Ahmed Mostafa
How is learning Arabic different from other languages?

Hello Arabic Students! 

I am a bilingual teacher with a master's degree in English. I have been teaching Arabic as a second language for a long while now. I also teach English as a second language. While there are many similarities in the teaching methods used for both classes, I believe that sometimes the teaching (and perhaps the learning) experience is different. For one thing, the structure of the language and the way to understand the syntax  and pragmatics of the language are different. I have found that the most effective approach for teaching both is the communicative approach. I also found it very useful to help my students get to think in the second language and not to translate. As an Arabic native speaker, I have not experienced learning Arabic as a second language. So, I would like to know what my students feel about their learning experience. I was wondering if those of you who study Arabic as a second language could describe how they find studying Arabic different in particular from studying other languages? 

Jun 4, 2018 7:25 AM
Comments · 1
Arabic is the 6th foreign language that I'm learning and the first non-European one, so I think I can give some ideas :)

1) Arabic is the only language where I had huge problems memorizing new words, because most of them have absolutely nothing in common with other languages I know (Western European / Slavic). I had to learn creative ways for memorizing, such as the associations method, Spaced Repetition, flashcards with images and sounds (I create Anki cards with sound files taken from Forvo), etc. If your students struggle to remember words, I would strongly encourage you to suggest all these methods to them, as they might quickly quit studying if they keep forgetting what they learned.

2) Very easy to get demotivated. Connected to the previous point, but also other reasons: difficult grammar, difficult writing and sounds, a LOT of different ways to say the same thing, which makes it feel like no matter how much you study, you're never really arriving to speaking the language well. Also, if you're learning fus'ha, you often feel that you're learning a more-or-less dead language that few people can speak, so you start to think "what's the point of it all". Here again I would suggest you track your students' motivation level and praise them for their progress often, suggest songs in fusha to them, whatever can keep them encouraged to continue.

3) Totally different phrasing: placement of verbs before the nouns, use of nouns instead of active verbs, and circular references, e.g.


I really felt like my brain had to re-wire itself to a very different way of thinking and making a phrase than it was used to :) but it's also a lot of fun and really made me question how I "know" the phrases "should" be made :)

4) Regular conversation practice: with no other language have I felt such a big need to have frequent talking practice with natives in order to continue speaking well. Practice and Arabic definitely go hand in hand :)

Hope this helps! Cheers!

June 28, 2018
Ahmed Mostafa
Language Skills
Arabic, English, Turkish
Learning Language
English, Turkish