Speak Arabic

Arabic is quickly becoming one of the world's most important languages. With more than 240 million speakers that span many regions and several continents, Arabic is one of the top ten most spoken languages on the planet. The language itself is fundamentally different from English and other European languages, so it is important for beginning learners to be aware of these differences in form and structure from the start.


Learning the Basics

  1. Purchase a respected book for studying the language. Arabic is very different than English, so it is important to have some kind of grammar book to assist you in your language education, especially if you are a beginner learner of the language. Here are a few books to consider to help you learn the foundational elements of Arabic grammar:
    • Teaching and Learning Arabic as a Foreign Language: A Guide for Teachers by Karin C. Ryding. This book was published by Georgetown University Press in 2013.[1]
    • The Arabic Alphabet: How to Read and Write It by Nicholas Awde and Putros Samano.[2]
    • Easy Arabic Grammar by Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar. It was published by McGraw Hill in 2004.[3]
    • Arabic Verbs and Essentials of Grammar by Jane Wightwick and Mahmoud Gaafar. This text was published by McGraw Hill in 2007.[4]
  2. Use online sources to help you grasp the basics. There are many online tools available to help language learners get the information they need. While there are many heralded programs that can cost and arm and a leg (like Rosetta Stone[5]), there are also quite a few online tutorials that offer guidance at no cost. Here are a few of the most reputable free online Arabic language learning sources:
    • Salaam Arabic, hosted by Pangaea Learning, offers free online tutorials in learning Arabic. The lessons are broken down by category: Numbers, Days, Greetings, Religion, Subject Pronouns, etc. There are even some grammar sections for beginner and intermediate learners.[6]
    • Arabic Speak 7 provides online grammar training in Arabic at no cost. Their program includes extensive lists of verbs, pronouns, and other useful words/phrases with clear English instructions.[7]
    • Madinah Arabic offers free online Arabic instruction with a focus on numbers, vocabulary, and situational Arabic. They also feature a discussion forum where you can ask questions of the more advanced members of the community when you need additional help understanding something.[8]
  3. Learn the Arabic alphabet. Arabic letters and text and read horizontally from right to left (the opposite of English and other European languages). Some sounds/letters that exist in the English alphabet can't be found in the Arabic alphabet, and vice versa.
    • Use an online source, such as Salaam Arabic[9], to memorize the Arabic alphabet. Websites like this usually have audio pronunciation guides to help you learn how to say each letter correctly. (ت is taa or "t", ب is baa or "b", and so on).
    • Additionally, short vowels aren't written in Arabic as letters, but as symbols (called fathas) that are written above the consonants to indicate a vowel sound.[10]
  4. Learn some basic words. When learning a new language, it is important to familiarize yourself with some of the basic words so that you can get comfortable with pronunciation and start building your knowledge of the language. Here are a few of the most basic Arabic words that you should memorize.
    • مرحباً, or Marhaban, is the formal word for "Hello."
    • مع السّلامة, or Maᶜa ssalamah, is the word for "Goodbye."
    • أهلاً وسهلاً بكَ, or Aahlan wa sahlan bika, is the word for "Welcome" addressed to a male.
    • أهلاً وسهلاً بكِ, or Aahlan wa sahlan biki, is the word for "Welcome" addressed to a female.
    • كبير, or Kabeer, is the word for "big."
    • صغير, or Sagheer, is the word for "small."
    • اليوم, or Alyawm, is the word for "today."
    • واحد, إثنان, ثلاثة, or wahed, ithnaan, thalatha, are the words for "one, two, three."
    • أكل, or akala, is the word for "to eat."
    • ذهب, or dahaba, is the word for "to go."
  5. Make vocabulary flashcards. The only way to learn a new language is to start memorizing the words. Make flashcards with the word in Arabic on one side and the same word in English on the other side. You can use them to test your memory. Plus, flashcards are less bulky than textbooks, so you can take the flashcards with you and practice whenever you have a free moment.
    • It might be helpful to group words together by meaning as you learn. Unlike English, Arabic uses roots that will indicate and allow Arabic speakers to anticipate the meaning or context of a word. For instance, in English, words like computer, keyboard, and internet may be related ideas or objects but they do not sound similar. In Arabic, related words are also related sonically.
  6. Learn the basic sentence structure. Arabic sentences are usually constructed in this order: verb-subject-direct object.[11] This is one of the main reasons why it differs so much from English, which typically structures its sentences subject-verb-direct object.
    • Some Arabic sentences, however, exclude verbs altogether because they have an implied "to be". These sentences start with a noun and are called nominal sentences.[12]
      • For example, الولد مصري, or al-walad miSri, means "The boy is Egyptian," but there is no verb. So, literally translated, it means "The boy Egyptian."
  7. Understand how to ask questions. To ask questions in Arabic, you can simply add هل, or hal, to the beginning of the sentence (remember, the sentence begins on the right side!).
    • For example, هل لديه بيت؟, or hal ladaihi bait? ("Does he have a house?") is the question form of the phrase لديه بيت, or ladaihi bai, meaning "He has a house."
  8. Learn some common phrases. Especially if you are traveling to a place where Arabic is the native spoken language, you'll need to learn how to combine words into phrases in order to communicate. Here are a few of the most common phrases you'll need to know in Arabic:
    • كيف حالك؟, or Kaifa haloka, is the phrase for "How are you?"
    • أنا بخير شكرا, or Ana bekhair, shokran, is the phrase for "I'm fine, thanks."
    • شكرا, or Shokran, is the word for "Thank you."
    • ما إسمك؟, or Ma esmouk? to a male and Ma esmouki?" to a female, is the phrase for "What is your name?"
    • إسمي...., or Esmee…, is the word for "My name is..."
    • متشرف, or Motasharefon, is the word for "Nice to meet you."
    • هل تتكلم اللغة الإنجليزية, or Hal tatakallamu alloghah alenjleziah, is the phrase for "Do you speak English?"
    • لا أفهم, or La afham, is the phrase for "I don't understand."
    • هل بإمكانك مساعدتي؟, or Hal beemkanek mosa’adati?, is the phrase for "Can you help me?"
    • أدرس اللغة العربية منذ شهر, or adrusu allughah al arabia mundu shahr, means "I have been learning Arabic for one month."
    • أحبك, or Uhibbok, is the word for "I love you."
    • كم الساعة؟, or Kam As-sa'ah, is the phrase for "What time is it?"

Expanding Your Knowledge

  1. Take college language courses. If you're able, enroll in an Arabic course at a local university. You will usually have to take a placement test to determine your proficiency level, but then you will be placed with other learners at your same skill level. This will provide you with an automatic support system of other learners with whom you can study and practice speaking.
  2. Read texts in Arabic. One of the best ways to expand language proficiency is to read books that are written in that language. The more you read, the better acquainted you'll become with the words and how they work together. Try reading the Qur'an, which is the primary religious text of Islam. You can find English versions, but it will also be easy to find editions in Arabic.
  3. Listen to the language being spoken. It is important to immerse yourself in the language to fully learn its use. Try listening to conversations around you, or, if you don't live in a place where the language is commonly spoken, try watching movies that are filmed in Arabic with English subtitles. The form of the movie will allow you to understand more from the context than you might otherwise be able to follow. There are many famous Arabic language films[13] to choose from.
  4. Read the dictionary. Improving your grasp of the vocabulary is important in learning a new language. Read through an Arabic-English dictionary to try to memorize new words. The more words you know, the more you'll be able to use the language.

Maintaining Your Language Skills

  1. Travel to a place where the language is spoken. Immersing yourself in the culture and experience of a place where the natives speak the language you are attempting to learn is one of the best ways to practice your speaking skills. While it may often be difficult to use your Arabic conversational skills regularly at home, when you travel to an Arabic speaking country, almost every interaction you have will involve practicing your speaking skills - from checking in at your hotel to engaging with street vendors at the market.
  2. Join a conversation group. One good way to practice your language skills is to join an Arabic conversation group. Try searching on the internet for one in your area, or inquire at a local college. College campuses often provide support groups (like conversation clubs) for language learners.
  3. Find a native Arabic speaker to converse with on a regular basis. Try to find someone who lives near you that is a native Arabic speaker. Regularly engaging in conversations with native speakers is a great way to keep your language skills active. Even if you don't know any native Arabic speakers, maybe you could find a person through an online forum that would be willing to Skype with you on a consistent basis.
  4. Visit an Arab cultural center. In almost every state, there is an Arab cultural center that you can go visit to learn more about Arabic language and culture. These organizations host community-wide cultural events and often provide assistance for members of their local Arabic American community.
    • In Houston, Texas, there is a large Arab-American Cultural Community Center[14] that aims to help integrate Arabs as Americans and to promote cultural education for those who are interested.
    • The Arab American Cultural Center of Silicon Valley[15] aims to promote aspects of Arabic culture in the United States and to provide resources for Arabic American members of their community.


  • In Arabic, gender related words are very common. For example, Anta (you) for a male and Anti (you) for a female.
  • Some people in the Middle East (especially kids) can't understand foreign pronounced Arabic word so try to make your pronunciation as accurate as you can.

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