The second most hard language for English speakers to learn is Arabic, which is also in the top five most spoken languages in the world. The Arabic language comprises dozens of varieties, which are generally classified by the region or country in which they are spoken. These varieties can differ greatly. As a result, the first step is to decide which dialect you wish to pursue, but that’s the easy part.
Arabic is another language that uses a non-Latin alphabet. In spite of the fact that it has 28 script letters, English speakers have a harder time comprehending the thousands of Chinese characters, but it is still a challenge to adjust to a new writing system. The absence of most vowels in words makes reading and writing Arabic, particularly challenging for beginners. Because of this, it is very difficult to read the language. Furthermore, Arabic is written from right to left instead of left to right, which requires some acclimatization.
In addition, there are certain characteristics of spoken Arabic that make it difficult to learn. There are some sounds used that do not exist in other languages or are simply unfamiliar to English speakers, including sounds made in the back of the throat. As well as learning the singular and plural forms of words, the grammar is challenging. Verbs tend to come before the subject, and you have to learn the dual form of words in addition to the singular and plural.
Is Arabic Hard to Learn? Beginner’s Guide For Native English, Spanish Speakers
As a beginner, this is probably one of the first questions you will ask yourself when you decide to learn Arabic. There is no reason for you to feel guilty. Among the most difficult languages to learn, Arabic is usually ranked only behind a few languages such as Japanese.
It is even harder (or so they say) if you are a native speaker of English or a romantic language. To answer your question, Arabic is certainly not easy, but it is not nearly as difficult as people believe.
I will explain why in this post.
As the most widely spoken and popular dialect of Arabic, I will focus on Egyptian Arabic in this article. Don’t worry – the main points we discuss here are relevant regardless of what dialect of Arabic you are studying.
Easier To Learn Egyptian Arabic Than Standard Arabic
Let us begin by addressing the elephant in the room: Egyptian Arabic versus Standard Arabic / Modern Standard Arabic / Fus7a (yes, spelled with a “7”). There is a distinct difference between these two languages.
The standard Arabic language is the older “original” language. The language is essentially the same as that spoken by Prophet Muhammad and is much more “formal” than Egyptian Arabic. The Egyptian Arabic language, however, is a dialect. There are more than 30 dialects of Arabic in the world today (depending on how you define a dialect).
Although Standard Arabic is beautiful, it is not useful if you wish to communicate with Egyptians. In general, Standard Arabic is only used for religious purposes, in books, and in official news programs. You are speaking a dialect of Arabic if you speak it as Arabs actually speak it. Why am I bringing this up?
To determine whether Egyptian Arabic is difficult to learn, it is necessary to understand the differences between the dialect and Standard Arabic. It is important to note that Egyptian Arabic is significantly easier to learn than Standard Arabic for most people. That was certainly my experience, as well as the experience of many foreigners I knew in Cairo. Now let’s discuss some specifics.
In General, Arabic Is Not Easy, But It Is Not Particularly Hard Either
It is especially important if you are a native English speaker. The same is true for both Standard Arabic and Arabic dialects. Firstly, there is a distinct difference in pronunciation.
It is necessary for your mouth to become accustomed to making sounds that it has never made before. Even though this is normal for any language, Arabic has sounds that European languages do not possess.
There is a particularly guttural, back of the throat sound associated with the word “3een” ع. The following letter took me (no joke) over two years to compose correctly. It is still a challenge for me even now.
You must pronounce your words correctly if you want people to understand what you are saying. As a result, learning Egyptian Arabic can be a real headache due to these different letters. However, if you give it enough time, you will eventually be able to pronounce these tricky Arabic letters.
Moreover, there are only six or seven letters that are quite different from English. Other than that, they are quite straightforward.
An Overview Of The Arabic Writing System
The perceived complexity of the Arabic writing system also discourages people from learning Arabic dialects. The phrase “perceived” is used because, well, it is not difficult. In reality, it is only a matter of appearance.
In the Arabic alphabet, there are 28 letters, and each letter has a slightly different shape depending on where it appears in the word. It simply takes a little time to become proficient in this area, just as with anything else in life.
It is of course a little strange to write from right to left (a feature of Arabic) if you have never done so before. It takes about a week for even this to become “normal.” Even though Arabic letters are somewhat difficult to say, they are quite easy to write.
The Arabic Language Can Be Hard In Terms Of Grammar
However, Arabic grammar can be more challenging than pronunciation or the alphabet itself. This is not so much an opinion as it is a fact: Egyptian Arabic is different from most Indo-European languages. As a result, the grammar appears to be difficult (at first glance).
The Arabic language can be quite challenging for a lot of learners, whether it is the famous “dual” for two objects or the gender of nouns (which plenty of languages have). This is especially true at the beginning.
An example of this is the inconsistency of plurals. You (almost always) add an “s” to the end of a singular noun in English. BAM – you have a plural.
It is true that Arabic (both Standard and dialect) is a simple language with a large number of nouns, but so many nouns are quite a different story. It is the kind of test in which you need to memorize singular and plural nouns together as soon as possible. In any case, it is quite difficult to guess.
In spite of this, Standard Arabic is undoubtedly more difficult to learn than Egyptian Arabic when it comes to grammar. The verb conjugations of Standard Arabic are particularly well known. It is likely that any serious student of the language will just roll their eyes when you ask them about this.
The process of learning how to conjugate a verb in Arabic, and then adding an object, can be time-consuming. However, Egyptian Arabic differs from other Arabic languages. It is for some unknown reason that the Egyptian dialect is much less strict when it comes to grammar rules. In addition, the rules it DOES have are easier to follow!
My experience was similar to that of countless foreigners I knew in Egypt. Egyptian Arabic provided a breath of fresh air after they had been discouraged by the mountains of Arabic grammar textbooks.
Here Are Some Reasons Why Grammar Isn’t Important
This is not to imply that Egyptian Arabic grammar is simple. It is just much easier to manage than Standard. In addition, I just have to point out that grammar isn’t that important. That’s right, I said it. Let me explain.
My point is not to suggest that grammar isn’t important, because it is. After all, understanding grammar is essential to using a language effectively. In other words, I do not believe it is important to study grammar explicitly or directly.
You begin to understand how grammar works after enough exposure to a new language (whether that is through videos, books, or conversations with a conversation partner).
There is no magic involved, and it is certainly not some “secret” of language learning geniuses. There is nothing artificial about it. Input is received by the brain, which then begins to make sense of how things work and fills in the blanks.
If you are exposed to enough Egyptian Arabic material, you will naturally become familiar with the language. It is no longer necessary to be intimidated by grammar!
There Are Fewer Resources Available For Arabic Dialects
In order to determine whether Egyptian Arabic is difficult, you also need to ask yourself a very real, “logistical” question, which has almost nothing to do with the language itself.
I would like to ask the following question: how easy is it to find study resources? It does not matter how easy a language is if you do not have anything to study it with! This is where you run into difficulties when learning Egyptian Arabic.
In the case of more popular languages, such as French or Spanish, you have a variety of study materials available to you. You will never run out of new and exciting study materials, whether it is books, movies, YouTube videos, or podcasts (or a million other things).
This is not the case with Egyptian Arabic. Typically, most formal study materials will be in Standard Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is often outdated, uninteresting, overly difficult, or not applicable to everyday life.
Thanks to various websites dedicated to Arabic dialects, this is slowly changing.
However, the problem persists. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common complaints of frustrated Arabic dialect students: a lack of study materials. When studying Egyptian Arabic, it is important to keep this in mind.
Despite this, there is still hope – here is how you can learn everyday Arabic on a limited budget.
It Is Easy To Find Speaking Practice In Egyptian Arabic
Despite the lack of materials, there are two positive aspects of learning Egyptian Arabic. As a result, it is relatively inexpensive to hire online Arabic tutors, and it is necessary to speak Egyptian Arabic after arriving in Egypt.
The cost of tutoring in Egypt is so low that you can find tutors (especially online) for as little as five dollars per hour! It is comparable to the services of a French tutor. There is a possibility that they may charge you ten times this amount.
In addition, the English language proficiency in Egypt is among the lowest in the world. As a result, it is not only feasible but also necessary to speak Egyptian Arabic once you are there (if you intend to visit).
Consider a language such as Dutch as an example. Sure, you may become proficient in the language, but when you arrive in the Netherlands? Once they hear your accent, they may immediately switch to English.
There is no doubt that if you learn Egyptian Arabic and travel to Egypt, you will use Egyptian Arabic. What a great way to motivate yourself! There is no doubt that these two factors do not make Egyptian Arabic easier in and of themselves.
However, they certainly make it easier to find opportunities for speaking practice. Based on my own experience with Egyptian Arabic, this has more than compensated for a lack of study materials.
Conclusion – So, Is Arabic Really Hard To Learn?
In conclusion, is Egyptian Arabic difficult to learn? The answer is both yes and no. As you have seen, learning Egyptian Arabic isn’t an easy task.
In addition to learning a new alphabet, you will also have to learn some new sounds and strange grammatical rules. Additionally, you may have difficulty finding study materials.
In spite of this, Egyptian Arabic is easier than Standard Arabic, and people generally overestimate the difficulty of Arabic dialects in general. The process of getting speaking practice is quite straightforward, regardless of whether you wish to travel to Egypt or hire an online tutor.
As a result, the question “Is Egyptian Arabic difficult to learn?” can largely be answered by the amount of effort you are willing to put forth. However, you already knew that.
How long does it take to learn Arabic?
According to the Foreign Service Institute (where U.S. diplomats receive language training), the average English native speaker requires approximately 2,200 hours to reach an advanced level in Arabic. Over 2,200 hours of work!
Why is Arabic so difficult?
In Arabic, the verb usually precedes the subject and object, as it is a VSO language. Due to their dual number, nouns and verbs must be learned in singular, dual, and plural forms. There are 13 forms of present-tense verbs. In the case of nouns, there are three cases and two genders.
Is learning Arabic worth it?
If you learn Arabic and become familiar with the culture of the people who speak the language, you will find it easier to conduct business and negotiate. Arabic-speaking nations have made a significant contribution to global civilization. Philosophical, medical, and scientific advancements were greatly influenced by the Arabs.
Is Arabic harder or Chinese?
Due to its complexity and multitude of characters, Mandarin Chinese is significantly more difficult than Arabic writing despite having a script that is very different from western languages.
Can I learn Arabic in 3 months?
An eight-hour daily routine is required to achieve an intermediate level of Arabic in approximately three months. Although this calculation takes into account so many factors, it is still not an accurate estimate of how long it could take you to learn Arabic.