Get an Earful of Arabic: How to Improve Your Arabic Listening Skills Every Day

Do your ears hang low?

Then it might be due time to perk ’em up with some authentic Arabic audio.

Your Arabic fluency will be based on the four major skills of reading, speaking, writing and listening.

One the most difficult tasks while learning a foreign language is listening comprehension—and this is especially true for those who are learning the Arabic language.

To most, listening comes more easily than speaking. However, if we talk specifically about Arabic, most will admit to the fact that it takes a lot of patience and practice to comprehend what’s being said when they hear someone speaking in the language.

In this article, we’ll give you some handy tips that will help you hone your listening skills.


Before You Start Listening to Anything in Arabic

Before we get started, here are a few before-you-start-listening pieces of advice that will help you get prepared for the application of the next set of tips.

  • Accept the fact that you won’t be able to understand everything for a long time.
  • Make listening your utmost priority. Get your listening resources in place and listen to them whenever you can, even if you have to do it while you’re driving, working out at the gym or doing your regular household chores.
  • Listen to something that you enjoy.
  • When listening, your complete focus should be on the speaker and not on translating what the speaker is saying into your native language.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you fail to understand something, don’t take the stress. It will only be a hindrance to your learning.
  • Give yourself a purpose before you start listening. You should listen to any Arabic audio with a goal in mind. For example, you might switch on a news channel with the goal of finding 10 new Arabic words for building your vocabulary. We’ll explain this in detail in the coming paragraphs.
  • Set different purposes for listening each day. For example, spend one day only on understanding the meaning, one day on listening to the sound and one day for understanding different tones.
  • If listening is very difficult, get some controlled listening practice. Brainstorm some general words from your native language and listen to their Arabic translations on Google Translate or Forvo.
  • One final piece of advice: Don’t give up! Developing Arabic listening skills takes, above all, time and patience.

If you follow these bits of advice, the way forward will be smoother and you’ll learn faster.

Now, let’s get on with what should be your next course of action.

Listen Up! How to Improve Your Arabic Listening Skills

Here are our favorite tips to help you listen to Arabic and comprehend meaning better.

1. Improve your vocabulary

It sounds simple because it is simple.

Like we said earlier in this article, one good practice to improve your listening skills is to start building your vocabulary and absorbing as many common, everyday phrases as you can.

It might seem odd to be learning tons of isolated vocabulary words without context or grammar rules to piece them together. But, in my book, this is really the best strategy for getting started.

You’ll start listening to advanced audio—even as a newbie—and notice that you can pick out words here and there. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge, motivational confidence boost!

Go ahead and build a solid foundation of common words and phrases when you’re at the beginning level of language learning. Adopting this practice alone will make a world of difference in your ability to understand what you listen to.

You’ll have to take this as a personal challenge and strive towards doing it every day.

Set yourself an easily achievable goal—like learning 3-5 words per day—so you never feel overwhelmed or tempted to procrastinate. You’ll find that you’ll easily surpass your goals and expectations on most days.

After a period of time, you’ll know common Arabic words and phrases well enough to understand the context in which they’re used without feeling the need to translate them in your mind.

2. Patience will take you a long way

Be patient with yourself and your level of uncertainty.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t understand a single word even after listening to your Arabic resources for quite some time. That happens with everybody trying to learn a new language. Instead of letting this get the better of you, resolve to strive more than ever.

At the very least, listening without understanding is familiarizing your ears with the sounds and rhythms of native Arabic speakers. This time spent listening will resurface when you’re speaking, and you’ll notice that you’re pretty good at recreating an authentic Arabic accent.

Don’t become obsessed with understanding every little detail, either. If you get stuck on one new word in a sentence, let it go and try to listen to the rest of message. Getting the gist does wonders for understanding.

3. Guess, guess and guess again

Like we just said earlier, it’s unlikely that you’ll understand everything that’s said in your Arabic listening resources initially.

So, try to fill the gaps between the parts you do manage to understand and the parts you don’t with reasonable guesses.

While trying to guess what’s being said, look for contextual clues such as the tone of voice being used, the body language of the person speaking, facial expressions, background music and anything else you can latch onto.

4. Ask for help

This is very important for those who are learning Arabic from an instructor, and for those learning Arabic while abroad.

Never hesitate to ask for help, even if it means asking for it frequently.

When you face a problem in understanding something, don’t shy away from asking the speaker or instructor to help you understand a particular word or phrase over and over again. Ask them to repeat something for you, to say it in a different way or to speak more slowly. A good listener always triumphs over his or her fear of asking for help when it’s really needed.

5. Surf the web

If you’re using online resources to improve your Arabic listening comprehension skills (like something from this fantastic collection of Arabic audio), here are some additional tips that will help you get further in your daily practice of listening.

First, concentrate on strengthening your understanding of general contexts and themes. Focus on details later. For example, if your online resource has an audio file of a textual passage, spend time acquainting yourself with the background of that passage. Who wrote it? Who published it? What was the purpose of writing this?

Next, listen to the entire audio at least once. Too often, learners get hung up on understanding every line before moving on. After you’re through with one full listen, divide the resource into smaller segments and listen to each segment individually to understand better.

Both of these measures will help you figure out the big picture. Getting into specific details later will be easier.

6. Find listening resources with exercises

Many Arabic audio resources have accompanying exercises, and these are great for beginner learners.

For example, you might start with Al Jazeera Arabic learning audios and exercises.

With a resource like this, always start by familiarizing yourself with the exercise questions first.

If new words are introduced in a particular exercise of your listening resource, don’t just read through them. Take your time to learn them first. The best way to go about it is to listen to the new words a few times and say them out loud. Add them to your flashcard decks for additional practice.

Your next step should be to make sentences (if you’ve got the grammar chops) using the words and say these sentences to yourself a few times. If you do this, you’ll find it easier to complete the exercise after listening—which means that you’re on the right track.

Keep a pen and paper handy before starting with an exercise so that you can write down all the words and phrases that you don’t know from that particular listening exercise.

7. Chill out

Take breaks but don’t ever give up.

Remember that you’re not alone. Everybody who’s either learning or has already learned the Arabic language has encountered difficult exercises. When you too are faced with such an exercise, take it as a personal challenge.

If you don’t see success for some time, simply take a break from the exercise and return to it later with a fresh mind.


Arabic is one of most widely used languages around the world, but it’s also one of the toughest to learn—particularly for those who aren’t natives of any Arab country.

Nevertheless, many people enthusiastically enroll themselves in Arabic language learning courses, both online and offline, to learn the language. Don’t forget that this is supposed to be a fun experience!

While many people take up learning a new language as a hobby or for travel, there are equally many who do it to maximize their chances of getting a job abroad. The demand for learning Arabic has increased, along with an increase in the employment opportunities in the Arab nations (most notably the UAE). Learning to improve your listening skills can definitely have a great payoff down the road.

Regardless of your language goals and purpose for studying, we sincerely hope that this article has helped you in some way.

Best of luck!

Megha Raizada is a professional writer with a keen interest in the global job market, especially that of the Gulf. She loves to keep track of everything interesting happening around the world. You can reach her at Twitter and Google+.

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