Arabic is an important world language, and it’s worth learning the basics
Too many of us live in Dubai without ever learning the local lingo (and no, knowing the words ‘habibi’ and ‘hallas’ doesn’t count). Stastics are fluid, but Arabic is considered to be the fifth most widely spoken language in the world, used by more than 250 million people. It’s an important language to know, and there’s no better time to start than during Ramadan: not only will you learn a new tongue, you’ll also learn a lot about a new culture.
The language follows a different grammatical format to English, making it slightly trickier to learn than most European languages. Mahmoud Yacoub at Dubai language school Eton Institute explains that Arabic uses an interesting root system that can prove difficult for European language speakers to understand. ‘It’s a beautiful language. Similar words share roots – if you know the system, you don’t need to memorise the whole vocab,’ he explains.
For example: Maqtab: office (or, literally, ‘place of writing and reading’) Katab: to write Kaatab: writer Maqtaba: library
Where to learn
Berlitz Language Centre This international language school doesn’t have fixed dates; your course will start when enough students have signed up. Classes are taught across a range of styles, but in general they focus on the Levantine dialect. A course of 28 90-minute group lessons (with course material) costs Dhs4,078, while 23 90-minute private lessons cost Dhs8,140. A good option for people wanting an immediate language boost is the Total Immersion Course: in five days you’ll complete a full-level course. Villa 55, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 0034), www.berlitz.ae
Dubai International Art Centre On September 18, this community art centre is beginning an eight- to 10-week Arabic language course. The teacher, Zainab Al Hilali, is of Iraqi origin and she’ll teach spoken Modern Standard Arabic to a maximum of 10 students. You’ll have a choice of a Sunday evening or Wednesday morning class, depending on your schedule. Dhs850 for DIAC members, Dhs1,050 for non-members. Villa 27, Street 75b, Jumeirah (04 344 4398)
Eton Institute This friendly school offers regular free courses (just sign up to the Facebook and Twitter accounts) and is offering a highly subsidised course starting on August 8 – if you’re one of the lucky people to get a place, you’ll receive 30 hours of lessons over four weeks for just Dhs600 (a saving of Dhs750). Otherwise, try the Summer Super Intensive Immersion course, which involves 60 hours over three weeks with daily classes from August 15 until September 2 (costing Dhs2,635), or the 30-hour weekend courses taught over 10 weeks for Dhs1,735. Dubai Knowledge Village (04 360 2955), www.eton.ac
Arabic is split into distinct dialects, many of which are almost like different languages.
Modern Standard Arabic: This is the official modern form of the language as taught in most schools. It derives from classical Arabic and is used in official forums across the Arab world. Egyptian Arabic: This is the most widely understood of the regional dialects due to the popularity of Egyptian cinema. Gulf Arabic: Widely known as Khaliji, this is the dialect spoken from Kuwait to Oman (and yes, for those of you who are geographically challenged, that covers the UAE). Levantine Arabic: This is a group of mini-dialects spoken in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and West Jordan. Maghreb Arabic: Spoken in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, this dialect is almost impossible for Gulf, Egyptian or Levantine Arabic speakers to understand. However, many in North Africa will usually be able to understand the Middle Eastern dialects.
Phrases to know
Want to get to grips with the basics? Start here…
How are you? Kaifa haluk?
I’m from... Ana min...
My name is... Ismi...
Where is...? Ayna...?
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David J Oct 06, 2010 09:46 am
We have now started to learn Arabic 5 times and always stopped due to a move or other circumstance. Where can Ifind a teacher that does house calls or an intensive course over a coupole of weeks?
Esther Torres Sep 25, 2010 06:47 am
Check the Arabic Language Center at the Convention Center (Zaabel Road), I am more than happy with the level of the teachers and the method they use to teach the language.
Gabrielle Sep 12, 2010 01:01 pm
Strange! I paid AED 285 for original material at Eton Institute (they had initially given us handouts but apologetically because the originals were out of stock and then asked us to purchase originals once they were there)....I quite enjoyed the classes as well...! The instructor was funny which kept things interesting and the admin were v. particular about quality. Overall very satisfied and have progressed a lot. Taking my next level soon...
(maybe i should ask them for a discount for writing this :P)
bahar Sep 01, 2010 02:15 pm
Arabic is a most powerful language in the world,if i can go the dubai in one day than i will learn surely
Lana Aug 31, 2010 09:00 am
It was really hard for me when I first came to Dubai to speak Arabic, but with some help from my friends, I learned the normal daily words, but with the different accents it was a bit of a problem :S
But what really helped me to know proper Arabic is a package i got that is called Arabian Sinbad, I got it for my daughter but it actually helped both of us a lot!!!
And it was so much fun to learn and sing along to :D