs of the absolute beginner learners of Modern Standard Arabic.
I recommend combining one of these YouTube channels with a reputable textbook, such as Alif Baa, which you can use to advance to intermediate level.
Please note that I excluded the following types of channels from the selection process:
- Classical Arabic instruction since it interests mostly students who want to understand the Quran. I may provide a review of this category in a different post if there is interest.
- Videos with poor image or audio quality.
- Videos teaching dialects of Arabic. I wanted to keep this focused on Modern Standard Arabic.
- Channels with low production of videos or sporadic postings.
See also: What are the types of Arabic?
Selection Criteria :
It is important to remember that these channels offer free lessons for the most part. Therefore, it is not realistic to expect outstanding teaching content that follows the latest curriculum development theories and strictest instruction standards.
However, based on my humble experience and training and language teaching and instructional design , I looked into some basic but key elements that need to be present in these channels for a positive Arabic language learning experience at the introductory level:
- The channel must offer Modern Standard Arabic lessons. I was surprised by the sheer volume of instructors who either mixed MSA with the dialect or were teaching an Arabic dialect and calling it Arabic.
- A clear and understandable pronunciation is a must. It is critical for beginning students to be exposed to the proper articulation of Arabic sounds, particularly if it is their first exposure to Arabic.
- Instructors must produce sequential lessons that follow a linear progression in complexity and functionality. This will help students to follow the increasing difficulty of content.
- Comprehensive list of lessons or units of instruction. Channels must provide access to full lists of lessons without a break. No teaser content.
Below is a list of the best five YouTube channels for the absolute Arabic language beginner :
1- Arabic Khatawaat
This channel offers over 50 instructional videos with an average length of 20 minutes. All lessons are in Modern Standard Arabic. The instructor’s name is Rajaa.
The introductory course consists of 23 videos covering Arabic letters and vocalizations, parts of speech, numbers and prepositions. There is also a grammar course presented in 14 videos and another set of 14 clips of Arabic language practice.
Arabic Khatawaat also offers playlists containing narrated Arabic stories and documentaries with English subtitles suitable for beginners and intermediate students.
- The listed courses are comprehensive and well structured . The lessons complement each other and follow a logical progression.
- The content itself is excellent.
- Although teaching style needs a little more passion, it is based on constant probing questions to students, who are not in the camera frame. Learners watching the YT video can use those questions as an opportunity to answer the instructor’s questions for a more interactive session and to test their own knowledge.
- The instructor also teaches how to write the letters including the starting pen position and direction.
- Rajaa needs to be a little more animated to instill some enthusiasm in her audience.
2- Gateway to Arabic Institute
At a close second position, this Channel offers over 203 videos ( average length 30 minutes), grouped in playlists for different Arabic levels. A playlist for the absolute beginners of Arabic offers 18 lessons comprising a full introductory course.
- All lessons are in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and the instructor has an excellent command of Arabic .
- The instructor’s pronunciation and articulation are so good it was hard for me to guess his country of origin, which is something I am usually good at. This is ideal for beginners to be exposed to this instructor’s neutral accent and try to mimic at such an early stage in their learning journey.
- The instructor has a good teaching style using simple but effective teaching tricks to help students understand and memorize the basic elements of Arabic ( sounds and shapes of the letters). He is also genuinely passionate about the language, which is key to keep students motivated and engaged.
- The 18 lessons followed a good progression of difficulty and covered all aspects expected at the introductory level.
- The instructor follows a book he authored and promotes on the channel. Purchasing the book could be helpful, but is not necessary to follow the lessons.
- More advanced courses available on the channel are geared more towards Quranic Arabic, which may narrow the audience of students who’d like to continue studying.
- No interaction with the commenters.
3- Learn Arabic with Maha
Italy-based Palestinian Maha runs this channel, which offers over 470 videos for mostly beginners and low intermediate learners.
- Maha maintains a simple, dynamic, yet relaxed, teaching style, which can appeal to casual learners and attract those who were not even interested in learning Arabic.
- She has good presence and often interacts with the viewers as she sometimes makes videos addressing their requests or comments.
- Teaches functional Arabic dedicating some lessons to topics like “5 ways Arabs say ‘bye’” and how to tell somebody to shut up (lol).
- The channel is not focused solely on MSA. It offers videos on the Palestinian dialect, of the Levanine variants, and even Hebrew. This could be distracting to learners of MSA.
- The tutorials are not structured into a cohesive unit of interrelated lessons with linear progression, which suggests she has no training or experience in teaching and instructional design.
- Frequent mistakes in Arabic pronunciation and understanding of some words, indicating limited knowledge at the advanced level. For instance, she explained in one of the videos the meaning of her name, Maha, which she explained wrong and translated it literally as the “wild cow”instead of the onyx.
- Much of Maha’s content revolves around conversational Arabic, which is not comprehensive enough and is peppered with pronunciation errors and colloquialism.
4- Let’s Learn Arabic
This channel offers a good set of introductory lessons to Arabic . After a pause of several months , the channel has recently resumed posting Arabic lessons.
- Ahmad, the instructor, has a good and engaging teaching style. He is genuinely passionate and funny, and many viewers/students love his style and constantly ask for more.
- Good teaching method, derived from a traditional Arabic language instruction technique.
- There is a gap between the introductory course and subsequent lessons, making it hard for students to follow through to the next level.
- Lack of content beyond the introductory level course.
- Mr. Eisawy’s has great potential if only he can posts more frequently and show better structure.
5- Learn Arabic with Qasid
This channel offers a playlist that beginners can benefit from. It consists of 28 videos covering Arabic Letters tutorials and two videos covering the 10 Arabic Verb Forms. Antoher playlist named Al-Kitaab Advantage has 12 videos of about five minutes long teaching grammar. There are dozens of other videos but they are not pertinent to learners of MSA.
- Lessons are well prepared and are based on good lesson plans, suggesting some formal education background.
- Good equipment using smart boards and screen capture videos .
- Instructors offer cultural information that provides some context to students, making for more fun sessions.
- Minimum content is published in order to lure viewers to sign up and pay for access to more.
- The jump between the introductory and grammar lessons is abrupt– not ideal for beginners.
- Almost half of the content offers Jordanian Arabic lessons, not MSA.
- Too much focus on promoting the institute offering the lessons
As we all know, good things don’t come for free and you usually get what you pay for. While YouTube tutorials offer free content, there are limitations to them.
However, beginners and people contemplating studying Arabic can benefit tremendously from YouTube learning. They can wet their appetite and see if learning a foreign language is something they want to do.
While it is a great starting point , once you learn the basics of Arabic on one of these channels, you should consider moving to a paid platform like Path to Arabic, that offers online , in-person or a combination of the two. A comprehensive course that is interactive and detailed could always be better if one can afford it.
If you want me to review some specific Arabic teaching service or platform, please let me know. But whatever you do, keep learning and grow your Arabic learning mustache !