A New Approach to Language Learning
Hello, my name is Shehab Ali. Over the next three months, I’m going to teach you how to speak Gulf Arabic using a method I’ve developed based on the Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis. Traditional methods of language instruction rely on breaking down language into grammar and vocabulary. You’re asked to understand complex grammatical rules that don’t make any instinctive sense and to memorise long lists of words that are void of any context. These methods simply don’t work.
I’m going to teach you using a much more natural approach which will give you a practical and functional use of the language in less than 24 hours of learning time. I will break down the language into simple chunks or phrases and introduce them to you in a way that you’ll find enjoyable and rewarding. Within the first lesson, you will be able to effortlessly construct simple sentences which will become more and more complex as we progress. At the end of the course, you’ll be able to understand and speak Arabic with confidence.
How long to fluency?
Since I started teaching Arabic in 2010, the first question I would be asked is, ‘How long before I become fluent?’ Fluency is a life-long pursuit. It’s difficult to define and even more difficult to measure. It’s also hard to divide fluency into levels; you’re either fluent or not. I’d rather use the word proficient. Once you complete the course, you’ll be proficient enough to have a conversation in Arabic that would last at least an hour. I’ll then teach you how to increase your vocabulary on a daily basis. My objective is to get you to a level where you no longer need language instruction.
The Arabic Language
Prior to Islam, Arabian society was largely oral: they relied largely on human memory to preserve their history and culture and pass it on to succeeding generations. In the 7th century the Arabian world underwent a massive research endeavour to record and systematize the syntax and morphology of the Arabic language in order to produce an authoritative version of the Quran: an effort that would result in a written language that has remained remarkably unchanged over the centuries. This is perhaps why Arabic is regarded as the best-preserved model of a Semitic language.
This same written language, Modern Standard Arabic, is still widely taught today in school and universities, and to some degree in governments and news media. Most Arabs understand the language but they don’t speak it. The language has been removed from everyday speech for over a millennium.
Arabs speak in their local dialects which are collectively referred to as Colloquial Arabic. Although these dialects differ radically from Standard Arabic, most Arabs can understand each other. There are over thirty dialects, and they are grouped into Gulf Arabic, Levantine Arabic and North African Arabic. Arabs speak in their native dialect but read and write in Standard Arabic.
Arguments Against Purism
A larger number of institutions and teachers today insist on teaching Modern Standard Arabic to non-native speakers. They argue that it’s the most universal version of Arabic and that it can be easily understood by all Arabic speakers. Some even claim that Standard Arabic is the purist form of the language, or even more absurdly, it sounds better.
You can make the same argument for English and see how ridiculous they are. Instead of teaching English learners everyday common phrases, we should teach them phrases like ‘Good dawning to thee!’ or ‘How art though?’ We could also say that Latin, what used to be the European lingua franca, should be taught instead of Italian, French or Spanish. Latin after all sounds better!
Modern Standard Arabic is an important tool for those who want to study the language for purely linguistic reasons, to have access to Arabic literature or to study theology. Most people will understand you if you chose to speak it, but you’ll have a incredibly difficult time understanding them. Colloquial Arabic is much for relevant for everyday usage. It’s much easier to learn since its grammar has been simplified over time, and it tends to have more loan words from English. Like most Arabs, you can always make the move to the more complex Standard Arabic later.
Before we begin, there are three non-negotiable rules for this course to work. The first is to let go of the fear of not remembering. You don’t need to remember anything. You simply have to pay your full attention and let me bare that responsibility.
The second is to never write anything down. Get rid of any pens or papers next to you. At first, you might think you’ll write a word or two down but soon enough it will become obsessive, and you’ll find yourself recording the entire lesson. You can find all the lesson scripts, including this introduction, on the website. You can access them at anytime even though you’ll never need them.
The third rule is to never review the lessons. You should give your mind enough time to rest between lessons. Forgetting is the only way information can move from working memory into long-term memory and become knowledge. This course is not a supplement. You don’t need any apps or additional instruction.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself!
But most importantly, try to enjoy yourself! Any form of anxiety can impede your learning. Make sure you’re in a relaxed environment and that you won’t be disturbed. You can use your headphones so you can hear clearly. During the lesson, you’ll be prompted to either answer a question or repeat a word. Once you hear a beep, pause the recording, take your time and answer or repeat the word and then play to hear my response.