Get 31% Off With The Monster Sale. Ends Soon!
Get 31% Off With The Monster Sale. Ends Soon!
ArabicPod101.com Blog
Learn Arabic with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Archive for the 'Arabic Alphabet' Category

How Long Does it Take to Learn Arabic?

Thumbnail

Everyone agrees: Learning a foreign language is an amazing (if hard) and fulfilling process. By learning to speak, understand others, and think in a language different from our own, not only do we add a new skill to our repertoire, but we can also change the way we see the outside world and our relationship to it.

Now for the question at hand: How long does it take to learn Arabic, and is it worth it?

Well, consider the fact that there are more than ten words for “love” in Arabic—and over 100 words for “camel”! I mean, these facts will certainly have an impact on the way you think about your love life…and about those amazing desert creatures!

A Caravan Traveling by Camel in the Desert

Learners of Arabic would all love to dedicate endless hours to studying the language and all its nuances. But, in our society, time is money and reality can be quite different.

Due to these time constraints, it makes sense to look for the fastest and easiest ways to learn a language so that we can start using it as soon as possible…maybe to find a better job, to travel, or to speak with a loved one.  

We would all like to know exactly what time commitment we’re looking at, so that we can make plans and have expectations… 

The truth is, however, that there’s no one best way to learn Arabic—and above all, there’s no set timetable for it! 

Everyone learns in a different way, and how quickly you can learn depends on a wide range of factors.

An Hourglass against a Dark Background

In this article, we’ll look at some of the factors that will affect your learning and how to learn Arabic efficiently to reach your goals as fast as possible.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Experience
  2. Learning Style
  3. Approach
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?
  5. How Our Website Can Help

Experience

One of the most important factors that governs how long it takes to learn Arabic (or any language) is your personal experience with languages. 

The Language(s) You Speak

What is your native language? And what other foreign languages do you speak? 

Yes, this will actually make a difference in how fast you learn Arabic. If, for example, you already speak Hebrew or Amharic (which are Semitic languages, like Arabic), you’ll learn much faster than you would as a native English speaker. Also, if you speak French, it will be easier to learn Arabic dialects that borrow heavily from French, such as Moroccan Arabic and Algerian Arabic.

If, however, you’re a native speaker of any Indo-European language, you’re in no luck… Arabic is considered one of the most challenging languages to learn.

Don’t worry, though. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just that it’s a good challenge.

So get down to it! 

A Woman Holding Flowers in Front of Her Eyes

Your Previous Language Learning Experience

Another essential aspect to take into consideration is your previous experience in language learning. 

Have you ever studied another language before?

If you already speak a foreign language fluently, or were raised bilingual, it will probably be easier and faster for you to learn Arabic. Several studies have shown that bilinguals are able to learn a third language with more ease because they’re naturally more used to being exposed to a new language. 

Even if you’re not bilingual, having studied and learned another language might help, even if we’re just talking about high school French. Being accustomed to memorizing words and looking at different letters and symbols is a good skill that your language-learning mind will remember.  

So, the skills that you develop in one language will actually help you gain fluency in another, even if the two are completely unrelated!  

Your Previous Grammar Knowledge

One of the first steps you should take is to find out how the language works. This means knowing and understanding its structure and grammar. 

If you already have experience studying syntax and grammar, even if it was only in your native language, it will make it easier and quicker for you to study the grammar and syntax of another language. 

So, it’s always a good idea to gain some grammar foundations if you plan to start learning Arabic (or any other language).

A Woman Studying with Her Laptop and a Book in the Grass

Learning Style

The way you learn and study is another essential factor in determining how long it will take you to become fluent in Arabic. 

Your Methods

If you limit your learning and studying to a classroom setting, even if you attend every day, it will probably take you longer to feel confident using your language skills. 

Try to expose yourself to Arabic outside the classroom and you’ll substantially reduce the time you need to learn it! 

Try reading the news, watching movies and series in Arabic, or listening to Arabic podcasts about topics that interest you. Of course, finding a language-exchange partner to practice your conversation skills with will also be very useful and make you fluent faster! 

Your Time

There’s another aspect we haven’t yet mentioned, but it’s the most important one when determining how long it takes to learn Arabic: the time you spend studying it!

If you want to learn fast, it goes without saying that you’ll need to dedicate as much time as you can to studying.

Daily practice is an ideal setup, and research has proven that learners who can dedicate an hour a day to learning—whether memorizing new words, studying grammar rules, or watching a series on Netflix—learn significantly faster than those who only attend classes.

A Woman Watching a Funny Movie on Netflix

And of course, if it’s an option for you, full immersion is best. If you can travel to an Arabic-speaking country and live there for a short (or long) period of time, that will make a big difference!

Approach

Another key factor that will determine how fast you learn Arabic is your approach. It can really make a huge difference!  

Your Motivation

It’s no secret that staying motivated is essential for learning any new skills, and this is all the more true for foreign languages.

Why do you want to learn Arabic?

Try to have this clear in your mind and, for maximum efficiency, set weekly (or even daily) goals that remind you of it. This will help you stay motivated so that your interest in learning does not fade. 

Your Attitude

Keeping your motivation up will help you feel like you’re learning more easily and quickly, and it will be essential for maintaining a positive attitude during your language learning journey! 

To see learning as a fun and interesting activity that you’re choosing to do, rather than a chore you’re forced to do, is key. 

Remember: Learning a foreign language will open your mind and your horizons, and give you a great set of skills you’ll be able to use in your day-to-day life. 

When you think about it this way, the process will be more enjoyable and much quicker! 

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?

So, let’s get to the point. 

Even if it’s hard to say for sure, we’ve tried to make an estimate as to how long it might take you to reach different levels of Arabic (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).

For English speakers, Arabic may be one of the most difficult languages to learn, but that makes it all the more exciting and rewarding!

A Man Studying Late at Night

Beginner

A beginner speaker of a language will be able to introduce themselves, understand simple sentences when spoken slowly and carefully, and ask basic questions (probably making some mistakes along the way). 

If you just want to be able to greet people and order a meal, you can get by with the basic reading and speaking skills you gained achieving this level. 

FSI learning timeline findings estimate that, to achieve the beginner level in Arabic, you’ll need approximately 700 hours of study. This means that if you dedicate about 15-20 hours a week to learning Arabic, you’ll achieve this level in about 8 months.

Intermediate

At the intermediate level, you’ll be able to engage in most everyday conversations (if spoken slowly) and ask questions as needed to make sure you understand. This level will also allow you to read the news and watch videos in Arabic without major problems. If you’re traveling, you’ll be able to have interactions with the locals about familiar subjects, as well as ask for and follow directions.

To reach an intermediate level, it’s estimated you’ll need 1000-1200 hours of study time (including classes, homework, and practice time). 

If you’re serious about learning Arabic fast and are motivated, you can do this in about a year by dedicating at least 20 hours a week to studying.

Advanced

If you want to achieve fluency, this is what you’re aiming for. With advanced language skills, you’ll be able to navigate any kind of situation that may arise in your daily life and have complex conversations with native speakers

You’ll be able to watch films without subtitles and read all kinds of books in Arabic. You’ll basically be fluent (even if there will always be something more to learn about this intricate and beautifully complex language).

It’s estimated that for an English speaker to learn Arabic properly, at least 2200 hours of Arabic classes are required. This means that, if you want to speak Arabic fluently in a year, you’ll need to study it full-time.

If you’re not in a rush, you can learn the language in about two years with around 20 hours a week dedicated to studying and practicing.

That said, all these timeframes are estimates and one’s language learning progress really depends on many different factors.

How Our Website Can Help

What are you waiting for? The best time to start learning a new language is now! 

The sooner you start learning, the faster you’ll start speaking Arabic and achieve your language goals!

On ArabicPod101.com, you’ll find all kinds of language learning content to make your journey smooth and easy to navigate: lessons for all levels, vocabulary lists, a dictionary, blog posts, etc.

ArabicPod101 Image

How long it takes to learn Arabic mainly depends on how much time you’re willing to dedicate to it. 

Our Arabic courses and resources are specifically designed to offer you all the right tools to learn the language as quickly and easily as possible, so you can know that you’re spending your precious time well!

Whether you’re a beginner looking for a full-immersion approach or an advanced speaker who just wants to refine your skills, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for here.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you. Do you feel more prepared now to take on the challenge of learning Arabic? We look forward to hearing your thoughts! 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic

Is Arabic Hard to Learn? Yes and No.

Thumbnail

“You’re learning Arabic? Wow, I could never do that!”

You’ve probably heard that sentiment, or something like it, dozens of times. Or perhaps you’ve become intimidated hearing it said to other people. 

For English-speakers, Arabic has a reputation for being an incredibly tough language to learn. Nobody offers Arabic classes in middle school, and nobody talks about picking up Arabic from watching cartoons.

But does Arabic deserve such a reputation? Is Arabic hard to learn? Could it be that there’s more to a language than its perceived difficulty? Let’s find out!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Is Arabic Really the Hardest Language?
  2. Why Arabic is Hard to Learn
  3. Why Arabic is Easier Than You Think
  4. What Every New Arabic Learner Should Know
  5. How to Start Learning Arabic
  6. What ArabicPod101 Can Do for You
  7. Conclusion

1. Is Arabic Really the Hardest Language?

A Boy Listening to Music After Getting a Good Grade

The United States government seems to think so.

The Department of State in the U.S. has spent decades teaching languages to people who want to go abroad and serve in the military or as part of the diplomatic corps. According to them, it takes the average motivated learner about eighty-eight weeks of full-time study to become proficient in Modern Standard Arabic.

That’s on the same level as Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean—languages which are also famous for not being a walk in the park.

And when you consider that you might not be quite as motivated as a future diplomat, nor have the resources available to you to study full-time, you might start to get a little worried about your chances.

There’s one more thing that should give you pause. Think about how many Arabic language classes there are available to you, compared to language classes for other, “easier” languages. If Arabic were easier, wouldn’t more people be studying it?

But wait—if Arabic is so hard, how come it’s one of the most-spoken languages on the planet? How come you can go to a mosque in practically any city in the world and find people who can comfortably explain what Classical Arabic scripture means?

As it turns out, the Arabic language is hard in some areas, but it has some easy parts too, which balance out the load. 

2. Why Arabic is Hard to Learn

A Kid Stressed Out with His Homework

First, though, some details on why Arabic has its reputation.

The first impression that most people have is that Arabic sounds hard. For people used to the consonant-vowel rhythm of Spanish or Japanese, the numerous consonant clusters and rare sounds in Arabic can cause learning difficulty.

Arabic has some “pharyngeal” consonants that are literally made by constricting the throat. Now, it’s important to note that there’s nothing inherently difficult about sounds made from the throat—little children who grow up speaking Arabic do it all the time.

But you probably aren’t used to it if you grew up with a European or East Asian linguistic background (though Danish does actually have some pharyngeal sounds). That means it takes some serious conditioning to make these sounds in isolation, and even more to speak fluently with these sounds in the middle of words.

Another thing that makes the Arabic language hard to learn is the case system.

Cases are word endings that give additional information about which words in the sentence are the subjects, objects, and direct objects. This information is invisible in English, but it’s clear in languages with cases.

For instance, look at these simple sentences:

“The house is hot.”
البَيْتُ جَميل.
al-baytu ǧamīl.

“I entered the house now.”
دَخَلتُ البَيتَ الآن.
daḫaltu al-bayta al-ʾān.

As you can see, the word البيت (al-bayt), meaning “house,” changes in the second sentence because it’s the direct object, as opposed to the first sentence where it was the subject. Modern Standard Arabic-learners have to remember these changes for every noun and adjective—and for both genders!

If all of this has been putting you off, don’t run away just yet. It’s not all bad news when it comes to learning Arabic! 

3. Why Arabic is Easier Than You Think

A Woman All Finished with Her Homework

Fortunately, there are definitely some parts of Arabic that are easier to learn than others.

Chief among these is probably the loanwords. In today’s Arabic-speaking world, there’s nobody going around saying that you absolutely must use pure Arabic vocabulary dating back centuries. Take a look at any of the Arabic vocabulary lists floating around, and you’ll see plenty of loanwords, like al-intarnet for “Internet.”

There are also dozens upon dozens of Arabic words that you already know, thanks to language transfer happening in the opposite direction.

Words like سبانخ (sabanekh), or “spinach,” and مطرح (matrah), or “mattress,” have changed over the centuries, but they’re just a few examples of the rich vocabulary brought to Europe from the Middle East.

Another pretty cool thing about learning Arabic is the triliteral root system. Most everybody who’s thought about learning Arabic has heard of how words tend to be formed with three (sometimes up to four or five) consonants, which then stay consistent as vowels and consonants are added in-between the root letters to make other words.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you fully understand the system, you’ll see that there’s actually a lot of value in it.

Take a word like ‘-l-m, which has to do with “knowing.” You could learn the words ‘alima (“to know”) and ‘allama (“to teach”) as separate words, but that might be pretty confusing.

However, the consonant being doubled is actually a pattern (called the second form), and it refers to causation and verb transitivity. Teaching is “causing to know,” and that pattern will hold true for tons of other Arabic verbs! 

4. What Every New Arabic Learner Should Know

Casablanca in Morocco

The big question for most Arabic learners is “MSA or dialect?”

That’s because there are many, many articles out there with strong opinions on one side of the debate or the other.

People just learning Arabic should be aware of the fact that Modern Standard Arabic isn’t used day-to-day in Arabic-speaking countries. It’s considered the formal language appropriate for writing and news broadcasts, not for chatting with others.

On the other hand, it’s tough to find good, comprehensive resources for the dialects of Arabic that are actually spoken everywhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

For that reason, ArabicPod101 focuses on both Modern Standard Arabic and spoken dialects of Arabic. This allows you to have a strong base, but also be able to communicate with locals in a natural spoken dialect.

MSA is much more difficult than any dialect, by the way. A lot of grammatical features (such as the cases) have been simplified considerably in actual spoken dialects.

You won’t need to actually speak or write MSA unless you find yourself taking a job in Arabic media, or if you really want to make an impression of formality.

So don’t worry about learning how to produce the complexities of MSA that you see. You’ve just got to be able to understand them. 

5. How to Start Learning Arabic

A Man Listening to Music with Headphones

Given the difficult sounds that exist in the Arabic language, you should definitely focus on pronunciation first.

If you can’t correctly hear and produce each sound, then you’ll go through your whole Arabic career with two big problems—you’ll have a heavy accent and you’ll have a really hard time telling similar words apart.

Next, use a good course like ArabicPod101 to guide you through the process of slowly building up your vocabulary and learning to understand the nuances of grammar.

At the same time, make sure to listen to a lot of Arabic through kids’ shows and news broadcasts. It’s totally fine if you don’t understand everything at first, because you’ll notice yourself starting to understand more and more over time. 

6. What ArabicPod101 Can Do for You

ArabicPod101 has a huge library of content in excellent MSA. A typical lesson breaks down a conversational topic and introduces a new grammar point as well as a little bit of new vocabulary.

In the supplemental materials, you’ll see related vocabulary with a romanization and a recording of a native speaker pronouncing the word. Once you’ve created an account, you can add these to your flashcards and review them at any time.

This way, when you come across a troublesome word in your daily Arabic study, you can look it up on ArabicPod101 and see if there’s an article or podcast episode about it for you to review.

By the way, there’s a great resource you can take advantage of right now: the ArabicPod101 YouTube channel! Of particular value are the listening comprehension videos, where you can follow along with English, Arabic, and romanized subtitles. 

7. Conclusion

In the end, you’ll find that thinking of Arabic as easy or hard has to do with perspective.

Languages aren’t really learned. They’re acquired.

Sure, a language like Modern Standard Arabic, with its relatively artificial grammar, does have some elements that need to be “learned,” but you can also just lay back and let the language come to you.

Languages are only “easy” or “hard” when you put a time limit on yourself to try learning them. If you want to be speaking Arabic fluently within six months, you’ll find it much harder than if you just enjoy your progress and keep your expectations managed.

And if you have the help of a great learning aid like ArabicPod101, you’ll be well-equipped to make that a fun-filled journey. 

What things in Arabic do you struggle with the most? Which parts are easier for you? Let us, and your fellow Arabic-learners, know in the comments!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Arabic

The Most Common Mistakes Arabic Speakers Make

Thumbnail

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to speak flawless Arabic?

It’s a language that flummoxes students around the world daily. Even in Arabic-speaking countries, people are divided on what’s really “correct” and “proper” Arabic.

The truth is, you really don’t have to speak Arabic by the book in order to show your respect for the cultures and languages of Arab people. A little really does go a long way!

In this article, you’ll see some of the most common mistakes Arabic speakers make when learning the language, as well as the best ways to overcome them.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation
  2. Vocabulary Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Arabic Grammar Mistakes
  5. Uniquely Arabic Mistakes
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion

1. Pronunciation

Someone Holding a Microphone

Arabic pronunciation involves trying to get your tongue and mouth to do a lot of things they probably aren’t used to. For that reason, a lot of learners end up imperfectly tackling Arabic pronunciation.

One of the classic giveaways of a heavy foreign accent in Arabic is the vowels.

Modern Standard Arabic has just three vowels: /i/ as in “see,” /u/ as in “you,” and /a/ as in “father.” 

You’ll also need to pay attention to long and short vowels. In English, “long” and “short” mean an actual change in the vowel sound, but in MSA, it’s literally a vowel that’s held longer or shorter like a musical note. This is a matter of rhythm in the word and in the sentence, so be sure to listen to a lot of Arabic content to get comfortable with the intonation.

Vowels are probably the biggest giveaway, but ask any learner what the hard sounds are in Arabic, and they’ll answer “consonants.” Arabic has whole groups of consonants that are totally absent in most European and Asian languages, meaning that no matter how many other languages you speak, Arabic is probably going to challenge you with its sounds.

The hardest one for most speakers is ع, written as “3” in a lot of unofficial transcription systems because of the Arabic letter’s similarity to the digit. Most sounds in most languages are made with the tongue maneuvering around and tapping the roof of the mouth or otherwise shaping the airflow.

The  ع, by contrast, is made by bringing the back of the tongue as far back as possible. In all honesty, it’ll be uncomfortable when you first start doing it, but the more reading and speaking aloud you do, the more natural it will feel.

2. Vocabulary Mistakes

Woman Holding Her Hand to Her Head in Embarrassment

Every language has confusing pairs of words that make learners hem and haw over the right one to use, and this is the type of mistake Arabic-learners need to be cautious of.

In Arabic, these word pairs unfortunately pop up quite frequently. This is especially true if you’re just learning from the written word instead of from audio. You know, the whole vowel-marking thing? Here’s a couple of examples:

الكِليَة  (al-kilyah) “kidney”
الكُلِّيَّة  (al-kulliyyah)“college”

السُكَّر  (al-sukkar) – “diabetes,” “surgot”
السُكر  (al-sukr) – “drunken stupor”

تَوَابِل  (tawabil) – “spice”
تَبَوُّل  (tabawwul) – “urination”

Although the triliteral root system does let you easily learn related words, when unrelated words come up that happen to share the same consonants, they really mess with your memory!

The solution here is to listen to tons of Arabic audio. A word like al-koliya is going to come up a lot earlier than al-kilya in your learning, especially if you follow podcasts like ArabicPod101. 

If you can connect the written word in your reading exercises to the spoken word from your listening, you’ll avoid confusing them because of a lack of vowel diacritics. Thankfully, almost all of our content on ArabicPod101.com has a vowelled version in case you’re unsure of how a word is pronounced.

Other typical vocabulary mistakes stem from the fact that Arabic makes distinctions that other languages might not. Take the simple conjugation for “and” for example.

وَ (wa) is the word for “and” when it connects two clauses or verbs:

أبي مُدَرِّسٌ و أمّي رَبَّةُ بَيْت.
ʾabī mudarrisun wa ʾummī rabbatu bait.
“My father is a teacher and my mother is a stay-at-home mom.”

تُمَّ (ṯumma) can also be translated as “and,” but it connects two actions in a sequence!

أَكَلتٌ ثُمَّ شَرِبتُ.
ʾakaltun ṯumma šaribtu.
“She ate first and then she drank.”

You can think of translating fa as “and then…” Before you get more advanced in Arabic, it’s totally normal to be translating things in your head. As long as you can think in an Arabic sentence structure, you can compose your sentences in English first.

3. Word Order Mistakes

Another type of mistake in Arabic to watch out for is using incorrect word order. For some people, adjusting to a different word order is a cinch; for others, a different word order ties their brain in knots from the get-go.

Prescriptively speaking, the verb always comes first in an Arabic sentence. However, as you watch more and more videos and TV programs in MSA, you’ll see that they occasionally switch the word order around to add emphasis to a certain part of the sentence.

يَذهَبُ اِبراهيم إلى السوق.
yaḏhabu ʾIbrāhīmu ʾila s-sūq.
“Ibrahim goes to the market.”

Note how the verb ذَهَبَ (ḏahaba), meaning “to go,” is conjugated and placed at the beginning of the sentence. In some European languages, placing the verb before the subject is a marker of a question. Not so in Arabic! 

4. Arabic Grammar Mistakes

Someone Writing with a Pen

The most common mistake that even advanced students make in Arabic is failing to correctly make the verb, adjective, and noun agree in a sentence.

So, for instance, a student might write:

مِحوَرُ الشِعر هِيَ الروح. X
miḥwaru al-šiʿr hiya al-rūḥ. X
“The focus of poetry is the soul.” X

When it should actually be:

مِحوَرُ الشِعر هُوَ الروح.
miḥwaru al-šiʿr huwa al-rūḥ.
“The focus of poetry is the soul.”

Modern Standard Arabic has a lot of rules that don’t show up in any of the colloquial dialects that are spoken day-to-day. For that reason, tons of people in Arabic-speaking countries tend to be more comfortable writing in English or French than MSA! A lot of native speakers, for instance, might make mistakes with the dual:

لَدَيَّ أُختان.
ladayya ʾuḫtān.
“I have two sisters.”

لَدَيَّ ثَلاثُ أَخَوَات.
ladayya ṯalāṯu ʾaḫawat.
“I have three sisters.”

Lots of learners end up just using the plural form for two things without thinking. After all, the dual as a grammatical feature is relatively rare in the world’s languages. 

5. Uniquely Arabic Mistakes

Arabic Calligraphy

Up until this point, we’ve been discussing things that might apply to every language in the world. Plenty of languages have hard grammar and pronunciation, after all!

But there are a couple of mistakes that pretty much only Arabic-learners tend to make.

Like the plural forms of words—in Arabic, you kind of just have to memorize them. There are so many exceptions!

Also, numbers tend to trip a lot of people up. The number system in Arabic is beautifully complex (if you’re into that sort of thing), but so complicated that most native speakers tend to ignore its intricacies.

And with colloquial varieties of Arabic spoken in dozens of countries, you’ll often find yourself misunderstood if you use a word from one dialect with speakers of another. You could spend a lifetime learning all the little subtleties of the lexicon, like how دولاب (dulab) means “closet” in Egypt but means “wheel” in most other dialects.

Some people might suggest that you try to “speak Egyptian,” as many people understand Egyptian slang words, but the best way to avoid confusion is to use terms that are as close to MSA as possible if you don’t know the local term.

6. The Biggest Mistake

Man with Tape Over His Mouth

The biggest mistake is perfectionism. As they say, perfect is the enemy of good enough.

Tons of Arabic students end up letting their hard-earned knowledge slip away for fear of offending others.

Suppose you even end up taking the plunge and staying in an Arabic-speaking country for awhile with the goal of pushing yourself into speaking. If you’re anxious about speaking incorrectly, you’re probably going to end up just using English with the internationally minded local community in coffee shops and hip restaurants.

But that isn’t going to improve your Arabic—it’s going to actively harm it.

The more you actually put yourself out there and speak Arabic with others, the more you’ll learn. Sure, you’ll make mistakes from time to time, but everybody does. 

In fact, since most people tend to not be that comfortable with spoken MSA, the fact that you can speak it correctly—even some of the time—is going to be quite impressive! 

7. Conclusion

One of the best ways to avoid being embarrassed about making mistakes is to use your free time to get as prepared as possible.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a hard slog. Just reading about and seeing the examples in this article is a big step on that path to high-quality Arabic.

And when you have a great all-in-one resource at your fingertips, like ArabicPod101, with audio lessons, vocabulary lists, and flashcards, you’ll be able to target your studying.

Try it out now and see for yourself how good your Arabic can become!

Before you go, we would love to hear from you in the comments. What Arabic mistakes do you struggle with the most?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Arabic

Arabic Keyboard: How to Install and Type in Arabic

Thumbnail

You asked, so we provided—easy-to-follow instructions on how to set up your electronic devices to write in Arabic! We’ll also give you a few excellent tips on how to use this keyboard, as well as some online and app alternatives if you prefer not to set up a Arabic keyboard.

Log in to Download Your Free Arabic Alphabet Worksheet Table of Contents
  1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Arabic
  2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Arabic
  3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer
  4. How to Change the Language Settings to Arabic on Your Computer
  5. Activating the Arabic Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet
  6. Arabic Keyboard Typing Tips
  7. How to Practice Typing Arabic

1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Arabic

A keyboard

Learning a new language is made so much easier when you’re able to read and write/type it. This way, you will:

  • Get the most out of any dictionary and Arabic language apps on your devices
  • Expand your ability to find Arabic websites and use the various search engines
  • Be able to communicate much better online with your Arabic teachers and friends, and look super cool in the process! 

2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Arabic

A phone charging on a dock

It takes only a few steps to set up any of your devices to read and type in Arabic. It’s super-easy on your mobile phone and tablet, and a simple process on your computer.

On your computer, you’ll first activate the onscreen keyboard to work with. You’ll only be using your mouse or touchpad/pointer for this keyboard. Then, you’ll need to change the language setting to Arabic, so all text will appear in Arabic. You could also opt to use online keyboards instead. Read on for the links!

On your mobile devices, it’s even easier—you only have to change the keyboard. We also provide a few alternatives in the form of online keyboards and downloadable apps.

3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer

1- Mac

1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Check the option “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in Menu Bar.”

3. You’ll see a new icon on the right side of the main bar; click on it and select “Show Keyboard Viewer.”

A screenshot of the keyboard viewer screen

2- Windows

1. Go to Start > Settings > Easy Access > Keyboard.

2. Turn on the option for “Onscreen Keyboard.”

3- Online Keyboards

If you don’t want to activate your computer’s onscreen keyboard, you also have the option to use online keyboards. Here are some good options:

4- Add-ons of Extensions for Browsers

Instead of an online keyboard, you could also choose to download a Google extension to your browser for a language input tool. The Google Input Tools extension allows users to use input tools in Chrome web pages, for example.

4. How to Change the Language Settings to Arabic on Your Computer

Man looking at his computer

Now that you’re all set to work with an onscreen keyboard on your computer, it’s time to download the Arabic language pack for your operating system of choice:

  • Windows 8 (and higher)
  • Windows 7
  • Mac (OS X and higher)

1- Windows 8 (and higher)

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Change PC Settings” > “Time & Language” > “Region & Language.”
  2. Click on “Add a Language” and select “Arabic.” Here you have multiple options of different countries. Choose “Arabic (Egypt)” unless you have a certain preference. This will add it to your list of languages. It will appear as “(العربية (مصر” or “Arabic (Egypt)” with the note “language pack available.”
  3. Click on “Arabic (Egypt)” > “Options” > “Download.” It’ll take a few minutes to download and install the language pack.
  4. As a keyboard layout, you’ll only need the one marked as “Arabic (101)” You can ignore other keyboard layouts.

2- Windows 7

  1. Go to “Start” > “Control Panel” > “Clock, Language, and Region.”
  2. On the “Region and Language” option, click on “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods.”
  3. On the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click on “Change Keyboards” > “Add” > “Arabic.”
  4. Expand the option of “Arabic” and then expand the option “Keyboard.” Select the keyboard layout marked as “Arabic.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts. Click “OK” and then “Apply.”

3- Mac (OS X and higher)

If you can’t see the language listed, please make sure to select the right option from System Preferences > Language and Region

1. From the Apple Menu (top left corner of the screen) go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Click the Input Sources tab and a list of available keyboards and input methods will appear.

3. Click on the plus button, select “Arabic,” and add the “Arabic” keyboard.

Adding a system language

5. Activating the Arabic Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet

Texting and searching in Arabic will greatly help you master the language! Adding a Arabic keyboard on your mobile phone and/or tablet is super-easy.

You could also opt to download an app instead of adding a keyboard. Read on for our suggestions.

Below are the instructions for both iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets.

1- iOS

1. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

2. Tap “Keyboards” and then “Add New Keyboard.”

3. Select “Arabic” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by tapping and holding on the icon to reveal the keyboard language menu.

2- Android

1. Go to Settings > General Management > Language and Input > On-screen Keyboard (or “Virtual Keyboard” on some devices) > Samsung Keyboard.

2. Tap “Language and Types” or “ + Select Input Languages” depending on the device and then “MANAGE INPUT LANGUAGES” if available.

3. Select “العربية – Arabic” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by swiping the space bar.

3- Applications for Mobile Phones

If you don’t want to add a keyboard on your mobile phone or tablet, this is a good app to consider:

6. Arabic Keyboard Typing Tips

Typing in Arabic can be very challenging at first! Therefore, we added here a few useful tips to make it easier to use your Arabic keyboard.

A man typing on a computer

1- Computer

  1. Pressing the shift button in combination with letters give you the variations of the letter.
  2. In some cases, it’s hard to predict which letter you’ll get when you combine shift with a letter. For example, the Y button, which in Arabic is the غ letter, produces a إ letter when pressed while holding down the shift button.
  3. Most vowels can be produced by pressing the letters on the left side of the keyboard while holding the shift button.
  4. Most people can’t find the ذ letter at first. It’s located to the left of number 1 and under the “Esc” button on most keyboards.

2- Mobile Phones

  1. Holding down certain buttons such as ا and ي gives you options to choose betwen variations of these letters.
  2. Don’t forget to type in spaces between words, or else words will connect the wrong way.

7. How to Practice Typing Arabic

As you probably know by now, learning Arabic is all about practice, practice, and more practice! Strengthen your Arabic typing skills by writing comments on any of our lesson pages, and our teacher will answer. If you’re a ArabicPod101 Premium PLUS member, you can directly text our teacher via the My Teacher app—use your Arabic keyboard to do this!

Log in to Download Your Free Arabic Alphabet Worksheet

Understanding and Talking About Family in Arabic

Thumbnail

No matter what culture you visit, you’ll likely learn that the way other people think of family is completely different from how you do.

When you speak in your native language about your own family, you’re drawing on many years of ingrained cultural knowledge that shapes what you’re likely to share and what you’re likely to keep private. This cultural influence may even affect the way you present that knowledge.

But if you use another language to talk about your own family, like if you speak about your family in Arabic, you may sometimes find that it doesn’t quite line up. Certain phrases you expect to use aren’t there, and the person you’re speaking with may have a very different expectation of what you’re going to communicate.

All that to say: In order to take your Arabic studies to the next level, you’d better work on getting your knowledge about families in Arabic up to par.

You’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll read up on the following topics about family in Arabic:

  • Members of the family in Arabic
  • Describing your family in Arabic
  • How to talk about your family in Arabic effectively
  • Quotes about family in Arabic

But first, what is the family in Arabic cultures?

Table of Contents

  1. What a Family is in Arabic Culture
  2. The Nuclear Family in Arabic
  3. The Extended Family in Arabic
  4. What Marriage Does to the Words About Family
  5. Expressions About the Family
  6. How ArabicPod101 Can Teach You All You Need to Know About Arabic

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Family Phrases in Arabic

1. What a Family is in Arabic Culture

Family Words

Learning the words you need in a foreign language is one thing. But if you want to use them well, you’ve got to learn a little bit about the culture you’ll be in.

Although the name “Arab countries” covers quite a few very different regions, there are certain family values that tend to hold constant across the lines of culture.

People are loyal to their families in Arabic culture, thus the idea of family above all in Arabic countries. Every year during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, huge extended families unite for a celebration. Beyond just hanging out, though, people are expected to side with their families in disagreements, as well as help out family members in need, at the drop of a hat.

These connections hold strong across generations. Elders are consulted on matters large and small, and children begin imitating their parents at a young age. Children are expected to live with their parents until they start families of their own.

As you can imagine, the classical (and thus the modern standard) language has many unique terms to represent this very different way of looking at the family compared to what we’re used to in the West. Let’s begin with something not too far away.

2. The Nuclear Family in Arabic

Parent Phrases

The word أسرة (usrah) means your closest family, or what we often term the “immediate family” in English.

Here’s some family vocabulary Arabic people use for immediate family in Arabic-speaking countries:

English           Arabic           Pronunciation
Brother           أخ           ʾaḫ
Sister           أخت           ʾuḫt
Mother           أم           ʾum
Father           أب           ʾabb
Son           إبن           ʾibn
Daughter           إبنة           ʾbnah

Remember that you’re most often going to be speaking about your family, so here are a couple of phrases for just that.

My father is a doctor.
أبي طبيب
ʾabī ṭabīb

My sister is married.
أختي متزوجة
ʾuḫtī mutazawwiǧah

Like most languages, including English, there are formal and informal ways to say “father” and “mother” in Arabic. In English, this is like “father” compared to “papa.”

Where’s my mom?
أين أمي؟
ʾayna ʾummī?

My dad is really tall!
أبي طويل جدا!
ʾabī ṭawīlun ǧiddan!

The word for “parent” is والد (walid), which can, of course, be used in the singular, though it’s far more common to see it in the dual form: والدان.

My parents live in Cairo.
والداي يعيشان في القاهرة
walidāy yaʿīšān fī al-qāhirah

Arabic normally doesn’t distinguish between older and younger siblings, unlike some Asian languages which have separate words for “younger sister” and “older sister.” So just like in English, you’d add the specific age words to be more clear.

For “older” use الاكبر, and for “younger” use الاصغر.

My older brother is shorter than me.
أخي الأكبر أقصر مني
ʾaḫī al-ʾakbar ʾaqṣaru minnī

My younger sister is smart.
أختي الصغرى ذكية
ʾuḫtī al-ṣuġrā ḏakyyah

3. The Extended Family in Arabic

Grandparents with Granddaughter Going through Photo Album

So that about covers it for the people you grow up around. How about the عائلة (ʿāʾilah), the “extended family?”

The best way to explain it all is in another chart. Although Arabic doesn’t make that older/younger distinction, there is a difference between maternal and paternal aunts/uncles (though not grandparents). On the whole, though, it’s not too many Family in Arabic words to memorize.

English           Arabic           Pronunciation
Grandfather           جد           ǧad
Grandmother           جدة           ǧadddah
Grandson           حفيد           ḥafīd
Granddaughter           حفيدة           ḥafīdah
Paternal Uncle           عم           ʿamm
Paternal Aunt           عمة           ʿammah
Maternal Uncle           خال           ḫal
Maternal Aunt           خالة           ḫalah
Cousin on Father’s Side           إبن عم / إبن عمة           ibn ʿamm / ibn ʿammah
Cousin on Mother’s Side           إبن خال / إبن خالة           ibn ḫal / ibn ḫalah

As you can see, there are a number of patterns that start to become apparent pretty quickly. To go a little bit deeper, we can distinguish between male and female cousins by adding the word إبن (ibn) for men and بنت (bint) for women. Check it out.

My (female) cousin lives with her parents.
إبنة عمي تعيش مع والديها
ʾibnatu ʿammī taʿīšu maʿ waldayhā

I like to work out with my (male) cousin.
أحب ممارسة الرياضة مع إبن عمي
ʾuḥibbu mumārasatu al-riyāḍah maʿ ʾibn ʿammī

4. What Marriage Does to the Words About Family

Wedding Toast

Have you ever been to an Arab wedding, or at least seen videos? They’re big deals, full of formality and tradition.

It’s no wonder that the Arabic language would not only have many specialized words for the marriage ceremonies, but also that the way people refer to each other before and after marriage might change too.

Leading up to the wedding, we have:

English           Arabic           Pronunciation
Boyfriend           شريك           šarīk
Girlfriend           شريكة           šarīkah
Fiancé           خطيب           ḫṭīb
Fianceé           خطيبة           ḫaṭībah
Groom           عريس           ʿarīs
Bride           عروسة           ʿarusah

In many more conservative families, the relationship tends to progress immediately from “friend” to “fiancé.” However, in others, there’s space for the Western habit of having a relationship first.

After the wedding festivities end?

Well, there’s no neutral word for “spouse” in Arabic. One must either say زوجة (zawǧah) for “wife” or زوج (zawǧ) for “husband.”

Traditionally, a bride will move in with the husband’s family after marriage, and the parents of both the bride and the groom maintain close contact. The families are wed, not just the individuals; essentially, you’ve become a joint family in Arabic culture. Therefore, there’s a whole set of vocabulary in this sphere. Time for another quick chart.

Son-in-law           زوج البنت           zawǧ al-bint
Daughter-in-law           زوجة الإبن           zawǧatu al-ʾibn
Father-in-law           حمى           ḥamā
Mother-in-law           حماة           ḥamāh
Brother-in-law           أخ الزوج(ة)           ʾaḫ al-zawǧ(ah)
Sister-in-law           أخت الزوج(ة)           ʾuḫt al-zawǧ(ah)

5. Expressions About the Family

Family Quotes

And now for something that I think sheds more light on family relations in Arabic than anything else: idioms and sayings related to family life. This is a fun and insightful way of describing family in Arabic.

  • الأقربون أولى بالمعروف
    Your relatives (in need) are more deserving of your generosity.
    (Family before friends.)

The concept of “brotherhood” or الأخوة (al-ʾuḫuwwah) is something that you see over and over in traditional Arabic teachings.

  • I and my brother against my cousin, I and my cousin against a stranger.
    أنا وأخي على إبن عمي وأنا وإبن عمي على الغريب
    ʾnā waʾaḫī ʿalā ʾibn ʿammī waʾanā waʾibnu ʿammī ʿalā al-ġarīb
  • Without a brother, you’re like a person rushing to battle without a weapon.
    إن مَنْ لا أخا له كَساعٍ إلى المعركة بغير سلاح
    ʾinna man lā ʾaḫā lahu kasāʿin ʾilā al-maʿrakah biġayri silāḥ
  • Your brother is who’s honest with you, not who believes you.
    أخوك من صَدَقك لا من صدّقك
    ʾaḫūka man ṣadaqaka lā man ṣaddaqak

And finally, the love between a parent and child is eternal, a concept found in every language. Here’s what people say about that in Arabic:

  • When your son grows up, become his brother.
    إن كبر ابنك آخيه
    ʾin kabura ibnuka ʾāḫīh

And the Egyptian saying:

  • Only your grandchild is dearer to you than your child.
    أعز من الولد ولد الولد
    ʾaʿaz min el-weld weld el-weld

Grandmother Embracing Granddaughter in Field

6. How ArabicPod101 Can Teach You All You Need to Know About Arabic

Really, when it comes to something as important as family in Arabic, you can’t treat it with enough respect.

On the one hand, Arabs are famously welcoming to foreigners and will tend to let even relatively big language slip-ups slide as long as it’s clear that respect was intended.

But on the other hand, as I mentioned, family is such an important part of any culture that if it becomes clear you’re not making any effort to understand its significance, well, woe betide you.

I can’t help you be better at respecting things—but I can give you advice about learning things. And one of the best ways to make these particular vocabulary words stick is to find a nice long Arabic TV series and watch a couple dozen episodes.

There are a number of thirty-episode Ramadan specials filmed in Modern Standard Arabic that have enough family schemes and betrayals to make sure you’ll never forget the words.

When you get to that point, your Arabic family will welcome you with open arms.

But for now, we hope that this article on family in Arabic proved helpful to you. Did you learn anything interesting about the Arab family culture? Let us know in the comments! And while you’re at it, why not practice describing family in Arabic writing by writing us a family paragraph in Arabic? We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Also visit ArabicPod101.com to learn more about Arab culture and additional vocabulary. You can also take advantage of our MyTeacher program by upgrading to Premium Plus, so that you can learn Arabic with your own personal teacher!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Family Phrases in Arabic

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year From ArabicPod101.com!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from everyone here at ArabicPod101.com! We’re grateful to have listeners just like you, and we’re eagerly waiting for the upcoming year to learn Arabic together!

And when the New Year comes around, be sure to make a resolution to study Arabic with ArabicPod101.com!

Have a healthy and happy holiday season.

From the ArabicPod101.com Team