One of the great mysteries of humanity is the roots of the spoken word. When did humans begin speaking to one another? How did this amazing skill develop and what cause the change? These questions may never be answered and the enduring mystery remains.
What is known for certain is that languages are a beautiful and central part of the cultures that they belong to. It is a privilege to be able to learn and understand a new language and is a privilege that not all people get to enjoy. For those learning a new language, the path will be challenging but the resultsare always worth the effort.
Is Arabic Harder to Learn Than Other Languages?
Anyone that wants to learn Arabic is in for a challenge. This is true for all languages but for some, particularly those that are native English speakers, Arabic has a few nuances that may make the process a little more difficult. What are the differences that would make this endeavour challenging?
According to Jalal from Arabic Language Solutions “Unlike English, Arabic is written and read from right to left. While a seemingly simple difference, in many cases it takes a few days to get used to (and to remember) to read in the proper direction.”
Another radical difference that can add to the level of confusion is that Arabic is an abjadwriting system. This type of system represents all consonants when spelling words but omits the vowels, assuming the reader will know and understand where the vowels belong. This is a radical difference from English and many European-descended languages which can have new Arabic students scratching their heads.
Grammatically speaking, on a scale from the least to most difficult, Arabic falls somewhere in the middle. It has a 28-letter system, two genders and just like any other language, has its own grammatical peculiarities. What does it look like to learn to write Arabic?
- New Alphabet: the alphabet in Arabic is a set of 28 beautiful, elaborate letters that are all connected (similar to cursive writing in English).
- Changing Letters: in Arabic, the shape and structure of a letter depend on its position in the word and the same letter will look slightly different at the beginning, middle and end of a given word.
- Genders: Similar to French and Spanish, nouns are assigned a gender in Arabic. This leads to modifications in other related words that need to be considered when forming sentences.
- Plurals: In English, in almost every case, you simply need to add an S to the end of any given word to make it plural. This is not the case for Arabic. There are rules around “broken plurals” and the whether the word is considered masculine or feminine also affects how it is pluralized.
For a lifelong, native English speaker, learning to speak Arabic will mean learning and mastering entirely new sounds. You will need to be able to roll your R’s like in Spanish and pronounce “CH” from the back of your throat like German, among other new sounds and inflexions.
“Language” is an umbrella term that typically covers dozens of different dialects. In Arabic, these dialects are quite different and can make it hard, even for a fluent Arabic speaker, to have a flowing conversation with someone who speaks anotherdialect. This is different from English because even though UK English and American or Australian English may differ slightly, they are more similar than not.
Learning New Languages is Challenging
Even though the path to becoming a fluent speaker in Arabic will be demanding, the process of learning and mastering a new language is always worth it. You will learn surprising aspects, not only of this new language but of yourself and your native tongue as well.
Growing yourself in this way has benefits that extend beyond the ability to speak a new language. Is Arabic difficult to learn? Yes, as any new language will be. Is the endeavour worth pursuing? Absolutely.