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Arabic is hard to learn as a native English speaker

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Owner of egylearn. Been learning Egyptian dialect for 2 years!

Hero image by Omar Flores on Unsplash

As an English speaker, I have found Arabic to be a difficult language to learn. For some context, I have been learning Arabic for about 6 years and still struggle to understand alot of things. Upon some reflection, I think the number one reason I have found Arabic so difficult is that there is literally no overlap in vocabulary between English and Arabic.


Why French is easier #

If you look at the FSA classification you will see that they think you can learn French in 600 hours. In contrast, Arabic is classified as a “super hard” language that takes 2200 hours to learn. It makes sense because up to 45% of the words in English are of French origin.

Recognising vocabulary in French #

Take a look at these lyrics from the rap Bouge De La. See how many words you recognise:

J’continue mon trajet, J’arrive vers la gare de Lyon,

Quand je vois un gars qui se dit vraiment très fort comme un lion,

Il me dit, “Claude MC, est-ce que tu veux qu’on s’boxe?”

These are the words most people would know off the bat:

french english
continue continue
arrive arrive
trajet trajectory?
boxe boxing?
me me
lion lion

I’ve done some basic French in the past so I can figure out a (very) rough translation:

Continuing on my way, I arrive at Lyon Station,

I see a guy, Who says he’s as strong as a lion

He says, “Claude MC do you want to box?”

Anyway, if you look up the full translation you will see it’s not too bad.

Recognising vocabulary in Arabic #

Okay, so let’s try the same thing with a song in Arabic (Ana Negm by Cairokee):

Wa ba3dayn koll ma akhud khatwa arga3 itnayn,

(I keep going around in circles)

el-3amr beyagree saabiq ilsaneen

(And time keeps passing me by)

As you can see, there are no words here that someone would understand. Now this is just a toy example but it does a good job of illustrating why Arabic is difficult compared to French.

Learning Arabic is simple - it’s just a matter of time #

Learning Arabic is simple but it takes a very long time. It is just a case of following the right steps again and again.

  • focus on learning vocabulary - it’s boring but it’s neccesary
  • take it slow - focus on small wins that you can conquer 100%. If you try to race ahead too quickly you will be overwhelmed by the amount of information you don’t know.
  • put in the time - learning arabic to a good level takes around 2200 hours. If you put in 3 hours a day then it would take you 2 years to get fluent! With my pace of 30 minutes a day it would take 12 years!!!
  • make peace with frustration - nothing is worse than learning a language for 2 years and feeling like you haven’t made any progress. Well, you’re gonna feel like this alot. Be prepared to still put in more time despite this feeling