How to learn to speak Arabic in just one year
January 1, 2013 12 Comments
A conversation with my father one weekend in early December:
“What do you want for Christmas?”
“I don’t know. What do you want for Christmas?”
“I don’t know. Do you need anything?”
“No. Do you?”
“Shall we each get each other something we don’t need?”
“Why don’t we agree to not get each other something we don’t need?”
“For instance, you could not get me a working knowledge of Mandarin Chinese.”
“Great. I want Arabic. You can not get me a working knowledge of Arabic.”
So, starting with the premise that we would each be getting the other a non-item for Christmas, we each, independently, decided to take that as a challenge. I looked up some basic phrases in Mandarin Chinese and wrote them on a Christmas card for my father. On the inside: “(A non-working knowledge of Mandarin Chinese.)” My father took it a step further: he got me a non-working knowledge of Arabic by getting me Rosetta Stone.
The folks at Rosetta Stone might take issue with their language-learning software being used to provide a “non-working knowledge” of Arabic. But I think it’s appropriate: if you have Rosetta Stone software, and you don’t use it, you have a non-working knowledge of the language.
Aspiring polyglot that I am, I can’t look a good language program in the face without trying it. During the year 2013 I hope to turn my non-working knowledge of Arabic into actual knowledge that I can put to some use.
The arabic language for me is a completely blank slate. I don’t have any close friends or relatives who speak Arabic. I don’t have a trip to an Arabic-speaking country planned. I’m not in love with someone from the Arabic-speaking world. (Those are the three most common reasons to learn a new language as an adult.) The reason I picked it is that it is a language spoken by many people, and it is very different from the Romance and Germanic languages with which I have experience. If I spoke Arabic (or at least tried to pretend to understand it, a little) I would have one more reason to travel to somewhere in the world I have never visited. And, well, I like the way it looks. I think Arabic calligraphy is beautiful. When I see clips of Al-Jazeera on TV I like to watch the Arabic-language newsfeed crawl (in the opposite direction) along the bottom of the screen. A capricious reason to learn a language, perhaps, but there you have it.
How will you learn Arabic?
I plan to spend several hours a week, using Rosetta Stone and the internet as my primary tools. I test and review language-learning tools from time to time for this website, and I have never tried them with a language that is completely foreign to me. I’ll try out different aps, websites, YouTube channels and anything else I find on the web to supplement my Rosetta Stone course and report back the results here.
What’s your goal?
By this time next year, I hope to have some basic Arabic conversation skills. Being able to read Arabic would be a bonus, (especially given what I’ve said about Arabic calligraphy) but I am going to focus on speaking and listening for now. How will I test myself at the end of the year? I’m not sure. I’d like to use the internet to find a conversation partner. Any suggestions?
I’ll be posting regularly about my progress, using the tag Arabic2013.