In an ideal world, the language would be Arabic. Arabic is a refuge for anyone disenchanted by the arbitrariness of life; i.e. the apparent randomness of languages. Because Arabic makes sense. It has logic, it has a system. There is an underlying harmony and coherence. Arabic is like a perfect world in which everything is connected in a logical way.
That being said, truth is that Arabic has been and still is the most arduous language journey I have embarked on. Arabic is not one but several languages and I have for a long time mainly focused on Standard Arabic, which I do not recommend. For me, retaining a language is for a large part a consequence of engagement with it verbally. Standard Arabic is not usually spoken by anyone so you don’t really get to practice, which is for most the only way to internalize a language. Plus, language skills are the most fun when you can use them for conversation with other people, opening up previously unintelligible worlds.
Because I never stuck to one dialect, I have used uncountable books, websites and podcasts. What follows is a very incomplete overview of resources I have used and liked, both for Standard Arabic and for some of the dialects I have at some point in time tried my luck at.
Modern Standard Arabic
All The Arabic You Never Learned The First Time Around
One guy had a grammar book he really liked and copied everything to make it available for free online. And the explanations really are great. Here is a PDF.
YouTube channel for Standard Arabic
These in-depth grammar videos have been a blessing to my learning of Standard Arabic.
If you’re a bit more advanced, you can make use of this collection of videos on different levels in Standard Arabic (and some in dialects).
A great collection of Arabic children’s books.
Living Arabic Levantine dictionary
The worst thing about learning an Arabic dialect is the very limited availability of dictionaries. This website is there to help, offering a comprehensive dictionary for Levantine Arabic with examples for most entries. Also available as an app for Android and iOS.
This podcast is absolutely brilliant for those seeking to get acquainted with spoken Arabic. Every episode discusses a short dialogue, with references to differences in dialects and Standard Arabic. They currently offer more than 700 episodes on different levels, from beginner to advanced (though some require payment). For Levantine dialogues click here.
Keefak the App
The best phone app for learning Levantine Arabic I know of. It teaches Lebanese Arabic and has a free version called Keefak Lite.
A very good summary of Jordanian grammar, which is to a large extent similar to other dialects in the Levant.
Video lessons from Amman
This is the YouTube channel from an Arabic language institute in Amman (Jordan) that focuses on teaching colloquial Arabic and offers videos for different levels.
Intermediate level conversations
A YouTube playlist of short conversations recorded for learners of Arabic (unfortunately without subtitles or transcription).
The Arabic Student
On this blog by an American student of Arabic you can learn the language with television shows and song lyrics. For Levantine Arabic, read this short introduction and check this list of lessons.
Language Transfer: Egyptian Arabic
I am a big fan of the learning method of Language Transfer and have used it for a number of languages already. I could try to explain you how it works, but he really does it best self in the first episode.
Lisaan Masry: dictionary
A dictionary for Egyptian Arabic.
Why Arabic is terrific
To explain what I meant with my hymn to Arabic in the first sentences of this page, I would like to refer to this blog post which explains wonderfully how amazing Arabic is.
Smart Arabic keyboard
One problem of using an Arabic keyboard (either installed on your computer or in your browser) is that you initially don’t really know where to find which letter. This is of course part of the learning process, but if you want to type something quickly this keyboard is a great help. You can just type “ahlan wa sahlan” and the website transforms it into Arabic – granted, not without errors, but filtering them out afterwards is still a whole lot faster than needing two seconds for finding every single letter.
On of the great things about Arabic is the alphabet. Under the influence of Islam, which dictates that animate beings should not be visually depicted, calligraphy of the Arabic alphabet developed greatly. I maintain a Pinterest board with modern (and some traditional) design using the Arabic alphabet.