- Some Advice Before You Start Studying the Arabic Language
- What Are the Main Differences Between English and Arabic?
- Is Arabic the Oldest Language?
- An Introduction to Arabic Script
- Learning to Write in Arabic with Textbooks
- How to Have Fun as You Learn to Write in Arabic
- Learning How to Write in Arabic with a Pen Pal
According to a report published on Lexiophiles in 2009, the Arabic language is among the most difficult to learn in the world, alongside Mandarin Chinese and Polynesian. So what is it that might compel someone to learn Arabic, and take their studies to the next level by learning how to write Arabic script?
Arabic is a language that is important to Arabs across the world, as well as the Islamic faith as it is the language that is used in the Muslim holy book of the Quran.
Classical Arabic is also now used as an official language in all countries of the Arab world across the Middle East and North Africa, including:
- Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates
As you can see, this is in no way or form an isolated language which hardly anyone speaks.
You may be keen to get a hold of this interesting language so that you can visit one of the above countries and understand signage, menus and other instructions in written form, or you may be set on mastering Arabic words and letters to get a true understanding of the culture that surrounds this historic and, seemingly, spiritual language. After all, Arabic is somewhat representative of an entire culture. However, the two are, in some ways, quite far apart as one is much more focused on literature and is therefore less straightforward.
Arabic tends to instil fear in native English speakers who simply can't get their heads around a totally new lettering system. The alphabet, so different, can seem indecipherable at first glance. What's more, learners are frightened away by the various types of Arabic that exist, and the supposedly complex Arabic grammar used even in basic Arabic.
There's some good advice on the internet about how to learn Arabic. Here's our advice on learning written Arabic script like a pro without going through long traditional courses.
Some Advice Before You Start Studying the Arabic Language
Decide Why You Want to Learn Arabic
Like most languages, there are different angles at which you can set your language learning goals. Before choosing an Arabic course, you need to identify which form of Arabic you want to learn.
There are two areas of Arabic to get your head around:
- Classical or literary Arabic
- Dialectic or modern standard Arabic
Although dialectic Arabic differs from country to country (Moroccan Arabic is different from Egyptian Arabic, for example), literary Arabic is often considered much more complicated to learn due to its added sophistication. Indeed, you'll need to invest a serious amount of time and dedication to master all of the twists and turns of Literary Arabic. This classical form is a Semiotic language whose root words are based on three-letter consonant structures.
What Are the Main Differences Between English and Arabic?
Dialectic Arabic is principally a spoken language, used in Arab media or in business settings, however, it can be studied in written form. In terms of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and syntax, it's different from Classical Arabic, and both are a million miles away from the English language we know and speak every day in our own nation.
Dialectic Arabic is advised for all students who want to go live and/or work in an Arab country, so this is the area of Arabic that we will focus on in this piece.
Even if you were to spend some time in an Arab state after beginning to learn dialectic Arabic, you should still be able to make yourself understood in social situations too, though it may not be particularly easy.
Arabic is often perceived as one the most difficult languages in the world, because of how different its alphabet is to the more traditional letter system seen across the globe. But different doesn't have to be difficult, does it?
The system of Arabic writing is very different from ours. Even if the Arabic alphabet, with its roots in Aramaic languages, contains only 28 letters, 2 more than our own Latin alphabet, the style of writing is completely different from what we're used to in the West, and care must taken with all aspects, especially the dots above or below words which affect how it is pronounced.
More than anything else, the biggest difference is that reading and writing are done from right to left, the complete opposite of English.
In an Arabic text or poetry, the letters are not separated from each other as they form words, similar to our own cursive handwriting (which is inspired by Arabic calligraphy), but much more complicated. There are no capital letters anywhere to indicate the beginning of sentences, and vowels are often elided from written Arabic: reading is thus nearly impossible for Arabic beginners.
The aesthetic beauty of Arabic, however, is undeniable. Many American students study calligraphy as part of the Arabic lessons, to be able to write Arabic correctly and traditionally, as Arabic script is a beautiful sight to behold on paper.
Writing Arabic can be like a work of art!
Rest assured: learning to write in Arabic is not impossible!
With a good attitude and total dedication, students can be veritable experts in the Arabic language. Hopefully, this guide will be motivating you to go out and start learning to write Arabic script - what an achievement and great addition to your skillset it will be!
Is Arabic the Oldest Language?
Classical Arabic is said to have originated in the sixth century, but evidence shows that earlier versions of the language existed even before then, so could this be one of the oldest languages known to man? Safaitic, an old Arabic dialect used by the pre-Islamic nomadic inhabitants of the Syro-Arabian desert, is just one example with inscriptions that date back to the 1st century.
Did you know that the 18th December is known as U.N Arabic Language Day? This is because it was this day in 1973 that Arabic became the 6th official working language of the General Assembly of the United Nations and its main commissions alongside Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
An Introduction to Arabic Script
So, we know that Arabic is written using a totally different form and lettering system to our own, but what exactly is it if it isn't the recognisable 'alphabet'? Do they have vowels and consonants?
The type of script or writing system that is used in the Arabic language is 'abjad'. Abjad differs greatly from Western languages because it is read and written from right to left, yet digits or numerals are scrolled from left to right. Also, each addition represents a consonant sound and the speaker fills the vowel gaps with the help of vowel marks.
There are 28 letters in abjad, the Arabic alphabet, but some additional letters can exist when writing placenames or foreign words containing sounds unfamiliar with the Arabic language. You see, as with our own alphabet, the letters represent a sound.
What's more, a lot of letters can change form based upon where they appear on the horizontal line of script.
For instance, if they appear at the beginning, the middle or at the of a word, they may be pronounced differently. This also applies to when they appear on their own. In addition to being sounded out differently, they are also visually different. Letters at the end of a word might be ended with a bold stroke, while if in the middle they will be joined with a short upward curved stroke. There are, however, six letters that can only be joined to the preceding ones.
Also, there is no differentiation between upper and lower case. This makes Arabic a 'unicameral' language.
Learning to Write in Arabic with Textbooks
There's nothing quite like a good old fashioned schoolbook to help you learn the basics of a language!
Even on a tight budget, students can get started learning how to write in Arabic by using a manual created by Arabic language professionals.
With lessons, exercises, and glossaries, foreign language manuals are often very comprehensive and allow students to progress for several months and even years.
If you're just starting out learning the Arabic language, take advantage of manuals for beginners. It should take you just a few months to learn the basics of written Arabic script with a good manual.
Some manuals for learning how to write in Arabic:
- Write it in Arabic: A WorkBook and Step-By-Step Guide to Writing the Arabic Alphabet, by Naglaa Ghali
- How to Speak and Write Correctly: Study Guide (Translated) in English and Arabic: Dr. Vi's Study Guide for Easy Business English Communication, by Joseph Devlin
- Arabic Writing for Beginners: Part I 10th Edition, by Z. H. Qureshi
- Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic Letters and Sounds (With DVD), by Kristen Brustad, Mahmoud Al-Batal, and Abbas Al-Tonsi
- Elementary Modern Standard Arabic: Volume 1, Pronunciation and Writing; Lessons 1-30, by Peter F. Abboud
What's the advantage of a linguistic manual?
The ability to bring it with you everywhere, the chance to review your written Arabic as you travel or in between lessons.
What's more, these workbooks are packed with little tips to help you learn how to write Arabic more easily and how to understand Arabic calligraphy. These lessons, put together by professionals, help students progress more rapidly and truly perfect their Arabic.
How to Have Fun as You Learn to Write in Arabic
Why not try out some electronic games to help you learn how to write in Arabic?
Writing the language of the Quran can quickly be learned thanks to the games and other activities available free online.
What are the advantages here?
These digital resources are often much more fun and allow students to forget that they're studying.
Even if some software programs enable you to write in Arabic thanks to a specially modified Arabic keyboard, it's better to keep paper and pencil nearby. Typing won't allow you to truly internalize all of the shapes of written Arabic's letters.
Ideally you would use these digital resources as a way of easily reviewing what you've learned, but you should also keep a study notebook to keep track of which words you've learned, along with the phonetic spelling.
To learn how to write Arabic online, students can check out:
- Foreign language programs in Arabic: ABC Arabic, Arabic educational software, etc...
- Smartphone, tablet, and computer apps: Alif Ba, Write with Me in Arabic, Write it! Arabic, etc...
- Educational Videos: Youtube, Dailymotion, etc...
These digital resources are especially good for children learning the Arabic language. Learning while having fun enables easier memorization and retention of written Arabic and helps students overcome difficulties that might otherwise turn them off from the endeavor.
To learn the basics of writing in Arabic, it's the ideal method!
Learn Arabic online with Superprof.
Learning How to Write in Arabic with a Pen Pal
To really know everything about writing in Arabic, like how to pronounce a vowel, why not converse directly with a native speaker?
Handwritten or digital pen pals allow people all around the world to communicate and develop friendships, while at the same time enhancing language skills.
With all respect to linguistic goals, it's the cultural exchange that correspondents value the most. Discussing things with a native of the Arab world offers you the chance to know much more about the Arab culture and delve into a number of subjects, such as history, literature, or even music.
Correspondence needs to be done gradually: perhaps you can start by writing some sentences in Arabic, and then your pen pal, for his part, can correct you and explaining the linguistic nuances of modern standard Arabic.
To begin a writing relationship with a native Arabic speaker, students can visit these sites that specialize in long-distance correspondence:
- My Language Exchange
- Students of the World
- Conversation Exchange
The advantage to this activity is that it makes sure that the written skills of the learner keep up with speaking skills, since most online lessons focus on oral approaches to speak Arabic.
Understanding of modern standard Arabic words, phrases and sentence structure can all be developed via this method.
What's more is that having contact with a native speakers allows you, eventually, to be able to plan a trip of total immersion with a family living in the Arab world. In such a scenario, students can quickly perfect their Arabic writing skills and learn alongside a native speaker.
Better than an email correspondence is the classic pen, paper, and mail method — a physical letter in Arabic. Your friend can more easily see your mistakes and subsequent improvements, and can coach you as you learn to write Classical Arabic, and help you improve your reading skills at the same time.
Find Arabic classes London on Superprof.
With all of this advice, you can now get started with your personal education in writing the Arabic language.