I was just reading through a letter that I had sent someone a few months back in response to the question ‘How would you go about learning Arabic’. After looking through the response I gave, I thought that it might be useful to post it on my blog as well.
*……Excerpt from letter ……
… I would love to be able to immerse myself in Arabic… one language I’ve always had slated to get on top of.
I guess this is how I’d go about trying to become fluent in it:
- Within the first week re-map my fingers to be able to touch-type in Arabic.
Buy as many learn Arabic books – and linguistic books on Arabic to set a good foundation of words, grammar – and also differences between the different dialects of Arabic. I would focus on one main one, but at the same time, learn what the parallel ways of rendering the same meanings in other regional forms – i.e. Egyptian, Iraq, Saudi, UAE etc. If it were me, I think i’d probably start getting into other languages at the same time like Lebanese, Farsi etc, just to see how common words ‘morph’ or translate across these languages.
- Would get online and build up a good network of Arabic speaking friends – preferably ranging from people who speak both Arabic and English, as well as people who don’t speak any English. – Play what they teach you off on each of them – so each time you communicate with one of them, they notice a big improvement from the last time you spoke with them – this is great motivation and great for self confidence 🙂
- Download as many podcasts, news shows, radio programmes and clips on Youtube that I could that would lead me to getting linguistic and cultural insights on the language – culture – and differences between how people from one place use it to another.
- I would either with the aid of speech analyzer or not, sit with samples of native arabic speakers’ speech, and try to mimic them.
- Have a native speaker (preferably someone who has some idea of annunciation and / or linguistics), to try and bring my pronunciation to a point that sounds ver similar in rhythm, vowels, consonants and other voice qualities to a native speaker. I would probably start them off saying sentences that I don’t even understand, so that I can just mimic (in my perception) meaningless sound blocks. That way, my mind doesn’t get in the way trying to break it all down as I hear it. I just pronounce a whole sentence as I would one word.
- I would build up as much vocab as I can in the shortest amount of time. From what I understand, Arabic being a Semitic language works on 3 particle roots. Learning these roots, and how to manipulate them is key to fluency.
- Use mnemonics, stacking and any other crazy associations / memory techniques that you can to shove them into your long term memory.
- Pick up a Pimsleur Arabic series to get you speaking the basics fast, and getting used to the rhythms of the language. I know that there are a lot of opponents to the Pimsleur method out there. It does take a long time to get just a handful of sentences under your belt, but I don’t listen Pimsleur for just the sentences. I don’t care too much for many of the standard ‘Man on a bus tries to pick up local woman’ themes. There are many other things that you can pick up from them though.
- Hang out with Arabic speaking people that don’t like using English.
Hope these points have helped. I guess the main thing is to make your entire life – everything you do – from eating, to going to the toilet, something that can teach you. My bathroom is a library. I counted books in over 50 languages between two bathrooms in my house this morning. It’s a great place to study!