As one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, Arabic is well worth spending the time and effort to learn. With so many grammatical and structural differences between Arabic and English, one of the best ways to learn Arabic is the old-fashioned way – through language books!
Millions of people learn Arabic each and every year, and we’ve rounded up the five best books that you can use to learn Arabic. Are you ready to find out more? Let’s dive in!
The Best Books to Learn Arabic
Whether you want to brush up on your grammatical skills, bone up on vocabulary with a dictionary, or go back to basics and start from the very beginning, these books are going to help you learn Arabic in no time at all!
So, if you’re looking for probably the most comprehensive Arabic learning series on the market, you need to check out the Kalimni Series. They have books all the way from complete beginner up to intermediate and advanced.
At the moment, there are eight books in the series so you can keep your language learning progression going for years to come.
It’s great because you end up learning in the same way and following the same structure. This kind of continuity is really useful when we’re learning a language because you don’t have to get used to a whole new learning system.
Right now, these are the eight different books that you can get in the Kalimni series that you can get your hands on:
- Beginner: Kallimni ‘Arabi Bishweesh (Speak Arabic To Me Slowly)
- Intermediate: Kallimni ‘Arabi (Speak Arabic To Me)
- Upper-Intermediate: Kallimni ‘Arabi Aktar (Speak More Arabic To Me)
- Early Advanced: Kallimni ‘Arabi Mazboot (Speak Arabic To Me Properly)
- Higher Advanced: Kallimni ‘Arabi Fi Kull Haaga (Speak Arabic To Me In Everything)
- Very Advanced: Umm al-Dunya: Advanced Egyptian Colloquial Arabic and Kalaam Gamiil (Volume 1 and Volume 2).
One of the best things about this series is that they all come with CDs and DVDs so you can listen and learn from locals. The clips help to give you context which is massively important when you’re learning a new language.
This also helps with your pronunciation, speaking, and listening skills which are crucial for practical Arabic usage. Honestly, if you buy just one Arabic language series, it’s got to be this one. It’s at the top of this list for a reason!
One of the trickiest things that new learners struggle with in Arabic is the complex grammar rules that can take quite a while to get used to.
Having a grammar book is not only a useful tool to have to learn the rules in the first place, but it’s super handy to have around if you need a reference tool in the future. Besides, it’s a lot of grammar rules to remember all in one go!
This particular book, A New Arabic Grammar Of The Written Language, might seem a bit old-fashioned on the surface but it’s one of the best grammar books on the market, and it has been for years!
It’s the perfect guide if you’re looking to improve your Arabic reading and writing skills in particular. If you’re studying Arabic for a class or university, this is 100% the book you need to use to get you through.
Remember that this is mainly for the rules themselves, so even if the content feels a little outdated, the rules themselves are still golden! You can use the grammar tables, helpful hints, and tips, and apply them to more modern vocabulary and phrasal choices.
Let’s be honest if you’re learning a new language, especially one that has a completely different alphabet, you need a solid dual-language dictionary that’ll be worth its weight in gold.
The Al Mawrid Arabic-English English-Arabic Dictionary is exactly that and well worth the slightly eye-watering price tag. From the sheer size of the book, you already know it’s going to be worth the cost!
Not only does it give you the translations of common words in both languages, but it also gives you the root form and other verb endings for that word so you can easily find the right form for the situation you’re in.
If that wasn’t enough, it’ll also tell you frequently paired words that you’re likely to see alongside it in newspapers.
This all helps with context clues and allows you to fill in the gaps of certain words you might not know yet. It’s an absolute game-changer and an awesome reference tool.
If you consider yourself to be an advanced learner, specifically of the Egyptian Arabic dialect, you definitely need to check out ‘Arabi Liblib. It’s a great addition to any Arabic language learning library and focuses predominantly on colloquial language usage.
This is super useful if you have Arabic-speaking friends and you want to impress them.
So, one of your Arabic language learning goals is to be able to understand and speak slang, and speak Arabic like a native speaker then this is definitely worth the purchase! Be warned though, this is definitely an advanced book, so you’ll need to improve your skills before tackling colloquialisms and slang.
This last book on the list is a little bit niche, but it’s well worth checking out if you have an interest in politics, journalism, and Middle Eastern current affairs.
The reason is that Media Arabic is tailored to help you learn how to read Arabic newspapers. Look, I told you that it was a niche book!
The book is split into chapters that revolve around each section of a newspaper, like economics, lifestyle, politics, and more. At the start of each section, it’ll give you a selection of words and phrases that are popular for that vertical so you can go in with a bit of context.
It’s a really cool resource for practical Arabic readers and writers, but it is definitely a more advanced tool so you really have to work up to it. If you’re into politics or just want to know what’s going on around the world, then this is the Arabic language learning book for you!
Why Should You Learn Arabic?
With over 362 million native speakers worldwide, learning to speak Arabic is a great thing to do if you want to become a global citizen. It’s the national language of many countries, especially in the Middle East, but it’s also used in many other countries around the world.
It’s also the language used by Muslims all around the world, so if you’re thinking of visiting a predominantly Islamic country, it might be worth you brushing up on your Arabic skills. You can learn more about a culture, be respectful, and speak to locals!
There are also a ton of Arabic-speaking expats all around the world, so especially if you live in a bigger city, the chances of you running into an Arabic speaker is actually pretty high.
What’s the Best Way to Learn Arabic?
Like the majority of languages, the best way to learn Arabic is through immersion. This is where you go to a place where Arabic is commonly spoken and spend time immersed in the language.
You’ll hear it all around you and you’ll have to speak the language to get by. As such, you’ll pick up the language a lot easier and you’ll get to practice all your skills.
If you can’t afford a plane ticket to an Arabic-speaking country, there are plenty of language classes, especially in larger cities. With Arabic being one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, the chances of there being Arabic speakers near you are super high!
It all depends on your learning style and what’s available to you. Using a combination of different learning methods helps you pick up a language quicker and ensures that you hit all four of the language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
Is Arabic Hard to Learn?
Arabic is widely considered to be one of the hardest languages to learn, especially for English speakers. There are plenty of reasons why it’s difficult to learn, including the fact that there’s a whole other alphabet that you need to learn.
Another reason why it might be difficult for many of us to learn Arabic is that it reads from right to left – the opposite way to many Latinate and Western languages.
It can be tricky to get the hang of it you’re not used to it. Sometimes it can feel like you’re having to reprogramme your whole brain!
How Many Hours of Arabic Learning Does It Take to Be Fluent?
According to the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI), it takes around 2200 hours for English speakers to become fluent in Arabic. This is a lot longer than a lot of other languages due to the complexity and the dozens of differences in grammar and structure.
Largely, this is because you need to first learn the alphabet before you can even get started on the vocabulary and phrase structure. Add in the fact that you have to get used to reading and writing in the opposite direction, it’s no wonder that it takes so long to get the hang of this beautiful and far-reaching language.
What’s the Best Audio Resource for Learning Arabic?
Although a lot of these books come with CDs or online resources to help you with your pronunciation skills, getting a dedicated speaking and listening tool can really help your Arabic language learning skills.
You can use a lot of language-learning apps like Pimsleur which uses scientific methodology to help you start speaking Arabic from day one. This way you can improve your speaking and listening skills on your own terms.
It’s also mixed in with some great visual context clues that can help you find the right words and phrases for any chosen scenario.
If you want something a little more hands-free, language-learning podcasts are a great way to pick up a language in an immersive style. You’re surrounding yourself with the language so you can absorb the sounds and features of Arabic, which will help you pick up the language easier in the future.
All that from just sitting around and not actively having to tap flashcards or fill in the gaps on a language-learning app!
What Apps Are Best for Learning Arabic?
Learning Arabic on an app is a cost-effective way to learn the language on your own terms and on the go. Given how popular Arabic is, you can find courses on pretty much any language-learning app.
Personally, iTalki is a great option if you’re looking to get that one-to-one feel without ever having to leave your apartment. It’s a platform that connects native language tutors with learners from all over the globe, allowing you to learn via video chat.
If you’re looking for a more structured app that uses gamification, stick with the most popular language-learning app in the world – Duolingo.
Filled with matching-up exercises, leaderboards, and more it’s a fun way to learn a little bit of Arabic every, single day! Also, you know that Duo the Owl is going to keep pushing you to put the work in and get the results that you want!
Grab Your Favorite Arabic Book As Soon As Possible!
So all in all, there are plenty of amazing language-learning books that you can use to become a pro at learning Arabic. From dictionaries to phrasebooks to grammar guides, you can take your pick from this list of the five best books to learn Arabic.
I’d really recommend combining one of these awesome books with different language learning methods like CDs, quizzes, conversational groups, and more to really get a well-rounded and practical approach to Arabic.
What’s your favorite way to learn Arabic? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to check it out.
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Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.