Handbook for Students of Arabic Introduction Welcome to the study of Arabic. This online handbook is an introduction to strategies and resources that can help you, the student, in your study of the Arabic language. It has been developed under the auspices of the National Middle East Language Resource Center (NMELRC) This handbook is primarily for the beginning student, but intermediate and advanced students may also profit from this information. Although not comprehensive or exhaustive, this information is practical and will help you begin your study of Arabic. We hope that any “theory” it contains can be easily implemented in practice. We hope this handbook will help fulfill the NMELRC’s mission to be “a coordinated concentration of educational research and training resources for improving the capacity to teach and learn foreign languages.” The handbook is divided into three sections: (1)a brief introduction to the Arabic language(2)a list of Frequently Asked Questionsabout studying Arabic (3)Additional resourcesfor the Arabic student including links to web-based resources.
Section I: A Brief Introduction to Arabic What is Arabic? Arabic belongs to the Semitic family of languages. Besides Arabic, spoken languages in this family include Modern Hebrew, Amharic, Tigre, Tigrinya, Syriac, a few Aramaic dialects, and Maltese. 250 million people in the Arab world speak Arabic as their native language. Furthermore, 1.2 billion Muslims all over the world use Arabic in their prayers and religious recitations. Arabic is also the liturgical language of many Eastern Christian churches. For practical purposes, we might divide Arabic into three varieties: Classical Arabicis the oldest type of Arabic that is studied widely. It is the language of the Qur’an and texts from the classical age of the Islamic empire (including texts dealing with Qur’anic subjects), the Hadith (the record of the Prophet Muhammad's words and actions), Islamic law and theology, history, biography, geography, poetry, grammar, medicine, astronomy, and other sciences. Until a few decades ago, this was the type of Arabic most commonly taught in American universities. Classical Arabic is still used today, but is restricted to religious and highly formal contexts. Modern Standard Arabic(MSA) or al-fuSHaais a direct descendant of Classical Arabic and is now the language of elevated discourse or correspondence, contemporary literature, and the mass media (whether newspaper, radio, television, or the internet). MSA is a formal, mainly written language that is not used for daily-life communications. There are no native speakers of Modern Standard Arabic, but the vast majority of the educated in the Arab world learn MSA through formal schooling. Although Arabs not educated formally cannot produce MSA, many can comprehend it because of the considerable overlap between the different varieties of Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic remains largely uniform throughout the Arab world. Colloquial Arabic, or caammiyya, refers to the regional dialects used in everyday discourse and popular culture media (music, movies, etc.). There are numerous