It’s Arabic Wednesday!

Except it’s Tuesday, and this should have been up last week.
Whatever. The point is: once a week, I’ll be posting in Arabic. It’s okay if it’s Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. The other point is: consistency.

For everyone who can’t read along, here are some pretty pictures from the week:

اكتب باللغة العربية اليوم

Zombie Hunting Permit sticker

فلا اكتب كثير

النقطة هي الممارسة

Funny lost cat poster

و بعد اكثر من ٨ شهور اعتقد ان هذا كفاية
Keep Calm and Call Batman Which wich sandwich bag


Studying Arabic in Cairo

This is just a quick note–I’ll do full reviews later–to say that if you are looking for a good Arabic language program in Cairo, Egypt, I cannot recommend highly enough Arab Academy. I attended Arabeya for a month, which was fine, and checked out Kalimat and International Language Institute (ILI) which both looked decent. Arab Academy, though, may even be better than Sana’a Institute for the Arabic Language, which was heretofore the #1 best program I’d ever participated in. It may be. By which I mean: it is excellent. Look no further for an excellent Arabic language school in Cairo. Arab Academy rocks.

They also offer online instruction. I heard today from one student that it was also really good (and he is now at the Academy studying, so he’s seen both sides). It’s not something I can comment on, but perhaps something you can check out?

(They did not pay me to say this. I just want to promote good schools and give students good information on studying Araabic abroad.)


Best Sites for Practicing Typing in Arabic

I had a mac when I first moved to Dubai in 2004 and for the 6(!) years I had it, I had an Arabic keyboard. I kind of learned to type on it. Mostly I just stumbled around a lot. 

I never got the hang of typing in Arabic, but I remember pretty accurately where most of the letters are and, every so often,  I go scouring the internet for online Arabic typing programs (remember Mavis Beacon?). I haven’t found anything–until tonight! After years of unsuccess, and at least one year of not trying, I think I finally found a solution.*

Free Online Arabic Typing Practice Sites:

1. I recommend to start learning how to type in Arabic. It’s both free and online (yay!), and it starts with the very basics (ie where the letters are located and which finger to use for each one). You’re given various combinations of letters–a long series of meaningless words–and you must type them accurately. If you don’t, the onscreen keyboard lights up with the location of the correct letter and which finger to use to reach it. 

The program is composed of 15 drills. The first one is a simple two-letter repetitive drill, and the drills become progressively more difficult with each lesson. Once you’ve completed all 15 drills, you can click above lesson 1 to try the practice text.

There are also three practice games of varying levels of difficulty. I am partial to Type for Your Life as it had the most interesting sound effects (and, come to think of it, most interesting concept, too. Hm.).

2. Typeracer. Once you’ve completed sense-lang’s training, you’re probably ready for Typeracer, which is great for developing speed and accuracy. I tried doing it before starting sense-lang and got smoked! It’s fun, but you have to already know what you’re doing.

I also found Arabic Typing Tutor, which is not online, but appears to be a free (trial?) download. Unfortunately the file is .exe and I’m on a Mac. Anyone have any experience with this?  


*Google gave me a bunch of results for students who want to type in Arabic but don’t have an Arabic keyboard. (If that’s what you’re looking for, go type “Arabic online typing” into google–you’ll get tons of help.) It was a little bit harder to find (1) free (2) online typing training programs. (Programmers/entrepreneurs, I see an opportunity!)


Cool Learning Tool: Aswat ‘Arabiya

I’ve never been good at studying on my own, and I’ve never been a student who reads outside of class. But, I am always looking for exposure to the language and where do you get exposure to MSA in a place that is not the newspaper?
Here, guys.

Aswat ‘Arabiya features videos–numerous videos!–for every level from beginner to beyond advanced (“المتفوق”) covering a wide range of topics. (Glancing over the beginning options, for instance, the topics include: “Baba Ghanouj” and “Address and Telephone Number” and Advanced has “Doctors without Borders” “Islam in America” and “Preparing Baba Ghanouj”). Plus, each video has an accompanying document with comprehension questions.


It’s awesome for brushing up on your skills/bolstering them/learning new vocab/ exposing yourself to “real” Arabic.  Check it out.

Because you can’t say ‘sh’ in Spanish.

Terry Moore: Why is ‘x’ the unknown?

This talk is seriously cool:

My notes:

1. To write a word or a phrase in Arabic is like crafting an equation because every part is extremely precise and carries a lot of information. This is part of why Arabic is so intimidating and immense–all these precise parts (so many!) that must fit together according to very specific rules (and more rules and counter-rules…). It’s also what makes Arabic so great (and learnable): it’s logical. You learn the rules and you  can rule the language. (You really can!)

2. One problem is there are some sounds in Arabic that just don’t make it through a European voice box without lots of practice. Trust me on that one. No, don’t trust him on that one. Go practice (a lot) and then trust yourself.

3. I Hans-Vehr’d ‘الجبر’ and came up with this: setting (of broken bones); force, compulsion; coercion, duress. Isn’t that so appropriate?

To Speak Arabic, You Must First Speak (Arabic)

I studied Arabic for years–years!–before I finally spoke it. I was so worried about it! I wanted to be sure my accent was right, that I knew all the words, that I could put a sentence together properly before opening my mouth. My peers were native speakers! I didn’t want to get anything wrong. I practiced with Alif-Baa for hours every day to get the sounds right. I put Nancy Ajram on my iPod. I repeated the unpronounceable sounds as I walked to and from class.

After 6 weeks (my first intensive program), I returned to the UAE ready to bust out my language skills, and you know what? People laughed at me. My friends (!) laughed at me!

That was in 2006, the start of my 2nd year of college. I didn’t speak again until the summer I graduated in 2009, when I moved to Jordan and had to speak to get by.

It took me 3 years to learn that they weren’t laughing at me. They weren’t laughing with me, either. Rather, they were laughing at my Arabic. They had never heard me speak Arabic before, and they had rarely (some had never) heard  an American make the ع sound before. It was so foreign, so unexpected. Of course they laughed.*

It would be like hearing the cast of Harry Potter speak like Americans–oh wait:


Harry (start at 9:17):

And my favorite, Draco Malfoy:

(because how much did you LOVE hearing him say, “We’re going to Jersey Shore, bitchesss!”)

Don’t take it personally. Really. Having an accent gives you personality. It’s interesting and it’s unique. Speak with pride.

And while you’re at it, spread a little laughter:

For the rest of us.

*I laugh now, too. I’m sorry, beginners and tutees.

Just think of it as initiation into the club.

Last night I made a shocking and horrifying realization: Amiyya and Fusha are two separate languages. And all these years spent carefully memorizing the vocabulary and mastering the grammar of Fusha hasn't gotten me any closer to becoming fluent in the language. Because this Fall, when I commence my study of Amiyya, I'm going to have to start all. over. again.
Before I confuse you too much, let's get this out of the way: 'amiyya' is the colloquial Arabic–or so they told us in school. Actually it's the spoken language, which they also told us in school. But what they didn't tell us was that 'amiyya' is a whole new language. Like there aren't just 'some' differences in grammar and 'some' differences in vocabulary. No, there are a few similarities. And the rest? Entirely different.
Fusha (not foo-sha. Foos-Huh), by the way, is completely ridiculous. Fusha literally means “the most eloquent” and the rules and much of its vocabulary are derived from the Qur'an. But because back 1500 years ago there was no such thing as a satelite, because indeed there was no such concept as a spherical Earth, the guys in charge of making up new words came up with “manufactured moon.” If I may just ask, WTF?
The past two days in class we have been going over vocabulary words for all the furniture in the house. We'll be like [word for couch] and he'll be like ah, yes. Also, in Amiyya [word for couch] is [entirely different word for couch]. I have a list of 63 words and 59 of them are completely different words in amiyya. The other four may–probably do–have amiyya equivalents, but I missed them because I didn't write fast enough.
So if any of you are considering studying Arabic, just don't. Just stop now and go back to Spanish.  Because dang, you will never learn Arabic.