For some people, the task of learning a new language with all of its corresponding grammar, spelling, conjugations, and everything else, just seems impossible. Others see learning a new language as a marvellous opportunity to learn something new and expand their horizons, as well as learning about different cultures and regions of the world.

One of the main things that puts people off studying a new language is the difficulty often associated with doing so. Many people had negative experiences learning languages at school and are therefore less keen to go through that again.

There is always a desire for a so-called quick fix, with some people suggesting it is possible to master Arabic in 30 days. But remember that you will need to be patient when learning this ancient language. Hard work and dedication are both the key to success when learning Arabic.

Generally, learning new languages can be challenging. Getting exposed to new phonetics and alphabets can challenge your brain and thinking process. Arabic is considered one of the top ten most complicated languages to learn in the world. However, it is one of the most popularly used worldwide. Because Arabic is a famous language, it opens up its speakers to multiple international job opportunities.

The perceived difficulty associated with learning Arabic stems from its large vocabulary, pronunciation, lack of vowels, and diversity of dialects. If you want to learn Arabic Language, you may have heard most of this. But, the question is, how much of this is true? Is Arabic hard to learn? What challenges should you expect when learning Arabic? Which of these perceived difficulties are myths?

So what’s it really like learning Arabic?

Is it really that difficult to study?

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What Are the Myths About Learning Arabic?

While learning Arabic may be an arduous task, it is not as tricky as people portray it. You must know what is true and what is not. This will help you prepare better for the task ahead and allow you to streamline your efforts in the right direction.

Arabic is a language of opportunities. Unfortunately, a lot of people miss out on this because of the countless myths around learning Arabic.

Here are a few popular myths about Arabic.

Learning to write Arabic is extremely difficult

Many people have propagated the belief that Arabic is just as difficult as hieroglyphics, and this is not true. The Arabic alphabet is made up of 28 letters, and each has basic learnable shapes.

The sounds in Arabic are too exotic for foreigners to learn

This is untrue, Arabic contains only 2 to 3 sounds absent in the English language, and they are easy to learn through imitation.

Arabic Language vocabulary is enormous

You may have heard people say “400 words for a camel” and “200 words for a lion”. This is false as it only applies to ancient Arabic Poetry.

Arabic grammar is too complex to learn

Arabic grammar is much easier than English grammar. Arabic has a simple verb system. For instance, there are only two tenses in Arabic - past and non-past.

Learning Arabic, like every other language, is based on consistency and logic.

Debunking these myths and adjusting your ideas about the Arabic language is the first step to take in your learning journey.

Let Go of Your Presuppositions Regarding Arabic

The answer to the question: “is Arabic difficult to learn?”, is both yes and no. Of course, learning a new language always takes lots of work and an investment of time.

As with any language, learning Arabic will take time, determination, regular study, and lots of practice.

However, being a Semitic language, Arabic grammar is more regular and has a lot more patterns than English or French, and so in that sense it’s easier to learn than Germanic or Latin languages.

If you ask a person on the street what the hardest languages to learn are, they’ll more than likely answer with like Japanese, Chinese, Polish, Icelandic, or Arabic.

These languages often seem so different to what we’re used to, so much so that we think they must be difficult to master. The reality is often different, and although the Arabic language may seem a daunting prospect, if you give it time and approach it with an open mind you will soon see the benefits of learning Arabic.

Two women arguing
It's difficult to determine if Arabic is hard to learn than English. Source: Pexels

Learn How to Speak Arabic - Obstacles in Arabic Lessons Are All Relative

When you look at things objectively, it is impossible to say that one language is harder or easier to learn than any other.

It all depends on your point of view, opinion, and your levels of motivation and determination. So long as you study regularly, and focus on the rules of Arabic grammar at least once a week, the task becomes much easier.

Remember to take the time to learn different verbs, nouns, adjectives, and anything else that is vocabulary based. As a beginner to learning the language, these will form the basis of your early experiences in Arabic. Learning to write Arabic letter and improving your Arabic pronunciation will come in time, but to do this you need to have the aforementioned building blocks.

Doing this will remove one of the main obstacles to learning Arabic; a lack of early progress. Building your vocabulary of words and phrases will instil yourself with a level of confidence as you will be able to see the progress that you make as your vocabulary expands. If you are going to learn a new language, don't be defeated early on!

Don’t Make Mountains Out of Molehills!

Of course, the Arabic language has almost nothing in common with English; either in structure, grammar, or pronunciation. However, this shouldn’t stop you from deciding to learn the language.

At the beginning, you’ll hit a few walls as you try to learn Arabic, but this is normal no matter what you choose to study. As long as you keep at it, what once seemed a massive challenge will eventually be completely achievable.

Learning Arabic takes a lot of work and dedication
Don’t forget to study regularly for your Arabic class!

If you truly immerse yourself in the language, and you give it everything you've got, many of the things that previously seemed impossible to absorb will suddenly become obvious and you'll wonder why you ever struggled.

You will start to see the many benefits of studying Arabic, and your eyes will be opened to a wide range of fantastic Arabic cultures which have heavily influenced the modern world in more ways that most people fully comprehend.

Don’t Forget the Small Rules!

Without realizing it, we use lots of idioms and cliches in English which make it an incredibly tough language, not only to learn, but to understand and to fully utilize.

It’s a fact - native speakers are often the worst at judging the difficulty of their language.

So for some people, Arabic classes could seem nice and easy, but to others they might appear horribly difficult.

Pay attention to what people tell you and do some research about the Arabic language to decide if you really want to learn it. If you decide to pursue Arabic, you’ll find dozens of ways to achieve your goal.

What you must remember is that language learning should be fun. Don't get bogged down in the grammatical intricacies of Arabic writing. As a new learner, you should focus on the conversational side of the language, with an emphasis on Arabic words and Arabic phrases.

An enormous amount of help can be found online to help you learn Arabic, with a number of free resources being readily available. What's more, most Arabic classes are affordable.

Do Obstacles that Confront Arabic Learners Apply to Everyone?

Like every other language, learning Arabic presents multiple obstacles. However, the amount, type, and degree to which Arabic language learners face these obstacles are dependent on various factors. Some common obstacles Arabic learners face include

  • Getting familiar with phonologies
  • Learning the Arabic vocabulary
  • Diglossia
  • Understanding that the written form of Arabic isn’t fully vocalized

Although these obstacles affect most Arabic language learners, the degree to which it affects them will vary based on these factors.

Location

The best way to learn how to speak Arabic is by living in an Arabic-speaking country or consistently listening to it. People who live anywhere outside such countries may find it difficult. 

Start Arabic teacher here on Superprof.

Statute of liberty
Why is Arabic hard to learn when living outside Arabic-speaking countries? Source: Pexels

It is hard because phonological difficulties become more prominent and difficult to overcome. When living in Arabic-speaking countries, Arabic learners learn faster and easier because they are constantly exposed to the phonological aspect of Arabic. This way, they can easily overcome phonological difficulties, discover the proper pronunciations, and begin speaking Arabic in no time.

Living in Arabic-speaking countries also addresses the problem of diglossia faced by most students and even teachers of Arabic. 

Age

Everyone can learn Arabic language, regardless of their age. However, some aspects of learning are easier for younger people. Children exposed to Arabic from a young age can quickly learn the basics, pronunciations, and other vital elements of Arabic while growing.

Teaching style

The teaching style and strategies of Arabic teachers matter greatly. They can be used to teach and assess the learning style and comprehension of each student. 

Native speakers or long-term speakers who have mastered the basic tricks and tips of effective teaching can create a working strategy for their students.

They can do this by introducing creative ways to immerse students in the Arabic language and culture. They can also teach through multiple styles to facilitate learning. A poor, mindless teaching style can reduce motivation, impair understanding, and complicate the learning process.

Previous/Multiple Linguistic Knowledge

Although all languages aren’t the same, most of them pretty much have the same rules guiding them. If you have learned a foreign language before, chances are you will learn how to speak Arabic faster than your colleagues.

Is Arabic Hard to Learn for Beginners?

When you think that there are over 7000 languages currently spoken in the world, including all the different dialects, it would be difficult to make a purely analytical assessment of which language is the most difficult to learn.

So while some African languages have a reputation for having incredibly difficult grammar, or alembic structures, they aren’t often included in the lists of the most challenging languages to learn.

Throw yourself heart and soul into learning Arabic!

So how can you decide if a language like Arabic is difficult or not?

There are several different objective criteria that you can use to judge just how difficult it is to learn Arabic.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Arabic?

This is a difficult question to answer. This does not only depend on each individual person and how much time and energy they invest into learning Arabic, but it also has to do with previous language experience, the quality of teaching and the exposure to the language outside of a learning environment. Your attitude and your motivation will also play a key role in how long it takes you to learn Arabic.

However, according to the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Arabic is a group 4 language. Research done by the FSI suggests that it will take around 720 hours of study to reach a basic fluency level in Arabic, whereby you can talk about social situations and work requirements. This is compared to 480 hours for group 1 languages such as French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

Therefore it is highly recommended that you are committed to learning Arabic, and that you take advantage of all of the resources at your disposal and online to make sure that the process is a successful one.

How Similar Is It to Your Mother Tongue?

A good way to evaluate how difficult a language will be for you to learn, is to find out how different it is from your native language.

For example, if Spanish or German seem like the easiest languages for you to learn, that’s because they have more in common with English, especially thanks to the ‘vulgar’ Latin that was spoken as the official language of the Roman Empire at the dawn of the first century AD.

After all, French, Spanish, and Italian are all divergent dialects which came from the same language (English is a slightly unique case because of its history of invasions, and although it has many similarities with the Romance languages, it is actually classified as Germanic.)

Your native language will influence how hard Arabic is to learn
Do all the roads lead to the Arabic language?

If you speak Spanish well, there are many words that might seem familiar in Arabic, but with different intonations. This comes from the long Arab presence on the Iberian peninsula.

As for French, it might seem easy for an English speaker to learn because a lot of English words actually came from French originally. However, the pronunciation is often very different and can pose a challenge for French students.

As you are probably now starting to see, the further from English (or a Romance or Germanic language) you go, the more difficult the language will seem, and you’ll face more challenges as the language you’re studying seems to have less in common with English.

Are the Sounds Similar?

If two languages have similar sounds, learning to speak a new language will often seem slightly easier.

But in Arabic, it is difficult to find any similar vowel or word sounds to English.

If you asked a native Arabic speaker to pronounce the difference between ‘in’ ‘on’ and ‘an’, would they hear a difference?

According to one study, Italian is considered to be the most beautiful European language, but that might be because most of the sounds in Italian are also present in other European languages, to various degrees.

It is this sense of familiarity which makes us think that Italian is a beautiful and easy language to learn.

With the Arabic language, it’s more difficult to find similarities in the sounds and pronunciations, especially since vowels are barely pronounced in the language.

Even though the Arabic alphabet has a somewhat familiar 28 letters, none of them resemble what we tend to use in America or Europe. Not to mention that the shape of each letter changes depending on where it’s placed in the word.

From this point of view, alas, it seems a given that learning Arabic will be more difficult for English speakers than for students who are coming from other languages.

Complex Grammar Structures

Arabic is spoken by more than 400 million people worldwide.

However, there are many different variations on Arabic, especially between the written (literary Arabic) and spoken (dialect) forms.

It isn't necessary to learn literary Arabic if you want to speak Arabic, but it’s a very good place to start if you want to learn the structure of the language well and avoid any bad linguistic habits.

Spoken Arabic, on the other hand, is something quite different. Essentially, each Arabic speaking country has developed its own local dialect, with its own unique vocabulary, expressions, and grammar.

If you live in Morocco, it isn’t a given that you’ll be able to understand Tunisian or Egyptian Arabic, or even that will understand someone from the United Arab Emirates.

You should think about which Arabic dialect you want to learn to speak, and make sure you find the right teacher and resources to learn the type of Arabic that you want to.

You will surely find the right teacher for your Arabic lessons London on Superprof!

A Confusing Script

Most Western languages use the Latin alphabet, and it is easy to recognize all the different letters that make up the English alphabet.

This is another challenging aspect about Arabic - there are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet, but their forms all change depending on where the words fall in the sentence.

Learning the Arabic alphabet is challenging
Learn to decode the Arabic alphabet!

You might see the same letter at the beginning, end, or in the middle of a word, each time with a completely different meaning.

You’ll also have to learn to stop reading from left to right, and begin reading in the opposite direction - but this is a hard habit to break for a native English speaker!

The 3 Unknown Sounds

Finally, pronunciation and reading pose one of the big challenges to learning Arabic - there are 3 sounds in Arabic which don’t exist in most Western languages, and are written with the numbers 3, 7, and 9.

These sounds don’t exist at all in English and therefore mastering them can be somewhat tricky.

But what are they? The sound ‘qu’ which comes from the back of the throat, a rough ‘h’, and finally a vocalized ‘h’ that sounds like ‘ai.’

Once you’ve learned how to understand and interpret all of these little quirks and differences of the Arabic language, learning Arabic will be just the same as any other language.

As you can see, learning Arabic will take a lot of personal dedication; it’s a long process which requires regular study of spelling and grammar rules.

Arabic is not a language that you can just dip in and out of. It requires dedication and a commitment of time and effort if you truly want to learn to speak and write it.

You will also need to make good use of a wide range of resources. It is highly recommended that you get hold of a good English-Arabic dictionary, especially if you want to learn Modern Standard Arabic. You should also search for some of the best smartphone apps to help you to practice what you have learned whilst you are commuting to and from work.

But perhaps the best way to tackle learning Arabic is to find an Arabic course. This could be an Arabic for beginners course at a local language school, private one or one classes with a native speaker, or if you are particularly motivated, free online classes for learning Arabic on the internet.

The prospect of learning Arabic can often seem quite difficult when you first start studying it, but so long as you work hard and maybe do a bit of conversation practice with an Arab speaker, you’ll make consistent progress.

If you make good use of all of the tools and resources available to you, you will progress quickly and you will learn about fascinating history of a language and a culture which is constantly shaping the modern world in which we live.

There isn’t just one place to go to learn Arabic, and since it’s spoken in so many countries you have a wide choice to choose from. So whether it's Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, or Lebanon, take your pick and discover a language that has been evolving for millennia. And remember, this is your best bet to learn Arabic quickly.

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Marvis

Marvis Osarhenrhen is a freelance SEO writer focused on helping businesses reach their target audience, get leads and increase revenue using optimized content.