An Introduction To My Arabic – How To Begin

To continue on the topic of learning Arabic, I will share a few more thoughts that I think will prove useful, God willing, for the aspiring student. I will lay down some tips for the beginner and give some additional information on some of the steps I took in my journey to learn the Arabic language.

My first tip here is something of a precursor to the journey into Arabic (or any foreign language for that matter): tidy up your own ship before booking passage on another. What I mean here is simple: if you wish to learn the complexities of Arabic grammar, morphology, sentence structure, and rhetoric (to name a few) then it will require you to brush up (for the adept) or (even more likely) learn these subjects in the English language first. I will list my reasons in succession.

First, we’ll start with grammar. Being that most books, programs, and classes (over) emphasize grammar, it will require even the fairly educated to go back and refresh their memory on this topic. Being that most students in the U.S. who were born after the 1960’s or so (rough guess) did not learn grammar, this topic may appear to be entirely new or unfamiliar. The result for these students is that they must now learn two languages at the same time: a new technical language in English to express the intricacies of grammar as well as a new foreign language (here meaning Arabic). Let me provide an example:

“The Arabs call declension i’rab اعراب, and words fully declined are said to be munsarif منصرف. However, certain classes of noun are not fully declined, and are termed ghair munsarif غير منصرف [other than munsarif]. European grammarians sometimes called these diptotes as opposed to the regular triptotes.” Source: A New Arabic Grammar of the Written Language by J.A. Haywood and H. M. Nahmad.

As you can see, the language in this book (considered to be a standard manual on the university level) is very technical on the English side, let alone the grammar-specific terms it’s addressing in Arabic. Most students will find this language to be somewhat inaccessible due to their lack of familiarity with technical grammatical language. In my interactions with students who have studied Arabic language, most if not all related that this process expanded their knowledge of English grammar (in some cases, it was their first introduction to grammar period). All admitted that they would have benefitted from learning English grammar first before starting off on this path.

I will address in the next post my thoughts on books, teachers, and didactic poems.