Arabic script

I promised myself several times before that I would learn how to read and write the Arabic script. As you may or may not know, I began learning Egyptian Arabic (masry) a while back but stopped because I was drawn in by other languages. In fact, this whole ‘becoming a polyglot’ project has not gone at all like I planned. For one, it took a long time for me to learn how to learn. Once I began to relax and began to discover many different learning methods, I began to audit a number of languages. This took me off course and as a result, both my Japanese and Arabic suffered.

But I digress. I finally returned to my Arabic script book and I have resolved to learn the script once and for all.

Arabic

I think I will be reading the script by Friday.
I am very excited because a few months ago, I bought two books on Masry that are written entirely in Arabic. They were very highly recommended and they cover the language to an advanced intermediate level. Plus, learning the script, opens up Farsi for me.

Cool.

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Having a blast with Arabic

Although my progress has been way slower than I anticipated, I have been having a great time learning Egyptian Arabic.

In case you don’t know, Arabic is not the language you thought it was. At least it is not the language I thought it was. There is a standard version of the language, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) that is used in official documents and other formal settings. That is the Arabic thought in most books and courses out there. Then there are the many variants of the language actually used by people in the Arab world.

As far as I can tell, Arabic is like a huge tree that begins at the root with Classical Arabic, which is the Arabic of the Koran. Then the main trunk of this tree corresponds to MSA which is very close to Classical Arabic. Two large branches diverge from the trunk; one being the Oriental Arabic branch and the other being the Occidental Arabic branch.

From my very limited experience, it appears that people in the Oriental Arab world can understand each other somewhat and the same situation exists in the Occidental Arab world. By the way, Orient = East, Occident = West. Egypt is in the Eastern Arab world and Morocco is in the Western Arab world.
When an Easter Arab speaks with a Western Arab then things get complicated. Some people out there claim that MSA is the universal language that brings it all together but from what I’ve heard, this isn’t so.

Now, who is claiming that MSA is the language spoken in the whole Arab world? Academics mostly and college-educated professionals. Thus the situation exists whereas these particular demographics in the Arab world can speak with each other no matter where in the Arab world they find themselves in but the other 99% in the Arab world speak their regional versions of the Arabic language and cannot communicate as easily as the college crowd.

Phew! So why is this important to you and me? For one, you are likely to waste a lot of money and time collecting resources to learn Arabic because 99% (I like to use this percentage a lot) of the resources out there are for MSA! So if you are planning to go to Lybia and learn MSA you will find yourself being able to speak only to academics and some professionals and you will then have to learn the Lybian Arabic to get along with the other 99% of the population.

I was lucky to have found the Michel Thomas method when I did, before I spent 100’s of dollars buying more MSA material. As it is, I am learning Egyptian Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is on the way to becoming the defacto standard in the Arab world by virtue of being the Arabic spoken in most Arabic movies and songs. I hear that there are Nobel prize winning novels written in Egyptian Arabic now. Since Egypt exports all this popular culture across the Arab world, many Arabs understand Egyptian Arabic or Musry (Musr = Egypt). Unfortunately, there is little in the way of books to learn Musry. I found a couple of books on Musry verbs and a few web sites where Musr vocabulary is collected. Now I am in the process of watching Egyptian movies on YouTube.

Now I would like to remind you that I am an absolute noob here. Some of what I said above may be incorrect but I bet I am close to being on target. Oh! and I finally found my video camera so soon I will start uploading videos.

JAPANESE

My Japanese has taken a back seat to Arabic for now but not for long. I expect to advance in Japanese quite quickly once I take it up again since I already have tons of resources at hand. Also, I did spend a lot of time last year learning this language so a lot of it will be review.

Thank you for looking!

More on the Michel Thomas Total Arabic method

I continue to be impressed with this course. I am starting the fourth CD. I am excited to go through the whole set to see if I can make a video at the end.

One word of advice however, if you purchase any of the courses from the Michel Thomas people, do exactly as they say. Do find a quiet place. Do construct the phrases when asked and do press the pause button when you do.

This method is not effective while driving or while answering emails or while watching TV. Really. You will speak Arabic (or whatever language you choose) in a few hours if you give the material all your attention. It is like magic. It really is.

I got the Arabic course for Christmas as a gift. I have since ordered the Total Japanese course. I sampled the Total Japanese course via my iPhone and I can already tell my Japanese will fly through the roof when I get the CDs! You can download the courses from the iTunes store if you use an iPhone or an iPad. You can buy them one hour at the time. If you go this route, you won’t have to wait for the CDs. I bought the Total Japanese set from Amazon.com.

Invest a little effort and time and you too will be as astonished as I am at the results.

Thank you for stopping by!

Simply Amazing

I began the Michel Thomas (MT) Total Arabic course three days ago. I began slowly and with trepidation because the course requires that you do no writing or memorizing and this just terrified me as I am highly visual and I have been programmed to believe that one has to memorize to learn a language.

I haven’t given the course as much time as I would like and yet, after only a four hours or so, I am able to say some sophisticated sentences in Egyptian Arabic such as “My mother is happy because my brother is coming tomorrow” and “I am going to the caffe because I am thirsty” and “Can you see where my son is?”

And, I want you all to know, I didn’t just memorize the phrases above, I constructed them!!! From the things the instructors in the CD teach!!!!

I never would have thought it possible to construct complex sentences in a foreign language in only a few hours of study without writing anything down and without making a concerted effort to memorize vocabulary! And definitely not in a language such as Arabic!

It is simply amazing. That’s the reason for the all the exclamation marks.

I believe that Michele Thomas found the most efficient way to teach a language. Period.  And this is coming from a person who was utterly afraid of auditory courses. I have told the story before of how I learned English by reading three chapters of a textbook during a weekend by translating the text word by word with the aid of a dictionary. By Monday, I could read about 80% of any English text and after that it was just a matter of leaning to pronounce the words.  I was able to accomplish that because I am heavy visual learner. Both the MT course and the Pimsleur approach use the technique where one repeats a word on a preset time basis to strengthen the recollection of the word. That’s where the similarities end. I listened to the Pimsleur Vietnamese course for about three hours and I still can’t say anything in Vietnamese. I was stymied by the tones mainly and my brain just didn’t absorb much. The MT course does away with that. In the MT course, there is a heavy reliance on using words you already know in English to move you along. The MT course also includes a native Arabic speaker repeating all the material so that you get a good exposure to how the words are said by a native speaker.

I will continue the course. I believe that the Michel Thomas course will deliver as promised. The Total Arabic course takes you from beginner level to intermediate. There another course that takes you from intermediate to advanced. Meanwhile, you can still use any other method as you wish to advanced more rapidly if you desire.

I am stoked!!!

Thank you for stopping by.

New resources

For Christmas, I got a new course from the Michael Thomas folk. I am very excited and I am really looking forward to trying it out. My only problem, if we can call it that, is that my written Arabic resources are for peninsular Arabic and the Michael Thomas course is for Egyptian Arabic. I hope there is not too much difference between the two.

arabic

La otra cosa nueva, o casi nueva, es que me estoy dedicando mas a aprender Italiano. Ya que el Japones se esta tardando, pense que tal vez si le ponia ganas al Italiano me daria inspiracion ya que al no avanzar, uno se desanima un poco.  Para el Italiano, estoy usando un programa en la Red: Duolingo (http://www.duolingo.com/). Ahi uno puede aprender Español, Italiano, Portugues, Frances y Aleman con mas lenguajes en el futuro. No esta mal el curso. A estos dias, yo estoy en el nivel 6.

Ademas del Duolingo, estoy usando otros recursos como este libro:

italian

Lo que mas me gusta de este libro es que tiene lecturas en Italiano. A mi me es mas facil aprender a leer un lenguaje primero, antes de hablarlo bien. Para empezar, Easy Italian step-by-step escrito por Paola Nanni-Tate no esta mal.

I hope to begin writing posts in Italian soon and maybe even some in Japanase.

Thank you for stopping by!

Arabic!

I began learning the Arabic script this week. It’s not too bad. I think that learning Arabic will be easier for me than learning Japanese. I am really struggling with getting my mind to think Subject-Object-Verb! I’ll get there, I am not worried about that; I just don’t think that it will happen as soon as I had hoped.

So Arabic uses an alphabet, much like the Romance languages I am used to, and the script is not that bad. There are groups of characters that repeat with the addition of small marks such as dots to differentiate among them. The script is cursive only. The pronunciation of Arabic is fairly straightforward with the exception of the glottal stops which are foreign to my English/Spanish speaking brain. I am very excited about learning this language!

My Italian is coming along as well. I think of all the languages I intend to learn, Italian will be the easiest for me to get. I was going through The Big Green Book of Italian Verbs by Katrien Maes-Christie and Daniel Franklin, and many of the verbs therein practically translated themselves into Spanish!
Also, I have been watching Italian videos on YouTube and if the person(s) in the video speaks at medium speed, I can almost understand 50% of what they are saying already.

My first Japanese video keeps getting postponed mostly due to a number of other projects that demand my time and attention at home. I am pumped about making it!

And as long as I am talking about making a first video in Japanese, I had been thinking lately that I should not have waited this long to make a video. Even if my language skills are so basic that I come across sounding like one of those Native Americans in American Westerns from the 50’s, the important thing is to break down that initial resistance. Improvements will come as I continue my studies. So my advice to any aspiring polyglots out there is: START SPEAKING! even if it is stuff like “Me David. Me want to learn speak.”

Thank you for visiting!