How to Learn Arabic online
A Note for Muslim Students
Knowledge of the Arabic language is a primary and indispensable tool in studying liturgical topics such as Qur’an and Hadith. It is part of the retinue of religious knowledge. Other members of this retinue include knowledge of logic, as well as piety, good morals, and respect for one’s instructor.
As such, a student should always begin learning the language with the correct intention and direct his or her heart towards the Almighty. Without this requisite, proficiency in the language will yield no favour and its pedagogy will have gone to waste.
Therefore, a student must have correct intentions, begin with the name of God, and always be humble. May God help us in this pursuit.
Arabic: Classical or Modern?
Arabic is somewhat unique in the sense that the classical and modern dialects are not too different from one another. The divergences are largely limited to the lexical meanings of words, a few grammatical constructions, and some stylistic elements. Other than this, the two are quite similar.
Classical Arabic is roughly considered to have ended at around the mid-19th century. Of course the transition from classical to modern was very gradual, but it was during the industrial revolution that linguists began to systematically create new words and take advantage of the language’s framework in order to express new concepts like engines, steam, and factories.
But the similarity between the two only means that a speaker of one brand will need minimal instruction to learn the other brand. It does not mean that a speaker from the seventh century will completely understand a modern speaker, or that a modern speaker can pick up the Qur’an and start analysing it without proper training. By no means.
For this reason, we focus on classical Arabic. After having a good grasp of this, one can extend his or her knowledge to easily learn modern standard Arabic (MSA). Such knowledge of the two dialects of Arabic can be learned and practiced from courses such as the Real Arabic Program. One is highly encouraged to join such courses in order to correctly learn the Arabic language.
Classical Arabic: Which Tribe?
In modern Arabic, we have the standard (or formal) dialect. Then each region of the Arab world has its unique colloquial brand of the language differing from others to such an extent that speakers of the same language sometimes can’t even understand each other.
In classical Arabic, there is a similar schism. Each tribe of ancient Arabia had some differences in pronunciation, in style, and in the grammar as well. Over the centuries, these differences were formalized into schools and, during the apex of Arab civilization (ca. 8th – 10th century CE), the two schools of Basra and Kufa were the dominant grammatical schools of thought.
Here we study classical Arabic as it was understood by the Basran scholars. It is noteworthy, however, that not all the authors upon whom we rely are Basran and not all our grammatical rulings are based on the Basran school, but this is largely the case.
How we Approach the Study
Below is a list of all the sciences related to the study of Classical Arabic.
- Arabic Phonology– this includes reading, writing, and pronunciation
- Morphology– this includes both morphology and etymology
- Arabic Grammar– the study of grammatical inflection and all associated issues of grammar
- Arabic Vocab– this is primarily focused on vocabulary
- Literature– practice with the above theories and learning classical Arabic style
- Rhetoric– elevated speech, literary techniques, poetry, etc
Real Arabic Program offers detailed tutorials on each of these topics (except literature). The tutorials range from the most basic to the most advanced. They are relatively self-contained and are easy to follow.
Real Arabic Program does not cover literature. Literature is an absolutely essential category of study that is used to help students practice their verb conjugation, translation skills, learn idiomatic expressions, practice reading Arabic with and without vowels in front of a teacher, and much more. This is very essential, but something that cannot, unfortunately, be done through tutorials. For this, a student must learn Arabic through the medium of knowledgeable teachers and well-established courses.