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Friday, February 01, 2008

How do I learn Arabic?



Firstly, congratulations for choosing to learn the Arabic language; this is one of the most important acts of worship that a Muslim could ever do.

Major works of Islam are in the Arabic language and they are not accessible without the Arabic language. Of course the most important and popular reason to learn the Arabic language is to read and understand the words of the majestic Quran. This is the only reason for most Muslims.

What is fusha? What is classical Arabic?

Fusha is the Arabic word for eloquence which is also referred to as classical Arabic. There is also modern standard Arabic which itself is close to classical but with lots modern additions.

If this is only way available for you learn then take it but otherwise if you are given the choice then take the classical way but its more difficult.

How long will it take to learn Arabic?

This depends on the aptitude of the learner and how quickly they can pick things up. There are lots of things that will be thrown at you. For example how well do you know the English language? This will help you, do you know what a verb and a noun are?

It can take from one to two years; one year full time and two years part time. This is normal but with people who pick things up easily this can be less but most people are between these times.

What are the ways to the Arabic language?

In the indo-pak regions they teach Arabic through the Persian language because the books are in Persian. This can be an obstacle to most except for serious students who are already in the madrasa system. This can be done and is not impossible but its one of the hardest methods.

Learning through the English language is the best method for those who people like myself have little background in Persian or any other language.

The books that you could learn from are the Medinah books or "Arabic course for English-speaking students" devised and taught at Madinah Islamic university by Dr. V. Abdur-Rahim published by Islamic academy. There are many other books but this is the most popular because of the ease of use and the amount of drills that help a learner to memorise the rules.

There are many other books that you could use and the golden rule is to stick to the text thats being taught to you. Otherwise you will not get the true benefit of the text that you are studying. If you need to have more explanation ask your teacher and only then seek other material but this should be avoided.

Whats the point in learning grammar?

The Arabic language can only be fully realised through learning Arabic grammar.

It is possible to learn the language without learning the grammar but you will not taste the beauty of the Arabic language. Once you have learnt the grammar and then memorised the rules of sarf - the different changes of the verbs and the patterns. Your understanding will have a deeper level that most Arabic speakers.

Whats the best place to learn Arabic?

This depends on your circumstances someone once told me to study Arabic for a few months locally and then go abroad. This is good for those who can study Arabic like this but this not the only way. I have met a few people who had a good level of Arabic but had yet to step into a Arabic speaking country. Some have learned Arabic by just speaking to Arabs and picking it up from there.

Universities teach Arabic for a year or two then the students go abroad; I'll speak about this later. You can of course, complete your studies in the UK and then travel abroad.

If there is a local place to study then use that before going abroad because if you don't there may be a loss in blessings that you may suffer. Some have gone to study abroad when classes were available locally and then found no success abroard.

If you have no classes then consider travelling close by and then travelling abroad as a final option.

A friend of mine who travelled to Maurtania advised me that there you can find scholars and students who speak only classical arabic and if you speak to anyone in classical Arabic they will reply in classical Arabic. Which is not the case in many countries some will not know what to do and reply in local daliect. Althought the rough terrain of the desert is good for some but not accessable to all.

Where in the Arab world should I study?

This is something that has been debated over for many years; which country has the best Arabic? The one with the best classical Arabic? Well it almost does not matter because you will spend most of your time speaking in lectures as the average person will not speak classical Arabic. You will have to find someone who can speak classical Arabic and stick to that person. Every country its advantages and disadvatages.

If you do go abroad then force yourself to speak Arabic as much is as you can. Do not even speak to your friends in English speak to them in Arabic.

Where else can I study?

Apart from studying part time you can choose to study full time which is what the language courses of the universities do. This is normally a four year course including other subjects as well this includes a year abroad somewhere in the Arab world.

On the other hand I know a friend who studied in a french institute in France and because he did not know french he was forced to speak Arabic. He came out with an excellent level of Arabic.

I am studying Arabic and its difficult

Arabic at first can be very difficult. The fall out rate from Arabic courses is shocking because its one of the hardest languages that a person can learn.

Muslims should know that this is an act of worship and the end result is worth it.

So keep an eye on the end result, being able to comprehend a sentence of the Quran and eventually read Arabic books. It is the language of the Quran so its not going to be easy but it will be worth the effort.

There are concepts and sentence structures that you might not be familiar with and this won't help you. You have to study hard and memorise an example of the rule. This will help you but peristance and hard work is the key here, as it is with other subjects.

Final note

You need to be dedicated, its a long walk which can be taken in strides or baby steps your choice. Keep putting in the effort, do the homework that have been set for you. Know that Arabic is an exact science and you are either wrong or you are right.

When you find a teacher you must stick with that teacher until you have finished studying those texts with him or her. Part time you should at least know your lesson well, memorised the vocab and the rules. This can take up an hour or more outside the lesson time.

Full time you need to do at least a few hours a day on top of your normal lessons.

Use all the materials at hand to learn Arabic, Arab television, reading the Quran then reading the translation.

Once you have a sound basis you will still need to attack texts with a dictionary and learn more vocab. This is also very tedious it can take time find words and you may need more than one dictionary.

Finally once you have learnt Arabic to a good level you still need to use it on a regular basis or you will forget it.

I am just giving out advice based on my own and other peoples experiences learning Arabic. I am not saying that there is only one way; maybe your way is different but this what I have experienced and I wanted to pass this on in the hope to guide others.


I was speaking to a friend of mine and we spoke about learning of Arabic and the following is the fruit of that discussion. There are three levels to learning Arabic; There is a level one which is basic grammar and etymology, level two is vocab and level three is understanding. These are levels basic to intermediate and there is no time limit on either.


  1. I agree with much of what you have said, especially with respect to my own experience of studying Arabic.

    Obviously, one cannot make use of all tools, schools, countries, teachers or texts, but because the language is so difficult, the student may need to experiment with several approaches.

    I do disagree about the time needed to learn Arabic. Several years doesn't seem like enough time, unless you are in an immersion situation. I've been studying ten years, and I've learned a lot, but cannot consider myself fluent or even competent in any but the most elemental of conversations. I have, alhumdullilah, learned how to read the Qur'an with tajweed, and that practice enriches me greatly.

    The most interesting new tool I've discovered recently is the web site Its approach is unique,refreshing, and applicable to all levels.

  2. masha allah...great advice...i was learning arabic from time to time never succeed is around 4 years..i still stuck in level one of the same boook u mention

  3. masha ALLAH such a gread advice ..i was studying arabic from time to time many years stiill not work..why