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Teach Yourself Arabic

I love the Teach Yourself books, they are a hopped-up, more intelligent version of the Dummy's books. Before I picked up In-flight Arabic, I bought a cassette/book set of Teach Yourself Arabic and started working through the first few chapters.

The approach to language learning in the TY books is to present short bits of grammar and background and a little new vocabulary with each section. The first few chapters focus on names, greetings, and basic counting using realistic conversation examples.

This was bit more complex than other language books that I have, since it also tries to teach the writing system at the same time. I've determined that learning a new language is hard enough without having to learn to recognize and write a totally new system, as well. Arabic is a beautiful written language, but it is very hard to learn -- I gave up on anything other than recognizing numbers after the first few tries. Each letter has 3-4 different versions, depending on where it comes in the word, and the whole write-from-the-right-to-left thing threw me off completely. It's not impossible, but certainly hard for someone who just wants a basic understanding of the spoken language. As a result, after a few tries with the TY book and tapes, I moved on to an audio-only language CD, which was a simpler and quicker way to get to my goal, which was just a few words to be polite.

Still, the book is a great introduction to the basic spoken and written Arabic language, and the vocabulary introduced is enough to get a good start on learning Arabic. Vocabulary is introduced via common conversations, and then the expressions that you have learned are dissected for grammar and other rules.

If you have the time and motivation to learn on your own, then these books are a good start; if you want a comprehensive language course, then you should look for one of the major learn-on-cassette or learn-on-cd courses prepared by Berlitz or Living Language or Pimsleur. The other courses are designed to walk through learning the language in an orderly, well-designed fashion with guided exercises.

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