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Is Arabic hard to Learn? Common Difficulties in Arabic Language

Is Arabic hard

f you are thinking about learning Arabic, you will definitely hear that learning the Arabic language is hard. But does that mean you need to hold back the idea of learning Arabic?

Well, before you do that and decide to learn another language, come and let us explore the difficulty of the Arabic language.

Is Arabic Hard? Understanding the Complexity of Arabic

The short answer to this question is always yes. Arabic is a difficult language and is considered to be among the hardest languages in the world. But there is something we are missing from the picture. We have more than one version of Arabic.

what does this mean? it means that there are many dialects in Arabic. Each country or region in the Arabic world uses a different dialect. The Arabic dialect used in Egypt is different from the one spoken in Lebanon and both of them differ from the dialect natives speak in Dubai.

But as these dialects change, their difficulty does as well. Therefore, it is normal to find some of them easier than others.

When it comes to the easiest dialect of all, many people argue that it is the Egyptian dialect. But others say that Levantine Arabic is as easy.

What we need to say here is that these dialects have less strict grammar, and this makes it easier for Arabic learners. Another thing is that is it widely understood in the Arabic-speaking world, especially the Egyptian, because it is the one used by over 100 million people in addition to its similarity with other versions of Arabic.

Egyptian is important especially if you need to communicate with people from Egypt, but it can help you communicate with people from other Arabic countries as well.

Now, if you are a student and you want to learn Arabic to study in an Arabic university and use it for work-related purposes, then you will need to learn Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and it can be harder to learn. You will have more grammar to pay attention to.

The hardest version of Arabic is the Quranic Arabic. This one is the Ancient Arabic. It is usually better to start with MSA if you want to learn Quranic Arabic.

Is Arabic the Hardest Language to Learn?

So, is Arabic a very hard language? Yes indeed. But is it the hardest? Well, for a lot of people it is not.

For English speakers, the hardest language to learn is Mandarin Chinese. For a start, learning mandarin Chinese has a different writing system, and you also have to learn many different new characters and memorize them all.

Japanese also share a similar writing system with the Chinese language, and you will also have to learn many different characters and memorize them to learn how to read and write in Jabanese. However, learning Japanese is still easier than learning Chinese.

In the 3rd place perhaps, we have the Arabic language. The Arabic language has a different writing system from English, where you write from right to left. Not writing the vowels sound in Arabic will even make it harder to learn.

Learning Arabic is More Achievable Than You Think

After hearing that Arabic is one of the most difficult languages in the world and has complex scripts, one might hesitate to learn it. But wait, is it that hard? Should you quit? Well, no!

Arabic being hard for English speakers means that it has a different structure than their mother language and that the differences can make them somehow confused.

But does that mean you cannot learn Arabic? I do not think so, and neither should you. After all, if a little kid can learn it, why should you not be able to?

Now, since we understand that the question of how difficult Arabic is to learn for English speakers means how different it is from English, let us examine the main differences between them to determine the challenge level that comes with learning Arabic.

The vowels

The English language has 5 vowels in the alphabet. However, they can be used to make more than 20 different sounds. For example, the sound of the letter “O” will not be the same when we have the letter afterward.

Arabic on the other hand has only 6 vowels and each one of them tends to have only one sound. Furthermore, in Arabic, the short vowels are not often written and natives can understand them from the context even when they are not present.

The alphabet

Unlike languages like Japanese, Arabic and English have an alphabet. In both languages, you can learn the letters and use them to read the texts. However, the Arabic alphabet does not use the same letters. Therefore, the student will have to learn whole new letters with different shapes, and this can be hard.

Furthermore, let us see the main differences between Arabic and English:

  • The Arabic language has 28 letters, while English only has 26
  • Each Arabic letter has several forms
  • Each of them has unique letters that are not present in the other one

The tenses

While both of them have 3 main tenses (past, present, and future), the English language actually has four aspects under each one of them making a total of 12 tenses. Some of these tenses are hard to express in Arabic like the perfect tense.

The vast vocabulary lists

The Arabic language has a vast collection of words. Some may even tell you that there are over 12 million words in the Arabic language. Having that many words can create a barrier that makes it harder for you to learn the language.

but on the other hand, there is some good news. Learning Arabic is not as hard as it may seem. This is because there are some factors that can make it easy to learn Arabic such as:

  • The Alphabet

Yes, they are different with a different number of vowels but many Arabic letters have letters that are almost equal to them. For example, the letter T in English is similar to the letter “ت” in Arabic. This similarity will help the student use the English alphabet to learn the pronunciation of the new words.

  • The similar words

Both Arabic and English borrowed words from each other. So when you are learning, you can use these similar words to help you learn the alphabet and the letters. For example, we have the word Cinema, the word Sugar, the word computer and many more words that are the same in both languages.

Overcoming Challenges of Learning Arabic

Learning Arabic can be quite hard, especially for those who do not have a good background in the Arabic culture. If you are wondering about the reasons, here are some of the challenges that new Arabic learners face:

  • choosing the right dialect 

when a new student decides to learn Arabic, they do not know that there are many different Arabic dialects. Why does this matter? Because when you work on learning the wrong dialect, you will not achieve your goal.

let us say that you are a student who has to study in Arabic or an employee who needs Arabic for the job, you will need to learn Modern Standard Arabic. This is while if you want to learn Arabic to communicate with people while traveling, the best dialect will be Egyptian Arabic or Levantine Arabic since both of them are widely understood.

  • Lack of understanding of the Arabic culture

When you read an Arabic book or listen to native people speaking, you will face many metaphors. This can be annoying to non-Arabic speakers because they will not understand the core meaning of what is said.

  • The difficult sounds of the Arabic language

The Arabic language consists of several exotic sounds that are not present in English and sometimes in other languages. The main example is the Arabic letter “ض”. This one is similar to the letter D but much heavier. There is also the letter Ayn “ع” which a lot of English speakers pronounce as the letter A.

These sounds can be hard to pronounce when you are not used to them from childhood. You may have to train quite a lot to know how to pronounce them right.

  • The way Arabic scripts are written

It is only about Arabic scripts being written from right to left. There are other factors too. The Arabic letters have several shapes that are used depending on the position of the letter in the word.

There is also the fact that some of these letters have similar shapes with slight differences. The letters baa (ب) and taa (ت), and thaa (ث) form a example for this. All of them have the same shape with the dots being the only difference.

Another thing to mention is the diacritics which are small shapes that serve as light vowels. Most of the written texts do not have diacritics included, but natives can figure most of them from the context, a talent that new Arabic learners do not have.

Many Arabic learners confuse diacritics with vowels, and it is common to cause them to misspell some words.

Tips for English Speakers when Learning Arabic

Maybe Arabic is not the best choice for English speakers, but that does not mean that they cannot learn it. In fact, a lot of English speakers have been able to join the language club of fluent Arabic speakers.

When it comes to learning a new language, learning a hard one will only mean that you will take longer to learn and master it. With enough study and dedication, any English speaker can master Arabic.

To do so, and to speed up the process a little bit, there are some tricks that you can do, including:

1. Try to listen to Arabic videos on YouTube

The lack of study material can affect any English speaker who is learning Arabic. A lot of them only have some books and the audio or video files that come with them. These materials will benefit them but they are not enough.

YouTube will offer the students a chance to listen to native speakers talking, and this will help them improve their listening and speaking skills.

2. Talk to native speakers

Learning Arabic is always going to be harder when you do not have someone to practice the language with. If you do not have Arabic native speakers in the area you live in, then you can find a lot of them online.

You can both make friends and practice the language at the same time. This is going to help you learn Arabic faster and easier.

3. Read Arabic books

Reading the books you use to study is not going to be enough for you. You should also be looking for other things to read. If you are a beginner in Arabic, then you should start with something easy like children’s books.

What makes children’s books good material for Arabic learners is that they have easy words that can help you learn the language. Plus, it can be found in both Arabic and English.

After you get better at reading in Arabic, you can start reading more complicated books. Perhaps the next level should be reading magazines and newspapers. Then reading books in your field of specialty will be a perfect choice.

Another benefit of reading is that it is going to help you memorize the shapes of the letters. It will be like a test and practice at the same time.

4. Use Arabic learning apps

Apps that are used to learn Arabic are great tools to learn. Now there are a lot of Apps that can help the student improve all their language skills. One of the best learning Apps to learn Arabic is the AlifBee App.

This app provides the good lessons any student needs to learn to improve all the language skills in the Arabic language. Furthermore, it provides a test for them to help them practice what they learn.

There are a lot of these Apps, and you can choose the one you like the most.

Final Word

 In the end, you need to remember that Arabic may be a hard language indeed, but hard is not the same as impossible. You can be fluent in Arabic if you devote enough effort to the process of learning.


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