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I have a question for ONLY native speakers of American English.
When did you start learning Arabic?
How often do you study?
Which learning tools are most effective for you?
What aspects of Arabic have been the most challenging for you?
What aspects has been easier of learning Arabic for you?
What level are you at and describe please?
Do you speak any other languages?
What books did you start with ( please put title/author if able to)?
Any additional thoughts/comments?
I started learning Arabic back in around 2006 I think. This was altogether I did about three semesters in university and I studied abroad for one summer semester. However, outside of class, I didn't really do much with the language and I basically stopped studying for a few years.
Right now I try to study everyday. Unfortunately that doesn't always happen right now.
I'm learning a spoken dialect, and one of the most helpful tools for me has been the Pimsleur CD's. For some they're expensive, but many public libraries have them. It helped me to learn the language and grammar without "directly" learning grammar and it also allowed me to become more comfortable in speaking.
Italki has also been great since I'm able to now meet native speakers and converse with them regularly (depending on the person).
The book series Kallimni Arabi has been wonderful as well (though this is for Egyptian colloquial Arabic).
Anki (http://ankiweb.net) is a great resource for making your own flashcards to use on your computer, online, or on a smartphone (best on Android from my experience).
The most challenging aspect for me has been to find a great teacher. When you find that teacher, stick with them no matter what. Another challenging aspect is that for some reason in the States, many Arabs for whatever reason don't seem as willing to practice their language fully (compared to Persian or Spanish speakers). It may be because they were raised in the States and therefore aren't comfortable with their language skills, but whatever the reason, it exists. So practicing MIGHT be an issue.
The easier aspect for me has been learning to listen because there is such a wide variety of things available. News, movies, TV shows, music, and on.
I'm honestly not sure what level I'm at. I haven't been tested. I'd place myself at a beginning intermediate. I can get around in a foreign country, understand basic conversation, make basic conversation, but I'm still thinking, translating in my head and stumbling over some words here and there.
I don't speak any other languages (yet).
Books I've started with:
The Arabic Alphabet by Nicholas Awde and Putros Samano (http://www.amazon.com/The-Arabic-Alphabet-Read-Write/dp/0818404302). I recommend.
Al Kitaab fii Taaluum by Kirsten Brustad (http://www.amazon.com/Al-Kitaab-allum-Arabiyya-DVDs-Second/dp/158901104X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373156501&sr=1-2&keywords=al+kitaab+fii+taallum+al+arabiyya). Don't really recommend it, though most universities in the States use it for some reason. Also, there's a new edition out now.
Pimsleur Egyptian Arabic (http://www.pimsleur.com/Learn-Egyptian-Arabic). Definitely recommend.
Barron's 501 Arabic Verbs by Raymond Scheindlin (http://www.amazon.com/501-Arabic-Verbs-Fully-Conjugated/dp/0764136224)
As for additional thoughts or comments, find yourself two or three very good teachers of Arabic, teachers who love to teach, are proud of their language, and aren't doing it only for money. Being a good teacher is something that can't be learned in a class. When you find that teacher, your progress will grow by leaps and bounds.
Find a good friend or two. Not only for language exchange, but true friends. Then you'll become very comfortable and have fun speaking the language.
Also, get your hands on some reading materials, this will help to build your vocabulary, your comprehension, and also to give you greater insight to the varying cultures in the Arab world.
Good luck on your journey :-)
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