Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Learning Arabic: Part 1

The area across of North Africa and the Middle East where Arabic is spoken.
The Arabic Alphabet
The Arabic language in written form. This is "The Lord's Prayer".
I have always heard that the younger you are when you start learning a language, the easier it is to learn. When we arrived in Egypt, I was 36 years old. Now, that is a little old to start learning a new language. None the less, I was excited, and I jumped right in and started taking lessons. Over the years, we have taken lessons a couple of different ways. We started out at a language institute, which was a "school" like setting. Then, we found an Arabic teacher and took private lessons for a while.

The Arabic language is a very difficult language to learn, and the majority of Egyptians I talk to would agree that Arabic is more difficult than English. One of the reasons Arabic is so difficult is because there are 3 different types of Arabic to learn. There is the spoken Arabic, the Classical Arabic, referred to as "fusha" (pronounced: foos-ha), and then there is the Modern Standard Arabic which is based on the Classical Arabic. The majority of our lessons have been in the spoken Arabic, and very little in the Modern Standard. Classical Arabic is the language found in the Qur'an. Modern Standard Arabic, based on the Classical Arabic, is used in most current, printed Arabic publications, and is spoken by the Arabic Media across North Africa and the Middle East.

To me, it has been an enjoyable experience learning Arabic. One of the things that I have particularly enjoyed is learning to write in Arabic. When writing Arabic, it goes from the right to the left, instead of left to right as English does. In my opinion, written Arabic can be beautiful. I will share in a later post how Arabic writers use the Arabic language in some very beautiful ways.

I do fairly well in speaking Arabic, and can hold pretty good conversations with most Egyptian people, but I do not think I would be fluent in the language, even if I took lessons for 40 years.


  1. Oh Jackleen, how I miss Khartoum while reading this post. During the first half of last year while in the Sudan, my husband arranged for an Arabic tutor to come to our flat twice a week and teach me Arabic. I learnt to speak it, not fluently, but so that I could communicate in most situations and I also held lengthy conversations with my tutor during lessons. I was 57 when I learnt it! Now I'm afraid to lose it so read up my notes as much as possible and try to translate things in my head (as I used to do in Khartoum) while going about my life here in SA. I don't think we'll be returning to Khartoum and that and the fresh pitas on the street are the things I miss the most here. I love the Lord's Prayer here above. Blessings and (((hugs))) Jo

  2. Jo, yes, I enjoy learning and speaking Arabic. You are amazing, being able to learn it at 57. Blessings and (((hugs))) to you too. Jackie