Are you interested in learning Arabic to attain a certain level of fluency? Is learning Arabic a necessary step for you towards finding a better job or traveling?
Then, it’s certain that the question that would pop into your mind would be: how long does it take to learn Arabic? It is important to know the answer to this question so you can put things into perspective. Relevant answers will be provided to pertinent questions you may have in this article.
It is no news that Arabic is considered a difficult language to learn when compared to some other languages. But this doesn’t mean it is impossible to learn; it only suggests that it would require more time and commitment to be proficient and be familiar with all the nuances of the language.
Arabic is a unique language with lots of complexities. From its significantly different alphabets through to its grammar, spelling, and syntax, it’s no wonder the Arabic language cannot be learnt in a couple of weeks, even with regular study.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Arabic?
The sincere answer to this question is that it all depends on you. It depends on how much time you are willing to invest, how motivated you are, what your goals are in learning the language, and if you have the right tools to aid your learning process.
To start with, goal setting is very instrumental in helping your commitment to learning any language, not just Arabic. When you have a clear goal of why you want to study a language, it gives you the direction of how to go about it, how long to study it for, and increases your motivation to achieve it.
Defining Your Objectives for Learning Arabic
Some people just want to be able to introduce themselves, understand simple sentences when spoken to, and be able to ask basic questions in Arabic, while others would love to be able to engage in everyday conversations, and read and write the Arabic language. Hence, it’s different strokes for different folks. So what’s your reason for wanting to learn Arabic?
- Are you simply fascinated by Arab culture, history, and language and want to learn more?
- Do you just want Arabic as the newest addition to the list of languages you know?
- Are your motivations religious, or are you interested in learning more about Islam’s sacred books from an academic standpoint?
- Do you simply want to learn Arabic for fun and to communicate with as many people as possible while traveling?
Take your time to think about these questions. It would help you determine what level of proficiency would be required for you to achieve your goal.
Let’s learn quickly about the different levels of language proficiency using the FSI RATING SCALE.
The FSI Rating Scale is a five-grade rating scale that classifies people (language users) based on their mastery of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary of a language.
- Elementary Proficiency level: With this level of proficiency, a person can meet basic travel needs and minimum courtesy requirements.
- Limited working proficiency level: At this level, a person can satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements.
- Minimum professional proficiency level: A person with this level of proficiency can speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, and professional topics.
- Full professional proficiency level: A person with a proficiency level can use the language fluently and accurately on all levels normally pertinent to professional needs.
- Native or bilingual proficiency level: This is the highest level of language proficiency. A person with this advanced level of language skill has a speaking proficiency equivalent to that of an educated native speaker.
However, not everyone interested in learning Arabic needs native or bilingual proficiency to achieve their goal. But still, you should be aware that it will still take several weeks, if not months, to attain the minimum professional proficiency level, at the very least. And sincerely speaking, you will not be able to learn the vocabulary and syntax of Arabic with just two hours of study per week.
To learn Arabic properly, it is estimated that an English speaker will need at least 2200 hours of Arabic classes spread over 80 weeks—or one and a half years of consistent language study.
This is not to scare you, but to help you realize that Arabic, like any other language, can be difficult to learn without a great deal of dedication and regular study.
It doesn’t matter if your reason for learning Arabic is just to get a general sense of the language and learn a few expressions; every second should be spent immersed in the language if you must attain some level of proficiency. It is especially necessary so you don’t miss out on the subtleties of the language and risk picking up tons of bad spelling and syntax habits.
Listening to an audio lesson while getting ready in the morning and during your commute is a great way to keep your brain immersed in the language. Time spent cooking or eating, as well as all other free moments throughout the day where your brain isn’t necessarily engaged, are all opportunities to study Arabic.
With these practices, the answer to “how long does it take to learn Arabic?” for you would be shorter than the estimated time.
But aside from these practices, several other factors can impact how fast you learn Arabic.
- Your Previous Language Learning Experiences
- Your Learning Techniques
- Your attitude and motivation
1. Your Previous Language Learning Experiences
Are you bilingual or multilingual? Do you have any prior language learning experience? This might go a long way to reducing the time it would take you to learn Arabic.
Several linguistic studies have shown that bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language because they are more naturally accustomed to hearing different languages. They say that fluency and proficiency in one language help fluency and proficiency in another.
Not bilingual or multilingual? You too can still have the advantage of learning the Arabic language fast. If you have ever had a time when you had to take a course in a foreign language or go on a business trip, your experience would be most relevant at this time. Your mind already knows what to expect when confronted with a new language. Therefore, any other language learning you do now or in the future would become simpler and faster.
2. Your Learning Techniques
This simply speaks to the question: how do you learn?
Your learning methods influence how quickly you learn any language, including Arabic. If you favor the more traditional approach to learning, i.e., learning in a classroom setting, it will most definitely take you longer to learn Arabic.
However, suppose you are exposed to Arabic outside of class and embrace the use of digital language applications like Memorise or Duolingo to support your learning process. In that case, you can reduce the time required to learn it.
Also, to learn more quickly, you can incorporate reading, listening to the radio or eBooks, writing, speaking, watching movies, and traveling to Arab-speaking countries as part of your learning mix and create an immersive experience for you.
3. Your Attitude and Motivation
Do you see learning Arabic as a fun and fascinating opportunity to broaden your horizons? Or do you see it as a chore that must be completed? Your attitude towards learning a language can either make it enjoyable or boring. Keeping a positive attitude is the best way to remain motivated while learning.
Another way to remain motivated is to remind yourself why you want to learn Arabic in the first place. It’s necessary to remind yourself every once in a while how learning Arabic will improve your life and everything good that can come from it.
Now that you know that your question of “how long does it take to learn Arabic?” is entirely dependent on you, you can evaluate your choices carefully about how you want to go about learning the language, where you want to get your learning from, and what tools would be most beneficial to attain your desired level of proficiency and get started!