“7 critical tips when studying Arabic for Muslims”
Being a non-Arab Westerner and having studied Arabic overseas in Nasr City, Egypt, I felt the best book is “Kitab Al-Asasi.” The PDF is available for free online. I have only been exposed to a part of book #1. However, based on my research online, many people recommend this book series over others. The downside is that the curriculum is somewhat influenced by secular-liberalism. Please filter that out or reformat it into an Islamic curriculum! The series is three books and is focused on what is known as “fusha” (classical Arabic or Modern Standard Arabic).
I have studied the first few books of Al-Arabiyyatu Bayna Yadayk. However, I do have issues with book #3. For example, my issues are: some of the vocabulary is not practical, some of the content is irrelevant to students, it could be more efficient and structured, and I felt at times it can focus too much on vocabulary which can feel inundating to memorize all those words. There’s not enough repetition of those words for one to digest. However, I studied the books around 2012, so perhaps they’ve updated them.
I have not studied the Madinah books. However, those who have say that the Nahu and Sarf are exceptional. But the problem is, many who study it, still struggle to speak. Although very popular, many would argue that the Madinah books are not sufficient. But they are a great tool nonetheless from what I hear.
The classical (i.e. madrasah) approach to studying Arabic has been to cement oneself into Nahu and Sarf. The issue with this however is it can be tedious and turn-off one from language study altogether. You could potentially develop a solid foundation by sticking to just one book series or combining some of them. Because these book series also contain the fundamentals of Nahu, Sarf, and Balagha (eloquence) that you need. w’Allahu Alim. And Allah knows best.
In my humble opinion, and being someone who has NOT mastered the Arabic (only completing 10 levels), I recommend the following tips below which I’m still trying to implement…And Allah knows best.
- Make your intention for the sake of Allah, to understand the speech of Allah ‘aza wa jal. Do not think about bragging to others or showing off. And this is an intention that should constantly be renewed. May Allah SWT make us firm. Having the intention to come closer to the Qur’an and Hadeeth, this has baraqah, bi-idh-nillah.
- In my first few levels of Arabic, we focused on the following questions which really helped. They helped us because these questions included the most popular ways to ask questions (who, what, where, when, how, and why). And they also included classroom vocabulary, so students would then be more interactive in the classroom and engaged.
What is your name?
Where do you live?
Where are you from?
What’s your ethnicity?
Are you a teacher or student?
What level are you in?
How do you get to school?
What do you do for a living?
How do you say “XYZ” in Arabic?
What does that mean?
Who is that? Who is s/he?
When is class?
What time is it?
Why are you studying Arabic?
- Do not belittle accent development (tajweed and/or makharij al-huroof). This is a big problem. Think about people who speak English with a heavy accent. This becomes an issue because (a) it’s difficult to understand them and (b) it’s difficult for them to understand others and pick up new vocabulary. This is because your accent is like filter and tool by which you are understood and by which you understand. Also, when reading the Qur’an, it can be problematic if you don’t know the tajweed rules, and in some instances, you could be changing the meaning. Incorrect accents eventually are passed onto others. So don’t belittle learning tajweed and makharij al-huroof.
- After a few level where you’ve been able to build a decent classroom vocabulary, I believe it’s appropriate to find a private tutor or smaller group, so that you can have more 1-to-1 time with the teacher. But you may also benefit with others students in the class. In the video below, you can find a list of Arabic tutors whom you can Skype with. See the video description. Feel free to ask for a free lesson and then you can arrange to pay them 40 Egyptian Pounds per hour (negotiable).
- Remember to keep using the words in different sentences and contexts. And remember to focus on all sets, whether it’s speaking, listening, and reading. They say you need to use a word 5 times creatively from memory before it becomes part of your vocabulary. Just as it’s important to learn a word, it’s important to know how to use that word in a sentance, and to understand the different ways that it’s used. Use the resources available to you. Watch videos with Arabic subtitles
Use the resources available to you. Someone once told me that they learned a great deal of English by watching videos with English subtitles. Hence, if you can find videos with Arabic subtitles, let us know. They may be helpful if the content is not haraam.
6. Don’t belittle the importance of a good teacher. A good Arabic teacher:
-Knows to correct your big mistakes first. And gradually corrects your small mistakes. They don’t overwhelm you.
-Focuses on the most common words. They don’t inundate you with unnecessary vocabulary
– They teach you relevant information and the way they teach it is fit to your learning style
-They are positive and keep encouraging you to learn step-by-step
- Motivation and the bigger picture
Remember again why you’re leaning. Believe me, by keeping relationship with the Qur’an there will be baraqah in your studies. The Qur’an is Arabic. And reflecting upon is going to help you. Implementing the Qur’an and the Sunnah in the world today should be on the mind of every Muslim.
Make du’a to Allah to keep you motivated. Don’t stop your curiosity, and speak, speak, speak, whenever you have the chance. The scholars used to draw a relationship between taqwa and a good memory and knowledge.
w’Allahu ‘Alim. And Allah knows best.
Tajweed and Makharij Al-Huroof: Br. Wisam Sharieff’s websites and YouTube videos. However, the best thing is to ultimately sit in front of a teacher so they can correct you. Phonetics is an interesting science. Because you will think you’re saying something right but it’s actually incorrect. This is because sometimes we can’t hear certain sounds. Your teacher will drill them into you. Just like you go to the gym to exercise a muscle, your tongue needs to do the same thing. People may read Fatiha over 100 times with a teacher, that’s normal. I personally read Juz Amma with a teacher. It helped immensely Alhamdulillah. You can also listen to Qari Mahmoud Khalil Al-Hussary as he’s known for good tajweed. One tip is to go to a website called Qur’an verse by verse (or every ayah) and download the mp3. This allows you to put the ayah on repeat so you can hear it and repeat it correctly.
Nahu (Arabic grammar): Al-Ajrumiyyah Chart in PDF. There’s also people that teach it on YouTube. I did make the mistake of not taking Nahu seriously enough and not speaking correctly from the beginning. Hence, one should not belittle Nahu. Essentially Nahu and Sarf (morphology) are the formulas or models that help us understand Arabic and sentence structure.
80% of the Qur’anic Words by Dr. Abdulazeez AbdulRaheem
Finding a good dictionary and translating words: this is too controversial for me to go into and I don’t have much research on this topic. Everyone has their preference. Online dictionaries, dictionaries that break down the root word and use the word in a sentance. Use the one which you’re comfortable with.
This website is solid and has tons of free resources:
The Arabic videos by Ustadh Abu Taubah (MyFiks) are also beneficial because of Sh. Abu Taubah’s teaching style.
Arabic flashcards (you need to Google “Anki” to find out how the program works).