Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Initial Review of Using Arabic by Mahdi Alosh

I purchased "Using Arabic: A Guide to Contemporary Usage" by Mahdi Alosh a week or so ago (See my previous post for more information aobut the book). I have spent a few hours going through the book since and have found it to be worth the 25$ I paid. The book is basically made up of two main sections - vocabulary and grammar. What I perhaps most enjoy about this book is the breadth of coverage. Most any grammatical aspect, usual or exceptional, is found in the book. The advantage of this book is that is written by an American Arab and it hasn't been translated from German or any other language. Yes, I am referring to certain reference grammars written in the 1800s and republished in the 1900s and 2000s. Those older grammar reference books seem to mostly attract stuffy old-school professors and diplomats who don't want to admit that spoken Arabic should be taught to students and that the glory of Arabic is found in knowing the most obscure structures that can only be used in the most uncommon of cirsumstances. This is, of course, only my anecdotal opnion.

My intial opinion of this book is that it is quite useful as a reference grammar for students of Arabic ranging from intermediate to advanced. The vocabulary sections could be better with some contextual sentences or readings, but it is useful in itself because it contains current phrases and words found in media, political and other genres.

This is the kind of book I might study from systematically day to day if I were in an intensive program. I would go through 5-10 pages a day and harvest the most useful vocabulary for memorization. I would then try to use the vocab throughout the day/week. As for the grammar, I would not spend too much time trying to internalize the rare aspects...but it would be useful to look through systematically as well.

Jeremy Palmer

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Using Arabic - grammar book


I bought this book today and look forward to going through it. Mahdi Alosh is perhaps the premier Arabic grammarian and linguist. Click on the title of this post to go to the publisher's site. Anybody ever used it? What did you think? Here is the info from the publisher's website (Cambridge):

Using Arabic
A Guide to Contemporary Usage
Mahdi Alosh
Ohio State University


(ISBN-10: 0521648327 | ISBN-13: 9780521648325)
Published June 2005 | 356 pages | 238 x 169 mm
In stock
(Stock level updated: 17:58 GMT, 20 December 2005)
Lecturers can request inspection copies of this title.
Courses: Arabic Grammar, Intermediate Arabic Conversation, Intermediate Modern Arabic, Advanced Modern Arabic, Arabic Society and Culture, Studying Arabic Prose.
Using Arabic is a guide to Arabic usage for students who have already acquired the basics of the language and wish to extend their knowledge. Focusing mainly on Modern Standard Arabic, it is divided into three clear sections on varieties of Arabic, grammar, and vocabulary. ‘Varieties of Arabic’ describes the linguistic situation in the Arab world, showing students variations in register through the use of authentic texts. The vocabulary section is designed not only to expand students’ knowledge of Arabic words, but also to show them which words are most current, and which are appropriate to different registers. The final chapter provides an overview of Arabic grammar, giving many modern-day examples, and highlighting common errors. Clear, readable and easy to consult, Using Arabic will prove an invaluable reference for students seeking to improve their fluency and confidence in Arabic.

• Defines aspects of the Arabic language clearly and functionally

• Provides examples of ‘real’ Arabic from the media

• Gives a concise yet adequate overview of Arabic grammar, and expands students’ vocabulary


Part I. Varieties of Arabic: 1. What is Arabic?; 2. Arabic diglossia; 3. Diglossia versus bilingualism; 4. Register; 5. Representative texts; Part II. Vocabulary: 1. Vocabulary study; 2. Word information; 3. Conceptual organization of words; 4. Semantic processing of words; Part III. Grammar: 1. What is grammar?; 2. An outline of Arabic grammar; 3. Grammatical categories; 4. The nominal sentence; 5. The verbal sentence; 6. Prepositions; 7. Negation; 8. Demonstratives; 9. Relative pronouns; 10. Interrogatives; 11. Conditionals; 12. Transition words; 13. Numbers; 14. Partitives; 15. Nominal forms with a verbal force; 16. The diminutive; 17. The vocative; 18. Relative adjectives; 19. Words of emphasis; 20. The permutative; 21. Conjunctions; 22. Exception; 23. The Construct; 24. Comparative/superlative adjectives; 25. Defective nouns; 26. Common errors.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Aswaat Arabiyya

This website is super cool. Click on the title of this posting to go to the site. Mahmoud Al-Batal (project director) showed it to a group of us at a teacher training session in 2003. I forgot about this website for some time until the author of a new Arabic learning blog "The Arabist" at http://arabistfancy.blogspot.com/ posted it recently. The website contains television programs in Arabic from the Middle East for students of varying levels of Arabic knowledge. One of the coolest things about this site is that you can slow down some of the video clips for careful listening. The project is hosted by Emory College in Atlanta.

Check it out and enjoy! (Click on the title of this post to go to the site for Aswaat Arabiyya)


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Gov't seeks Arabic translators

As if you didn't know, the US Gov is looking for Arabic translators. I wish the US Gov were also looking so energetically for Arabic seakers to build bridges of cultural understanding and appreciation along with the document translation and other activities. The above image that shows which agencies are looking for Arabic speakers and what they are paying. This article is from the Chicago Sun-Times. You can go to the article by clicking on the title.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Teaching Spoken Arabic and Motivation

One of the few articles that presents quantifiable data in support of teaching spoken Arabic (There are none that I know of that support the teaching of only Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)). The two go hand in hand it seems... to some extent. Teaching MSA only is a quick way to demotivate learners due to the lack of ability to speak with Arabs like they speak (ok, I don't have data to back up this claim). This article is about the teaching of spoken Arabic to young learners in Israel. The results show that student attitudes and motivation increased with the teaching of spoken Arabic. Here is the title followed by the source and authors:

The Effects of Teaching Spoken Arabic on Students’ Attitudes and Motivation in Israel

Modern Language Journal, Summer2004, Vol. 88 Issue 2, p217, 12p, 6 charts. Donitsa-Schmidt, Smadar; Inbar, Ofra; Shohamy, Elana

Here is the abstract:

The study investigated whether changes in the educational context of teaching Arabic as a second language in Israeli schools affect students' attitudes towards the language, its speakers and culture, and motivation to study the language. These changes included teaching spoken Arabic rather than Modern Standard Arabic and lowering the starting age of instruction. Self-report questionnaires were distributed to 692 students (4th–6th grade) and 362 parents from 14 elementary schools. The findings revealed that students who study spoken Arabic (experimental group), as opposed to those who do not (control group), report holding more positive attitudes towards the Arabic language, its culture, and speakers, and also claim to be more motivated to study the language. Findings also confirm the important role that parents have over their children's behavior because parents' attitudes constituted one of the predictors of students' motivation to study Arabic. Yet, the variable that best predicted students' motivation was their satisfaction with their Arabic study program. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

Here is a paragraph from the body of the article:

"based on this research, it seems vital to include the spoken variety as a major component of the curricula. This inclusion is likely to allow students to communicate with Arabs using the colloquial variety of thelanguagethat isusedininformal settings
and may eventually lead to improved cultural understanding and better relations between the two ethnolinguistic groups. Finally, it is important to develop high quality programs and curricula for the teaching of the language in order to raise the level of satisfaction among students and their parents."

My comments:

One must take this article and my comments with a grain of salt. This article is talking specifically about the situation in Israel, and the research was performed on younger learners - not the kind reading this blog most likely. We can, however, learn from this article and follow the suggestions for future research as the field attempts to figure out how to teach MSA and spoken together. There are so many variables that such discussion is often simply avoided. For example, which dialect should be taught? How often? What about heritage learners? How can we present a spoken language to students? etc. Much more research needs to be done.

This article appeared in the Modern Language Journal, which is one of the most wide read and prestigious journals in the field of language learning. That fact alone gives the article credit.

Your comments?