Have you seen the film “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”?
I know you want to learn Arabic the modern way—online with resource-loaded websites—but you should take a break from digital overload and explore a classic Arabic tale with me first.
I promise, this little tangent will prepare you to set sail on a learning journey and study Arabic on websites.
Belonging to the heroic-fantasy-adventure film genre, “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” is one of my favorite movies from childhood. I was eight years old the first time I saw it. My grandparents took me to a neighborhood pizzeria that showed movies on Fridays and Saturdays. It was good food and good entertainment.
In the film, Sinbad is a man from Baghdad who is betrothed to the beautiful princess Parisa from Chandra. Their upcoming wedding will ensure lasting peace between the two cities—but they become involved in a grand adventure before their wedding day arrives. An evil magician named Sokurah, who just so happens to possess a magic lamp, stops the nuptials and reveals a dark prophecy that forces Sinbad onto a voyage involving a genie, a cyclops, giant vultures, a dragon and a troupe of skeleton warriors given life by stop-motion animation.
You might wonder what the connection is between all of this and learning Arabic with websites. The answer is that, after exploring hundreds of sites, I am prepared to send you on seven voyages to learn Arabic with websites. You’re about to become a modern-day Sinbad.
In the following section, I describe all seven voyages that you should embark on. On these voyages, you will learn how you learn best—and you will learn which websites cater to that learning style. Knowing which website has what you need will improve your learning effectiveness. It will also open your eyes to the many different ways of perceiving the world and absorbing languages.
Why learn Arabic with websites?
This question has many answers. Some common answers are:
- The variety of sites lets you control how fast you learn Arabic, and it gives you control of what you see and hear. You can choose the quantity of learning resources you are exposed to and how much time you spend learning with them, as opposed to a classroom that dictates what you should learn with and how much you need to study.
- Arabic language learning sites provide unlimited opportunities for repetition. You can revisit the same websites over and over again, to really learn all of that information thoroughly. You can spend one afternoon replaying the same video or rereading the same language lesson.
- As I have alluded to above, you will have tons of choices. Some websites require subscriptions to access their resources, whereas other sites offer free lessons. It is up to you to decide what you need most.
- You will have the freedom to choose any dialect of Arabic that is most interesting or useful to you. Are you planning to live, work or travel in a specific part of the world? Then you can focus on that variety of Arabic.
- Learning Arabic online lets you control your learning environment. You can choose who teaches you Arabic based on their teaching style. If something is not working for you, then you can switch things up. You can also settle in at home in a comfortable corner to do your learning. Thus, these websites empower you to create a comfortable learning space for your Arabic studies.
- There are virtually unlimited resources on websites to help you learn Arabic faster and more efficiently. You will never run out of new things to learn. Every day of your life can be a new Arabic adventure.
The 7 Voyages to Learn Arabic: Websites Tailored to Every Learning Style
1st Voyage: Identify your ultimate goal for learning Arabic
The first voyage is the most important one.
On it, you must decide on your primary Arabic language learning goal. This means that, before you do anything else, you must determine what you want to be able to do in spoken and written Arabic. Once you identify the ways you want to use spoken and written Arabic, you can set those skills as your final goals for learning Arabic.
Here are some key options to consider: Are you learning Arabic only because you want to learn the language? Or are there external forces compelling you to learn Arabic?
From behavioral psychology, we understand that intrinsically-motivated learning is the optimal reason for learning. This means that your motivation should come from within, and it should be personal and meaningful to you. At the same time, it does not mean that extrinsic motivation is completely undesirable.
Some reasons to learn Arabic websites include:
- Needing to learn Arabic to keep or secure a job.
- Wanting to know Arabic for social reasons, such as marrying into a family that communicates predominantly in Arabic.
- Planning a trip to an Arabic-speaking country for business or recreational purposes.
- Wanting to better understand the people who speak Arabic as well as their societies and cultures.
- Wanting to learn Arabic out of pure curiosity.
- Continuing education. Perhaps you had a semester of formal Arabic language instruction but for reasons beyond your control you stopped. Your learning does not need to end because your course is over. With so many options, you will easily be able to pick up where you left off.
2nd Voyage: Explore websites that teach you one of the three forms of Arabic
Arabic is a member of the Afro-Asiatic language family (formerly known as Hamito-Semitic). With hundreds of millions of native speakers, Arabic ranks as the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. There are three primary forms of the Arabic language:
- Classical (Qur’anic) Arabic
- Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)
- Modern Spoken Dialects of Arabic
The language of the Qur’an is Classical Arabic, but Classical Arabic has origins extending back before the birth of Islam. The term “Classical Arabic” or الفصحى refers to the Arabic language up to the sixth century C.E.
The primary difference between Classical Arabic and MSA are word choice. Classical Arabic contains old words not commonly used in MSA.
MSA is the universally understood Arabic language used across the 22 countries for official speeches, newspapers, radio, legal documents and books. It is also commonly used in telephone conversations, talk shows, interviews, blogs and informal contexts.
All in all, MSA differs from Classical Arabic in a similar way as the English used by Geoffrey Chaucer differs from the English used by Rudyard Kipling.
In addition to those three, there are two secondary forms of Arabic:
- Modern Literary Arabic
- Arabic Slang
Modern literary Arabic is quite simply the written version of MSA, and Arabic slang is self-explanatory.
Eighteen countries spanning the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa share Arabic as the country’s official language:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)
In addition, there are 12 nations that list Arabic as one of two official languages:
- Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
- South Sudan
Modern Spoken Arabic dialects vary within and between countries. Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of major Arabic dialects:
- North Levantine (Syria and Lebanon)
- South Levantine (Jordan, Syria and Egypt)
- Levantine Bedouin (Jordan, Syria and Egypt)
- North Mesopotamian (Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Turkey)
- Mesopotamian (Iraq, Syria and Jordan)
- Arabian Peninsula (Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq and Saudi Arabia)
- Shihi (UAE and Oman)
- Baharna (Bahrain, Qatif and Oman)
- Omani (Oman and UAE)
- Najdi (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Kuwait)
- Dhofari (Oman)
- Sanaani (Yemen)
- Ta’izzi-Adeni (Yemen)
- Hadrami (Yemen)
- Sa’idi (Egypt)
- Western Bedouin (Egypt)
- Sudanese Creole (Sudan)
- Judeo (Israel and Morocco)
- Libyan (Libya, Egypt and Tunisia)
- Tunisian (Tunisia, Algeria and Libya)
- Algerian (Algeria and Tunisia)
- Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya)
- Sudanese (Sudan, Chad and Juba)
- Gulf (Throughout the Gulf Coast from Kuwait to Oman)
- Hassaniya (Mauritania)
- Hejazi (Western Saudi Arabia)
- Maltese (Malta)
- Andalusian (An extinct dialect that holds an important position in literary history)
Here is an interesting article about Arabic dialects for further research.
Arabic Slang is the form of Arabic communicated spontaneously. This form is highly informal in words and expressions. Most often used in conversations, chats, email correspondence, advertising, films and television.
3rd Voyage: Visiting websites that cover different learning methods
On this trip, discover five learning methods and decide which one is your ideal.
Formal or informal
These terms describe the amount of pedagogical structure a particular Arabic language learning website employs. Each approach has advantages.
Benefits of the formal approach are:
- Scores of learners will learn the same content at the same time
- Students that learn in formal structures come up to speed faster
- May support a variety of learning styles.
Click here for an example of a formal learning option.
Advantages of the informal approach are:
- Less costly to create learning situations
- More personalized instruction that is less intimidating
- Subject matter experts might be more included to share their knowledge this way
- Students are less likely to resist new learning
Click here for an example of an informal Arabic language learning website.
Several sites that support the independent approach to learning Arabic. That is ideal if your schedule frequently changes and you have the self-discipline and motivation to learn without external obligations. The majority of the websites that support independent Arabic language learning do so in a formalized way with sequential lessons.
The Look Lex language site offers 18 lessons with audio files of native Arabic speakers. Next to each audio file is a transcription of the audio file written out it Arabic along with a transliteration in Latin letters. Each lesson has a paired grammar link that describes the necessary grammar rules present in that experience.
The Arabic keyboard website offers excellent detailed information about Arabic grammar and the different forms of written and spoken Arabic. All content is free.
The Open Cultura Arabic language learning website offers free Arabic modules for beginners. Lessons are available for download from their website, YouTube, Spotify and iTunes.
Verbling is all about matching you with the perfect language tutor, and there’s a good reason why this is one of the biggest names in online language learning. You’ll be able to explore hundreds upon hundreds of language teachers and find exactly the one who’s right for you. When you search, you’ll get to search based on prices, availability and even the other languages they speak. Verbling also makes it easy to get connected—no need for Skype or any other video calling service, you can take your lessons right on the site.
Several Arabic language learning sites offer interactive online courses that develop speaking, reading and writing skills.
Arabic Online offers three levels of courses: First Steps (free), Beginner to Intermediate and Advanced (paid). Each of these courses is 15 units long with over 200 hours of instruction. Each unit has 17 modules, and each module has six or more steps covering a broad range of everyday activities. A variety of learning activities including role playing and voice recording.
Madina Arabic offers over 80 free lessons on everyday situations. This site provides videos, quiz and articles for Arabic language learners.
Learn Arabic Online offers three free levels of Arabic language lessons. Individual teaching episodes fall under the categories reading and writing, verbs, grammar, grammar subtopics, vocabulary, Classical Logic and Rhetoric.
The Arab Academy is an Egyptian online Arabic language learning company whose mission is to utilize technology to promote academic excellence. This company started in 1997 with a curriculum that spans all ages from just beginning through advanced Arabic language speaking, reading and writing lessons. Students experience animated lectures, interactive exercises and live teacher interaction. Free scholarships available.
This path is for persons wanting to work as an Arabic-English translator or to teach Arabic.
Alison is an online company that offers certification across many areas. This company serves adult professionals seeking certification and diplomas. The introductory course is free.
4th Voyage: Setting progress milestones
Milestones is another word for a goal. Goal setting plays a significant role in learning Arabic. Setting goals typically refers to a distant future activity. Along with long-term goals, it is wise to set more common and smaller objectives. Achieving much smaller and more numerous milestones called objectives will motivate you to work toward the next big goal. There are four benefits gained when you set a goal.
1. Goal setting gives you focus. You can have high ability and talent for learning Arabic. However, without focus, your great skill and talent will be useless.
2. Measure your progress. The goal functions as an end point where you compare your ability to your target ability.
3. Avoid procrastination. Once set, a goal will stay in your mind. That operates as a reminder of your goal motivating you to continue working.
4. That surge of energy to work is motivation. Goal setting will motivate you to work toward your goal.
5th Voyage: Establish a daily language study time
Building a set regular time when you study Arabic is essential to your mastery. It is through repetition that you will learn to speak, read, write and understand Arabic.
Mastering a new vocabulary demands a lot of repetition. This site offers 1,500 Arabic verbs arranged by frequency.
It takes a lot of practice to master reading and writing in Arabic. This site offers a free Arabic writing packet. Begin practice reading and writing the Arabic alphabet.
Equally important to reading and writing is developing your ear for the Arabic language. That is a useful resource for developing one’s ear.
6th Voyage: Real-world experience
People learn a second language because they want to communicate in that second language. It is important that you have a native speaker that you can practice speaking Arabic. Conversation exchange is an online company marketed to English speakers learning Arabic and Arabic speakers learning English. Individuals create a profile and find someone to practice spoken and written communication. The service is available free of charge.
7th Voyage: Supplemental resources
Understanding Arabic grammar is critical for success. This site contains information on verb forms, verb conjugations, verb tenses, modals, the active participle, the imperative, the passive participle, conditional statements and case endings.
Music sung in Arabic is an interesting Arabic language learning resource. This article describes eight emotional songs for learning Arabic.
Arabic language TV shows and movies provide another engaging Arabic language resource.
YouTube is a goldmine for Arabic language learning resources. Learn Arabic with Maha is a very popular resource for persons learning Arabic. The video lessons are short, presented clearly and appropriately paced instruction.
The last leg of your journey to learn Arabic websites stops at podcasts. Podcasts are another rich Arabic language learning resource. ArabicPod101 is a storehouse of information. You’ll find audio and video lessons plus interactive learning features. Listening to these as often as possible will help you develop conversational skills and fluency.
Along each of the seven voyages to learn Arabic websites, we discussed a broad, diverse selection of sights that help English language learners acquire Arabic.
We discussed strategies designed to help you gain the most as you learn Arabic through various websites. Of the site types discussed, we learned about places that that offered formal and informal language instruction.
Other Arabic-language sites discussed teach specific versions of the Arabic language. We identified sites that provide certification, diplomas, classes, private tutors and independent learning.
The variety of companies, podcasts, YouTube videos, music, movies and interactive learning modules ensures that everyone can successfully learn Arabic and have fun doing it.
Dr. Geoffrey Reynolds is a technical writer, an academic writer and blogger. In addition to his publications and blogs on Arabic language learning and music, he writes on a range of disciplines and topics of interest. You can learn more about him here. Keep up with his blog here.
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