Learning Arabic for the first time: To those native to a European language, the Arabic language can seem overwhelming and difficult. It is crucial upon learning Arabic to treat it as a process that will take patience, commitment and time. Once you are able to communicate even a little with Palestinians, you will find that the language flows more easily with practice.
It is advisable to learn the alphabet, numbers 1 – 10 and some common polite phrases such as ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’, ‘thank you’ and ‘welcome’ before coming to Palestine. This will prepare you for the greater concepts of the language, such as grammar and symbology in good time, and ensure that you can have basic communication with the local people as you are travelling. Be patient as the language is difficult to learn, and linguistically it doesn’t bear much similarity with European languages which are all to some extent relatable to each other. However, with practice and regular revision, speaking Arabic will become more of a fluent practice.
Arabic is a language that can take many years to fully master. Before coming to Middle Eastern countries, such as Palestine, the language can seem daunting, even for those with beginners-intermediate practice of it. However, with practice comes improvement and confidence. All Arabic learners begin with the alphabet, working their way up to being able to read words with the vowels attached. This usually advances on to numbers, basic conversational phrases, and, eventually, verbs and further vocabulary.
The study of Arabic is a life-long, gradual devotion. You should not expect to become fluent in a short period of time, although of course there are people who have this intention for learning the language. Remember that some Arabic learners have had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the language through studying it for a degree or for fieldwork, so do not be intimidated by how advanced some learners speak it. There is nothing to improve a language than to go and experience it for yourself. Learn from other learners, and engage in conversation with them. In time, you will become more confident in learning Arabic.
The alphabet is very different to the European and the words are phonetic, meaning that even if you do not understand a word at first it is possible to pronounce it. Reading without the vowels takes intuition, knowledge, time and being able to understand the context of the sentence. The grammar of the language is difficult and something I am coming to grips with, but again with regular practice comes greater understanding.
Becoming integrated in a community or staying with a host family is an excellent way of learning Arabic for the first time. It will help you associate the language with everyday life, and you will be surrounding by welcoming people who are willing to help you. Learning Arabic is an ongoing process, with so many new words to learn, one that is rewarding and fulfilling. Having the opportunity to improve the language whilst immersing yourself in the culture is an unsurpassable experience.