The top 10 Arabic hacks
Whether you've been studying Arabic for years or are considering giving Arabic a try, the following 10 hacks and simple tricks can help you to learn Arabic fast and effectively.
1. Start with Sounds
Now that you've decided to learn Arabic, it's time to dig into the language learning process.
But where should you even begin?
The answer is simple: sounds. Learning how to hear, pronounce and recognize written Arabic sounds is a great place to get started even before you begin memorizing words and their meanings.
In order to do that, you're going to need to learn the Arabic alphabet.
Even though the Arabic alphabet might seem very foreign at first, it's actually more simple than it looks.
There are 28 letters: 25 consonants and only 3 vowels. That's right, there are only 3 simple vowels that you can add to any consonant. One big advantage of the Arabic alphabet is that it's phonetic. There are no hidden sounds like in English or French. Everything sounds exactly how it's spelled, with no tricky exceptions to remember!
Listen to pronunciation guides on YouTube, watch movies or series with subtitles in Arabic and read along, or use Rocket Language's Hear It Say It audio recognition to learn to recognize and repeat sounds.
2. Learn on the Go
Let's face it: you probably have a busy life, and it's difficult to set time aside to study Arabic. Fortunately, however, one of the best ways to take advantage of your free time is to learn Arabic on the go.
A great way to do this is by taking advantage of American academic and polyglot Alexander Arguelles' Shadowing Technique.
This language learning technique involves listening to Arabic with earphones and simultaneously repeating it out loud while walking outdoors. There are three main keys to this exercise:
If you feel shy or embarrassed to do this in public, find a road or path where you can speak Arabic loudly and proudly without many other people around you.
According to Arguelles, maintaining a good posture contributes to this method's efficacy.
This is very important in order to effectively learn the rhythm, structure and sound of the language.
This may feel silly at first, but its results will amaze you. By speaking out loud as soon as you hear Arabic sounds, you're developing a sense of how the language is structured and sounds, even if you don't understand everything that's being said.
Don't worry if you can't catch and repeat everything. As you improve, you'll gradually begin developing the accent and rhythm of Arabic. You'll also understand more and more words as your studies progress.
Some other great tricks for learning Arabic on the go include taking advantage of your morning subway or bus commute by studying flashcards or listening to Arabic eBooks or music in the car.
Make learning Arabic a part of your life, and you'll be amazed how much time you have to study when you learn on the go.
3. Learn the Practical Words First
Learning a new language requires learning a lot of new words. There's no way around it. Many people use their "bad memories" as an excuse for not learning a new language, but we have some comforting news for these people (and even those with great memories): you don't need to know all--or even the majority--of the words in a language to be able to speak it well. In fact, you don't even need to know half!
We don't even use the majority of our active vocabulary on a daily basis, and only need about 3,000 words to understand 95% of common texts. By extension, just 300 words make up 65% of all written and spoken materials. That means there are approximately 625 words and their forms that can help you to go beyond a beginner level in any language, and 1,500 that can have you communicating at an advanced level.
So what does that mean for you as a Arabic learner?
By learning the practical words first, you can cut your work in less than half. You'll be able to communicate faster and with significantly less effort.
Here are 1000 most common Arabic words. It may sound like a lot, but if you learn all of these, you'll be able to communicate in pretty much any situation. You can speak well even if you only know half of them!
4. Take Advantage of Loan Words
Even if Arabic is considered one of the more difficult languages for English speakers to learn, this fascinating language actually borrows a few words from English. These words can save you time when learning some Arabic vocabulary.
Let's take a look at some of them:
- كومبيوتر – [kombiouter]: Computer
- تليفون – [telifone]: Telephone
- ميكرويف –[ maycrowayf]: Microwave
- ميكانيكي –[ mikaniky]: Mechanic
- مليون –[ milyoon]: Million
There are also some words that sound like English words but don't mean the same thing. This similarity, however, can make them easier to memorize:
- أنا - [ana] – (sounds like the name "Anna") means I / Me
- في - [fi] – (sounds like "fee") means in
- ألف – [alf] – (sounds like "elf") means thousand
- ارض – [ard]- (sounds like "art") means earth
Me / I
Did you know that there are plenty of everyday English words that actually originated from Arabic? Take a look at these English words that have Arabic origins, sometimes passing through other languages as well.
These words are definitely your friends and can make learning some Arabic vocabulary much easier and faster.
5. Hooked on Mnemonics
As many who have learned a foreign language already know, simply repeating vocabulary usually just isn't enough. Sometimes, our brains need a little extra jump start to remember tricky words.
That's where mnemonics come in. Basically, mnemonics involve telling yourself a fun, goofy or memorable story, song, or rhyme to associate with a particular word.
For example, one trick for memorizing the Arabic alphabet is to remember:
► - With one dot Below, ب (bā) is a Boat to row.
► - With Two dots above, ت (tā) is a Tub to rove.
► - THree dots on a canoe,with ث (thā) you’ll make it THrough.
► - With just one dot at Noon, and ن (nūn) can catch the mooN.
► - A Yacht with two dots under, and ي (yā) sail miles Yonder.
Another extremely helpful mnemonic device for learning Arabic is to use pictures to help you memorize the letters.
It may sound like extra effort, but you'd be amazed at how effective mnemonic devices are in making your learning faster. They're also fun!
And remember, if you have troubles memorizing a word, phrase, or grammatical rule, you can always make your own!
6. Keep a Arabic Vocabulary Notebook and Flashcards
Keep a journal, document, or book with all of the Arabic vocabulary you learn in one place.
Not only does keeping a vocabulary journal help you to organize all of your new words and phrases, but the very process of writing down a word and its translation, notes, image or mnemonic device helps you to memorize it.
This notebook can be transformed into study-friendly flashcards by using flashcard generating programs like Anki for your phone or computer. You can use your Anki flashcards on your phone to learn on the go when you're on the bus, walking to work or simply waiting in line at the grocery store.
Your Arabic notebook and flashcards are a fantastic future reference for studying. They can be used anywhere and anytime you have a few free minutes.
7. Break down the words
Let's be honest: every time you look at an Arabic word, it probably doesn't sound anything like its meaning. So how can you learn it faster?
The Arabic language is based on a 3 letter root-word system. Once you understand how this works, you can build up your root word vocabulary and apply the sets of rules to form related words.
Let's take the word "كتب" (k + t + b) which has to do with writing. From this root word, you can make the following words:
كَتَبَ (kataba) "he wrote"
يَكْتُب (yaktub) "write"
كاتِب (kaatib) "writer"
كِتَاب (kitaab) "book"
مَكْتَبَة (maktaba) "library"
Once you know the rules, you can start to derive nouns, adjectives, active participles and other verb forms. Not only do root words make it easy to learn new words, it also means you can guess the meaning of words that you don't know based on those 3 root letters and the context. Pretty convenient isn't it?
Now take the root word "درس" (d + r + s) which has to do with learning. Here are some derivatives:
دَرْس (dars) "lesson"
يَدْرُس (yadris) "study"
دِراسات (diraasaat) "studies (n.)"
مُدَرِّس (mudarris) "teacher"
مَدْرَسة (madrasah) "school"
The great part about this is that you have now learned 5 words for the price of one! This will come in very handy when you start to break down more words in the future. Just look for the 3 root consonant letters.
You can use this helpful hack to break down any new Arabic word. Remember, though, that this isn't always easy to do when you're starting to learn the language. With time, it will become easier and easier, and it will really help increase your vocabulary and even improve your grammar!
8. The Scriptorium Technique
Linguist and polyglot Alexander Arguelles developed another excellent technique for improving your writing and speaking skills simultaneously. It's designed to help you to really focus on the individual components of Arabic.
The Arguelles' Scriptorium Technique involves three basic exercises:
- Read a sentence out loud.
- Say each word aloud again as you write it.
- Read the sentence aloud as you have written in.
The purpose of this exercise is to force yourself to slow down, pay attention to detail and look up anything you don't know. It's important to be thorough and meticulous. Find good source material and then copy it carefully, saying each word out loud as you go. Make sure to take the time to check any vocabulary or grammar that you're not sure about as you come across it.
The Scriptorium Technique is a fantastic way to refine and polish your Arabic language knowledge, especially at intermediate and advanced levels.
The key to mastering this technique is to take your time, be as detailed and thorough as possible, and remember...practice makes perfect.
9. Read, Watch, Listen
Movies, music, television series, the radio, books, newspapers, magazines...Anything you can read, watch, or listen to are unbelievably useful for learning.
You've probably already heard cases of people teaching themselves a language by watching movies or playing video games. While these things don't directly teach grammar, they do help learning it significantly.
If you're extra motivated to learn and practice, use the Shadowing Technique and learn on the go while listening to and repeating your favorite Arabic radio station, podcast, TV series or movie. This is a great way to pick up the rhythm, structure, sound and rules of the Arabic language without needing to hit the books.
10. Interact...Without Needing to Travel
Try to interact in Arabic on a daily basis. Speaking as much as possible is one of the best tricks to learn a language fast. Here are some great ways to practice speaking (and writing, its slower version) as much as possible:
- Speak with a friend, family member or neighbor in person
- Write a letter or email to a friend, family member, co-worker, or yourself
- Visit a local store or neighborhood where Arabic is spoken and interact with the locals
- Join a weekly or monthly Arabic conversation group...or start your own group!
- Speak online with a friend, family member, co-worker, or fellow language learner (Skype is great for this)
- Contribute to a blog or forum in Arabic
- Sing along with Arabic music
- Watch a movie, series, documentary or video and repeat the character's lines
- Read a passage from a book, newspaper, or magazine out loud
- Talk to yourself in Arabic (this really works!)
The key is to interact, speak, and think in Arabic as much as possible. This can be done anywhere and everywhere. Take advantage of all of the excellent Arabic learning resources, and make Arabic a part of your daily life!
By following these ten language learning hacks, you'll learn Arabic faster, better, and enjoy doing so.