Friday, January 05, 2007

End of this blog

I don't think that a blog is the appropriate format for me anymore. At some point in the future I hope to harvest my previous posts and sow them into a more useful medium, such as a webpage. Blogs are nice for rants and raves, but for information about learning and teaching Arabic plus various resources - I think a webpage would be much easier to navigate and organize. Who knows when this would be. Hopefully free and high-quality web designing programs and free online storage will be commonplace in the future.

'yalla bye' until then,


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hanbook for Students of Arabic

Click on the title of this post, or here for a free handbook about learning Arabic for students.

The following is taken from

Handbook for Students 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.

This information is of course not comprehensive or exhaustive. Above all, we hope that you find this information practical and even the bits of “theory” applicable to your needs. This handbook helps 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."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Aljazeera in English - hmmm. interesting

Here it is folks: Aljazeera in English. I think it will be most interesting to see what happens with this development.

It will be fun to see how they translate certain terms. For example, I noticed that Aljazeera used the term "Palestinian fighter" when the BBC used "Palestinian militant" to describe the same event in the news today.

I understand that Aljazeera has different politics, but why did they choose the term "fighter"? It sounds so unnatural and odd. I know they are looking for a more neutral word...but "fighter"? غريب. How about something like "combatant"?

This is going to be most interesting.

Article about learning Gulf Arabic

Click on the title of this post to read an article about learning Gulf Arabic. The Article is from and includes a general introduction of Arabic and some resources for learning the Gulf dialect.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Arabic – the language of peace اللغة العربية - لغة السلام

Arabic could be the language of peace.

If Americans were able to speak Arabic, we just might be able to bridge the gaping cultural abyss that currently divides us.

If Americans could speak Arabic, we would be able to converse with friends and reason with enemies in real time and with real emotion.

In both Jordan and Syria I, at times, agreed with and, at other times, argued with storeowners, taxi drivers, university students, university professors, policemen, soldiers and many government officials in their own language. It was quite a “trip” for them to hear someone defending (and sometimes criticizing) America. Many have never heard any human being speak such sentiments in their own language. We often disagreed radically on many issues and sometimes the debates were quite heated. At the end of these arguments, however, we usually became friends and respected one another much more than could have ever happened via an interpreter or any other means of communication or interaction.

If Americans could speak Arabic, we could more easily influence Arab media. There are some Americans who appear on Aljazeera, but it is a rare occurrence - especially Americans who learned Arabic in school and not at home as children of native speakers.

What happens when Americans can really speak Arabic? Here is a name for you to research: Hume Horan. He recently passed away. He was a career diplomat and Arabic speaker in the United States government. He learned Arabic in Lebanon and Tunisia (I believe). His Arabic was so good that it scared Arab government officials. The Saudis did not want an American who could speak Arabic so well (and understand the culture) on their streets mixing with the locals! Ha! They were afraid that he might give them a second opinion and cause them to really consider other viewpoints.

If Americans could speak Arabic, so much would be different. But let’s not focus on the woulds and coulds. We need Arabic learning and teaching in the United Sates and the world from a young age.

If we must talk about the war on terrorism, let’s consider that it is also a war against cultural misunderstandings and lack of communication in real time with real people. There is so much good to be exchanged between all cultures. Understanding one another might just prevent future wars.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Onomatopoeia in Arabic

I love onomatopoeia in English. Zap, Bang! Arabic has this linguistic phenomenon as well. Here is an example: غمغم /ghamghama/, which means to mutter or murmur (murmur is onomatopoeia in English!). The verb تمتم /tamtama/means the same and I think it is also an example of onomatopoeia.

Just an FYI...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Learning Arabic in Jordan

I spent the entire summer in Jordan working with American students, who were studying Arabic at the University of Jordan. It was a wonderful experience. I really fell in love with Jordan. Living there gave me many opportunities to meet and speak with real Jordanians, who were really living in Jordan. Living in a country is an excellent way to become familiar with current thought, life, and language.

The University of Jordan has a generic program for foreign students that is quite similar to that found at Damascus University. I was quite surprised to see that there were many similarities between the two. The classrooms looked similar, the language center looked similar, the staff was similarly busy running to and fro being most helpful - usually.

I met quite a few American and foreign students while I was there. It seemed to me, as I might have expected, that the private programs at the language center took precedence over the normal in-house courses. They seemed to receive more support and attention from the administration.

I learned a great deal about how foreign language programs are run in the Arab world. It is great that there are so many native Arabic speakers out there interested in teaching Arabic to us gringos. Unfortunately, I witnessed an unpleasant amount of paralyzing bureaucracy and careerism during my stay in Jordan in the program. I suppose this is a problem all over the world, but there is something about the region that increases this. I am not a psychologist so I will stop the speculation.

On a more positive note, I also witnessed some of the best Arabic teaching I have ever seen and some of the most generous teachers and administrators one could hope to encounter.

And wow, the food was sooooo great!

More details about my experience to come…

I'm back

مرحباً بكم

I guess I still get quite a few hits everyday. I think I might emerge from the shadows and whisper sweet nothings, that are really somethings to some, into this blog. It seems that lots of people all over the world want to learn about learning and teaching Arabic. مبروك عليكم


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

where am I?

This blog is not dead. This blog is not alive. I'm not sure what to say. I hope to go to a website. I think a website would be more useful.

There is lots of good info in my blog about learning Arabic. Good luck mining!


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Going to a web page

This blog will continue, but I am making a web page that will be easier to navigate. Click on the title of this post to go to my web page.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hashemite University Summer Intensive Arabic Program

Click on the title of this post to go to Hashemite University's website about their Summer Intensive Arabic program. Wow - Arabic programs are popping up all over the place! Anybody know anything about this one? I'll try to find out more about it when I am in Jordan this summer.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Arabic in Tunis

Here is some information about studying Arabic in Tunis. Anyone know anything about it? Click on the title to go to thier site.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Damascus University and Brigham Young University

My Alma Mater and Damascus University sign an accord for more student exchanges. Sounds like a great opportunity for both establishments. Click on the title of this post if you are interested in reading about it. Oops - the link no longer works. I am trying to find it on


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Basics of Iraqi Arabic

Click on the title to go to the Defense Language Institute's free online basics of Iraqi Arabic course complete with mp3s and more. Actually, this link takes you to a page where you will select the course. The course is, yes, basic but has some vocabulary that may come in useful. It is a bit on the military side, but much of the vocab and phrases are generic enough to be of use.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

School System Adds Arabic and Chinese

Click on the title of this post to go to an interesting article from about Arabic for middle and high schoolers. This is one of the keys to freeing the US from its monolingualism: get the kids to start learning foreign languages when they are younger so that when they grow up - the foreign languages aren't quite so foreign and seemingly unlearnable. This is one of the hot topics in education circles these days: How to get foreign language learning included the national standard exams.

Does your area offer any k-12 Arabic programs or classes?


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Jeremy's Arabic notebooks. Featuring "Spotlight" and making phone calls

So I have piles of language notebooks. I have digitized a few sections of one. I am considering putting my notes from my Syria program online. They would be seperated into Syrian colloquial and MSA. There may be some sub categories such as grammar, novels, news etc. What else would I do with all the knowledge I gained? I believe that sharing is caring folks. I will have to think about how and where to store all of these. They are currently in low resolution jpgs. I found that taking low res photos goes much faster than scanning or any other option I could think of. Tell me what you think and share ideas.

Above is an example of a vocab page from one of my notebooks. This is Syrian colloquial. The page on the right is from the Syrian TV series "Spotlight". The page on the left is notes from a speaking partner exchange.

Click on the photo to enlarge it. Oh, and I don't always complete my notes in English. Usually, but not always. For example on bottom of the left page there is the English that says simply "I will" - I should have written "I will no longer speak with you". The construction I was practicing was "to do something no more / no longer".

And don't take my word for everything. Learn from others' notes, but you should always verify and practice to make sure you and I are both correct.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Learning Arabic, and much more - in Amman

Click on the title of this post to go to the article "Learning Arabic, and much more" by Justin Martin a fulbrighter in Amman, Jordan.

It seems that there is a good deal of interest in expanding and creating Arabic programs for foreigners in Amman. I want to see the new multi-million dollar center for foreigners who want to study Arabic. Excellent.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Book Review: Top 1,000 Words for Understanding Media Arabic

I must first admit that I am a sucker for these types of books. This book seemed so cool on the shelf. This book is a collection of what Elisabeth Kendall considers to be the top 1,000 words you need to know to understand media Arabic. I bought this book from Powells for $11.95. The relatively cheap cost of this book is appropriate for what you get. The book is useful and does have many important words, but it also leaves much to be desired as far as organization is concerned. Here are what I consider to be problems with this book:

1) There is no mention regarding how this collection of words was gathered. I want to know whether a corpus engine was used and if so, which newspapers were harvested? The author writes the following vieled sentence in the introduction: "every effort has been made to select the most useful and/or common vocabulary items."

2) Not every effort has been made to organize this book. There are eight sections; general, politics, elections, military, economics, trade & industry, law & order, disaster & aid. Each section is anywhere from 4 to 24 pages long. The vocabulary items are not alphabetized. There are no subgroups. Each section is simply one long list of words with no apparent order.

3) This book is not a dictionary. You can't look up a word systematically. The book is listed as a reference book, though there is no index.

This book is potentially beneficial. Students, however, may want to reorganize the book in a more useful manner. The price of the book makes it worth buying. A little more information and organization from the author, however, would at least double the book's worth.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

To expand foreign language mastery, attitudes must change

Click on the title to go to the article at The author is David Maxwell.

Here is an article that is right up my alley of interest. The need for more students studying critical languages and people specializing in the teaching of foreign languages. I enjoyed the following quote from the article: A former "director of the National Foreign Language Center, Richard Lambert, called Americans 'the most devoutly monolingual people in the world.'"

It is sad that Americans are so monolingual. Many Americans have studied a foreign language but not enough to come close to our European friends.

Let's learn Arabic!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Status Report

This semester's beginning has hit me like a train. I will try and post soon. Let me know if there are any particular questions or issues that would be of interest.


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 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?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

CASA Damascus

It looks like CASA Damascus is becoming a reality! It looks like the program might start up in 2007. This is excellent for Syria and America. Stay tuned for more info. If you don't know what CASA is - it is the best consistent overseas intensive Arabic program in the world. It is presently in Cairo. What wonderful news that it is coming to Damascus. Here is general info about at

CASA Egypt Program

BTW - I got this info from an insider source that is 100% "in the know". I'm not sure when it will be announced in written format.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Simpsons become Shamsoon

The classic American cartoon The Simpsons is being Arabicised into The Shamsoons. Let me know what you think about the Arabic version! Here is a link to a newspaper article about it:
Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 24, 2005

Damascus University Arabic Center Website Change

It looks like the Arabic Center at Damascus University has changed to the following:

Arabic Center at Damascus University


The Amiyya vs. Fusha Debate is on


The debate is on. What do you think about the teaching and learning of colloquial Arabic vs. Modern Standard Arabic? When should a student learn colloquial? There are some universities in the US that teach both concurrently - though they are the exception. Most universities teach only Fusha for the first 2 years at least.

I am in the minority. I think, for reasons I shall post sometime, that students ought to learn colloquial and MSA at the same time. How about you? I have asked many students and many professors. This is "the" question in US Arabic academia. Let me know your thoughts.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

The importance of immersion / study abroad programs

A Ceiling Effect in Traditional Classroom Foreign Language Instruction: Data from Russian

Benjamin Rifkin
The Modern Language Journal
Vol. 89 Issue 1 Page 3 March 2005

This is an interesting article that provides data about the necessity of immersion and/or study abroad programs. Russian is a less commonly taught language (LCTL) like Arabic. Students who really want to learn Arabic must go to an immersion/study abroad program - preferably after having had a few (two) years of instruction in their country. The learning curve will be faster if you go to an immersion/study abroad program with significant preparation. Students who do not go on such a program may reach the ceiling of their proficiency. The reverse is also true - students who simply show up to the country may never reach a high level of proficiency if they do not have explicit instruction. This instruction could be received in the foreign country, but the methodologies and teaching may not be worth leaving your home country as a beginner.

Benjamin Rifkin is a quality instructor and researcher.

enjoy, Jeremy

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Learn Arabic from the BBC

كلمات في الأخبار

You really have to get creative to learn Arabic well. Here is one of many ways to learn more vocabulary. The BBC regularly provides an English learning service for Arabic speakers at their online site. This service is called كلمات في الأخبار which means Words in the News. Clicking on this will take you to a page that contains a short description in Arabic of a current news article from the BBC. After this short description, there are selections of the original English text followed by a vocabulary list of Arabic that explains the meaning of certain selected words from the article.

For example, an article about forest fires contained the following English text followed by Arabic Vocabulary:

"Most of those who died are thought to have been incinerated in their cars as they tried to escape the flames. They've been fuelled by a cocktail of high summer temperatures, gusting winds and tinder dry conditions."

احترق بالكامل

a cocktail

gusting winds
رياح عاتية

tinder dry conditions
جفاف شدي

Although this service is actually for Arabic speakers learning English, we can use it to our advantage and learn in the reverse. Below is the link to the كلمات في الأخبار online learning service. The title of the page is تعليم الإنجليزية. When this page comes up - choose an article and it will take you to the English and Arabic texts.

كلمات في الأخبار - Words in the News

Enjoy! Jeremy

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Article about Syrian Bloggers

Check it out:

Syria and Freedom of Speech Through the Internet from Reuters.

DAMASCUS, 4 September (IRIN) - Writing individual websites – or blogging as it is better known – is helping young Syrians re-engage with politics, users say, with dozens of web logs or "blogs" coming on line in the last year, promoting freedom of speech.

You can access the article at the link below


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Iraqi version of American Idol!

Check this gem out from the LA Times about the Iraqi version of American Idol:


Click on the option to watch the video clips and enjoy. It is somewhat sad, but worthy of attention.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Internet, Mailing, and Books in Syria


As far as I know, there are two options for dial-up in Syria: SCS (Syrian Computer Society) and dial-up from your local phone company. I recommend SCS because you can use a POP account and IP address, so you can use chat programs. ADSL is also available, but I heard it was quite expensive. There are plenty of net cafes around as well.


There are various places you can get a PO box. I know that AMIDEAST offers mail services to foreign students. I have heard, however, that it takes a long time for mail to arrive. I had a box in the US Embassy thanks to my grant.

More info

If you are interested in buying books, Beirut is a good bet. There are various western-type bookstores and a huge Virgin Records store that houses a large book section. I love walking around Bliss street in Beirut checking out the bookstores. AUC in Cairo is good also. Syria offers good books for those interested in Arabic literature, but not much for speakers of other languages.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Damascus University Arabic Site

Check it out! Damascus University's site is working. Well, only in English so far. Here is the link:

Arabic Language Center at Damascus University


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Benefits of Being Bilingual


WASHINGTON — Most will agree that two heads are better than one in solving problems. The same logic may be true for language and retaining cognitive processes as we age. Being fluent in two languages seems to prevent some of the cognitive decline seen in same-age monolingual speaking persons, according to the findings of a study appearing in this month’s journal of Psychology and Aging.

Go to full article here

If you get a "oops how did I get here from the APA site" you should simply type the words "Being Bilingual" into the search box at the top left side of the screen. The first article to come up should be this one.


More info:

Article: “Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control: Evidence From the Simon Task,” Ellen Bialystok, Ph.D., and Mythili Viswanathan, M.A., York University; Fergus I. M. Craik, Ph.D., Rotman Research Institute; Raymond Klein, Ph.D., Dalhousie University; Psychology and Aging, Vol. 19, No. 2.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at For more information about Psychology and Aging visit the homepage at

Monday, August 15, 2005

Interesting stuff coming soon

Hello All,

I am about to begin my PhD program. I have interesting articles and study helps coming soon. AlSabr jamiil.


Monday, July 25, 2005

New book about Arabic synonyms

Here is an interesting book that will be released soon. It is called Using Arabic Synonyms, by Dilworth Parkinson. The abundance of synonyms is one of the more frustrating aspects of mastering Arabic. This book should help.

Here's the description, and the link is below it.

Book Description
Designed for those who have already developed a basic competence in Arabic, this comprehensive synonyms guide aims to broaden and improve the learner's vocabulary by helping them find the right word for the right context. Presenting words of related meaning together, it provides a range of options which will help avoid repetition and improve style, enabling students to develop a deeper awareness of the subtle differences in meaning and usage of different words. Each entry is illustrated with authentic examples of the synonyms in use, showing their unique meanings and grammatical properties, and enabling students to quickly recognize them in real-life contexts. The book is complete with two clear indexes, in English and Arabic, enabling the reader to instantly and easily locate any word. An essential reference for college and undergraduate students, their teachers, and other language professionals seeking a clear, user-friendly guide to Arabic vocabulary and its usage.

About the Author
Dilworth B. Parkinson is Professor of Arabic in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages, Brigham Young University.

Here's the link

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Out of the office"

Busy traveling - more soon.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Letter of Thanks from an American Student

Here is a letter of thanks I wrote for my professors and the administration at Damascus University. I wrote it myself with a little help from a Syrian friend. Here it is

شكر من طالب أمريكي

اسمي جيرمي بالمر

أنا من الولايات المتحدة وقد درست اللغة العربية في مركز تعليم اللغة العربية التابع لـمعهد تعليم اللغات في جامعة دمشق. ليس لدي أي أقارب من أصل عربي، وليس لدي أي علاقة مع الشرق الأوسط، سوى رغبتي في تعلم اللغة العربية التي بدأتُ دراستها منذ خمس سنوات (قبل الهجمات في نيويورك وواشنطن).

وقد قضيتُ سنة وبضعة أشهر هنا في سورية، ووجدت أن سورية بلداً رائعاًً وشعبها لطيف ومضياف جداً. وبعد مدة قصيرة، أكون قد أمضيت سنة كاملة في برنامج لتعلم اللغة العربية في جامعة دمشق.

لقد سنحت لي فرصة عظيمة لدراسة لغتكم الجميلة والصعبة وتمكنت بفضل جهود أساتذتي وجهودي من كتابة هذه الرسالة التي أوجهها إلى أساتذتي والإدارة وكل العاملين في معهد تعليم اللغات في جامعة دمشق، لأنهم ساعدوني في دراستي، وحياتي، ومشاكلي، أكثر مما أستطيع أن أذكره في هذه الرسالة القصيرة.

أنا أكتب هذه الرسالة باللغة العربية بقلمي وبمساعدة ضئيلة. وأريد أن أقول إنني تعلمت أشياء كثيرة هنا في سورية ويجب القول إنني تعلمت أكثر من اللغة العربية. تعلمت كثيراً عن سورية، وشعبها، وسياستها، وإيجابياتها المتعددة، ومن الأشياء التي تركت علي تأثيراً كبيراً هي أهمية الاحترام والكرامة في كل جانب من الجوانب في المجتمع السوري فيجب علي أن أعترف بأنني لم أفهمكم دائماً، وارتكبت بعض الأخطاء خلال إقامتي هنا في سورية، وأريد أن أعتذر منكم، وخاصةً من أستاذتي في مركز تعليم اللغة العربية التي احتملت "غلاذتي" وأسئلتي الكثيرة، وحتى نقدي الذي لم يكن دوماً صحيحاً أو لطيفاً. وأخيرا أريد أن أشكر الإدارة، والأساتذة، وكل السوريين بشكل عام الذين ساعدوني في التعرف على ثقافتهم، ولغتهم، وطموحهم، وأحلامهم وأعد أن أنشر خبراً صحيحاً عنكم في أمريكا.

وإن شاء الله سأعود إلى سورية مرات أخرى في حياتي وسأراكم بالخير دائماً.

جيرمي بالمر

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Damascus University Arabic Language Institute Website - Coming Soon

Hello out there. I get many inquiries about Damascus University. I was told a day or two ago that their website should be up and running in about a week. I'll post it as soon as I get word.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Spotlight: One of the Best Ways to Learn Syrian Arabic

Scene from Spotlight

There are various ways and methods to learn the local dialect here in Syria. One of the best resources is located at There are a few drawbacks to this method, however. First of all, the text is somewhat basic. Serious students could complete the book in 6 months or even less. Also, it is made for English-speaking foreigners, some of the drills are really lame, and the dialogues are about as canned as you can get.

There is another way. One of the best ways to learn a language is using what some linguists call realia, which means using real news articles, radio broadcasts, films etc. I am not writing anything new here. I do, however, have a few suggestions for anyone who really wants to learn Syrian Arabic by using some fun Syrian realia. I had a friend who learned lots of Syrian Arabic from listening to radio programs. That is great, but such shows are often performed in a style of speech that is entertaining to listen to, but not very educated –sounding in real life. Don’t get me wrong, these are great – but people will laugh at you (as they did at my friend) if you speak exclusively like the people on the radio broadcasts.

There is a great Syrian Ramadan television series called SPOTLIGHT (Arabic – buqa’at Dau). During Ramadan, Spotlight is shown in the evening during the primetime television hours on the Syrian satellite channel. Each night, two or three episodes are shown, each lasting from about 5 minutes to an hour. Each episode is chock-full of high frequency greetings, phrases, and vocabulary. The most recent season, 2004, was the fourth season of the series. You can purchase complete seasons from many CD vendors for anywhere from 10 – 40 dollars. Look around before buying. Also, they are all in the format of VCDs.

Spotlight is a political and social satire. I should also mention that it is usually hilarious. My favorite actor is Basam Yakhour, who reminds me of my little brother. The humor is typically understandable to a western audience. This is not like the terrible (a’dam almuakhza) Egyptian movies.

What to do

Here is how I suggest using Spotlight to learn Syrian Arabic. You can easily adjust these suggestions according to your own ability and goals.

1) View a few episodes and choose one that looks interesting to you.
2) Watch the episode a few times yourself and see how much you can understand. Write down notes and questions.
3) Find a Syrian. Watch the episode through completely with them.
4) Have the Syrian ask you what you generally understood.
5) Watch it again with the Syrian and have them write down commonly used expressions and vocabulary.
6) Discuss the episode and build on your understanding.
7) Write down new phrases and vocabulary.
8) Practice these in various sentences with your Syrian friend.
9) Memorize them!
10) Use them in speech! Be clever and find a way to use them in your daily conversations with Syrians.

For those who want to go more in-depth…

11) Go through the episode scene-by-scene, or even sentence-by-sentence with the Syrian.
12) Write down what they are saying word for word. This takes lots of time, but it is really useful for learning. Try it and you will see. The more you do this, the easier it is and the better your Arabic becomes. This will help you with vocabulary and expressions, but also with understanding Syrian sentence structure – SYNTAX! This is extremely important. Speak like a Syrian, instead of simply translating your native language into Arabic.
13) Discuss new vocabulary and expressions in similar and different contexts from what is in the episode.
14) Memorize these expressions and vocabularies.
15) Use them in speech as often as possible so that they become solidified.
16) You may want to wait a day or two and then it’s on to the next episode. Doing this over and over will really improve your Arabic. You will find that yes, there are an abundance of expressions in Arabic, but hey, they are being repeated over and over.

Syrians will warm up to you if you use clever expressions in a suitable context and manner. This is one of the best ways I know to really learn the local dialect. Sure, you can learn a great deal by sitting around and visiting with Syrians, drinking tea etc., but if they know you are a foreigner, they will likely not diversify their speech with you. They will use simple Arabic – the stuff you hear from everyone. You need to listen to them speaking to each other and be able to rewind and discuss specific vocabulary and expressions. This is the beauty of SPOTLIGHT. OK, it is all scripted dialogue, but it is very rich in lexical breadth as well as accurate in usage and practice.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Interview in Syrian Newspaper

This is an article with the Syrian newspaper Al-Thawra about the 2nd annual conference of Teaching Arabic to Foreigners, which professors from all over the world attended

I have a small quote in the article - in the last section about foreign students


الاثنين 6/6/2005م

يعتبر موضوع الاختبارات مهما جدا في مجالات التدريس عامة وتدريس اللغة بشكل خاص وقد جاء التركيز على موضوع الاختبارات في المؤتمر الدولي الثاني لتعليم اللغة العربية لغير الناطقين بها.

والذي أقيم في معهد اللغات بدمشق مؤخرا لتدارك نقص حاصل في الأبحاث المتعلقة به فهو لا يزال بحاجة ماسة إلى عمل دؤوب ولأن المشتغلين بتدريس اللغة العربية للناطقين بغيرها لم يتوصلوا بعد إلى وضع اختبارات متكاملة تختص بتحديد مستوى إجادة العربية تماثل تلك التي نعرفها في اللغات الأخرى.

سورية أفضل مكان لتعلم اللغة العربية‏

ومحاور المؤتمر أربعة هي: أساليب الاختبارات والتقويم واختبارات التحصيل اللغوي واختبارات تحديد المستوى وإعداد اختبار عالمي لتحديد الكفاءة اللغوية بمشاركة نخبة من أساتذة اللغة العربية في مدن العالم وجامعاته ومراكزه المتخصصة.‏ وعن أهمية موضوع المؤتمر ومحاوره كانت لنا اللقاءات التالية:‏

بداية التقينا الدكتور وائل بركات مدير معهد تعليم اللغات الذي تحدث قائلا:يضم المؤتمر موضوعات تتعلق بتعليم اللغة العربية بشكل عام وهو متخصص بموضوع‏ (الاختبارات) وهو مهم جدا والهدف الأساسي من تلك الأبحاث محاولة إيجاد امتحان عالمي للغة العربية كباقي اللغات ( الانكليزية والفرنسية وغيرها) بمشاركة /25/ باحثا وباحثة من دول مختلفة من العالم مثل (الصين وأميركا واسبانيا وبلجيكا ودول عربية).‏ ويضيف د.بركات أن دمشق أصبحت قبلة جديدة لدارسي اللغة العربية ويوجد المئات من الطلاب يدرسون اللغة العربية فيها وهم مرتاحون للمستوى التدريسي والفائدة العلمية التي

يكسبونها إضافة إلى الجو الاجتماعي الدافىء الذي يعيشونه بحياتهم اليومية أما بالنسبة للمعهد فهو يضم عشرة مراكز وعشر لغات أجنبية هي ( الانكليزية والفرنسية والاسبانية والتركية والألمانية والفارسية والروسية واليابانية والايطالية والعبرية) إضافة للعربية وقريبا سيكون لدينا مركز لتعليم اللغة الصينية وقال: تقام دورات بشكل دوري لأعضاء الهيئة التدريسية ولطلاب الدراسات العليا و دورات إعداد الموفدين الذين يسافرون لمصلحة الجامعات والوزارات بسورية لإعداد أبحاثهم إضافة للدورات المفتوحة للعموم.‏

أعداد كبيرة ومن جنسيات مختلفة‏

ويقول الدكتور غسان السيد رئيس مركز تعليم اللغة العربية إن المركز يستقبل الطلاب منذ عام 1995 وبأعداد كبيرة ومتزايدة ومن جنسيات مختلفة وزاد‏ الإقبال على المركز في السنوات الأخيرة نتيجة السمعة الطيبة التي وصل إليها, وخاصة الطلاب الذين درسوا في المركز وعادوا إلى بلدانهم قدموا صورة ايجابية جدا عن سورية والحياة فيها وعن المركز وبشكل دائم نحاول تطوير عملنا من خلال إقامة ورشات عمل للأساتذة وتطوير المناهج التدريسية إضافة إلى الاتفاقيات الثقافية التي تعقد مع جامعات تعليم العربية في العالم من أجل تدريب الطلاب مثل جامعات (بريطانيا وفرنسا) وبعض الجامعات الأميركية والاسترالية والروسية والدانمركية.

الاختبارات في اسبانيا‏

ويقول الدكتور إغناثيو فيراندو أستاذ لغة عربية في جامعات إسبانيا إن الاختبارات الأسبوعية تعتبر أداة لتعليم العربية للطلبة الأسبان وقدم نبذة عن طرق تعليم اللغة العربية والمنهاج

التعليمي والتطبيقي الذي اتبعه في دروس مادة (لغة وسائل الإعلام العربية) وتحدث عن أهمية الاختبار.‏ كأداة صالحة لعملية تعلم اللغة العربية بشرط أن يكون هذا الاختبار دوريا يعتمد على ترسيخ المفردات والمعارف أثناء الدروس.‏

نحو توفل عربي‏

وقدم الدكتور الياس خلف نموذجا لاختبار يهدف إلى تحديد مقدرة الأجانب على استيعاب اللغة العربية وعلى غرار اختبار ( التوفل العالمي) ويقوم هذا المشروع على سير كفاءة المتعلم اللغوية ويركز على مهارتي الاستماع والكتابة بوصفهما معيارين يحددان مستوى فهم المتعلم للغة المنطوقة والمكتوبة .‏

الاختبارات أداة تعليم‏

بدوره أكد الدكتور ميسر أحمد المكي بأن الاختبارات تتعلق بالأساس بنظريات تعلم اللغة العربية والتي تبنى عليها محتويات الكتب المدرسية الخاصة لغير الناطقين بها ولكل كتاب طريقة تدريس خاصة ولكل طريقة تدريس تدريبات واختبارات خاصة بها ويؤكد ايضا على دور التقويم بالعمل الإداري وقال: إن رفع سوية التعليم والاختبارات جزء لا يتجزأ من التقويم والقياس للوصول إلى الاختبارات والمعيار العالمي.‏

اختبارات الكفاءة‏

د. حسين عبيدات من الأردن قال: إنه تم تطوير امتحانات الكفاءة باللغة العربية من قبل أساتذة متخصصين في الولايات المتحدة الأميركية وهذه الامتحانات تعطى للطلبة الذين يأتون للدراسة في البلاد العربية وتتناول الدراسة التي قدمها استعراض الاختبارات اللغوية بأنواعها المختلفة.‏

وأهدافها وما هو مطبق منها في مجال تعليم العربية للناطقين بغيرها ومدى مواءمتها لأساليب التدريس المتبعة وبينت الدراسة الامتحانات بنوع من التحليل وما لها وما عليها إضافة إلى اقتراحات وتوصيات في مجال تطوير اختبارات اللغة العربية بشكل عام واختبارات الكفاءة بشكل خاص.‏

وأهدافها وما هو مطبق منها في مجال تعليم العربية للناطقين بغيرها ومدى مواءمتها لأساليب التدريس المتبعة وبينت الدراسة الامتحانات بنوع من التحليل وما لها وما عليها إضافة إلى اقتراحات وتوصيات في مجال تطوير اختبارات اللغة العربية بشكل عام واختبارات الكفاءة بشكل خاص.‏

وضع العربية في أميركا‏

وتحدث الدكتور فواز العبد الحق من جامعة الأردن: عن وضع اللغة العربية في الولايات المتحدة الأميركية من منظور التخطيط اللغوي وعرف باتجاهات الطلبة دارسي اللغة العربية كلغة أجنبية في الولايات ورأيهم باللغة والثقافة العربية الإسلامية وإلى أي مدى تعتبر الثقافة العربية المحتوى الثقافي بمنهاج اللغة العربية وسيلة للتقريب أو للتبعيد بين دارسي اللغة العربية وأهل اللغة.

وقدم الباحث نموذجا من التخطيط اللغوي يأخذ بعين الاعتبار كل من المتغيرات اللغوية والسياسة اللغوية العامة على مستوى الوطن والجامعات والعوامل المتعلقة بالمتعلم ونتاجات التعلم وخلص إلى أن تعليم اللغة العربية هو من مصادر إثراء الدخل القومي.‏

اختبار الايسيكو‏

ويعتمد على تقويم اختبار الكفاية اللغوية في اللغة العربية الذي أعدته المنظمة الإسلامية للتربية والثقافة والعلوم (الايسيكو) وذلك وفقا للمعايير العلمية والأسس الموضوعية.

وقد قام كل من الباحث د. صالح بن حمد السحيباني والدكتور خالد الدامغ بإعداد بحث عن ذلك يضم المقترحات والتوصيات التي تسهم في تحسين ذلك الاختبار وتطويره.‏

الكفاءة اللغوية‏

وتقول أ. ديما بركات : إن مركز تعليم اللغة العربية التابع لجامعة دمشق قام بتحديث وتوزيع المستويات المعتمدة فيه وذلك حسب سلم المجلس الوطني الأميركي مما اقتضى تحديث مناهجه واختبارات تحديد المستوى التي‏ يخضع لها الطالب الجديد وذلك حسب معايير مستويات الكفاءة في السلم ذاته إذ لم تعد الاختبارات السابقة بشكلها الحالي كافية لقياس معرفة الطالب اللغوية بدقة.‏

وتضيف بأنها قدمت بحثا بالمشاركة مع أ. خلود سقباني يهدف إلى تحليل اختبارات تحديد المستوى المعتمدة في مركز اللغات بغية الوقوف عند نقاط ضعفها لتجاوزها والاستفادة من النواحي الايجابية فيها وللوصول إلى تقديم رؤية جديدة لاختبار يتناسب مع تلك المعايير لقياس مستوى الكفاءة اللغوية للطالب الأجنبي الجديد عند دخوله إلى المركز وذلك لوضعه في المستوى المناسب له.‏

مع الطلاب الأجانب‏

وفي لقاء أجريناه أخيرا مع عدد من الطلاب الأجانب الذين يدرسون العربية في المعهد:‏

قال جيرمي بارمر من أميركا إنه يحب اللغة العربية كثيرا ومعجب بالآثار والمناظر الجميلة الموجودة في المنطقة وأضاف إن سورية أفضل مكان لتعلم اللغة العربية ويقول:‏ إنني درست اللغة العربية في أميركا بسبب حبي لها وللشرق الأوسط وسكنت مع طلاب عرب ثم أتيت إلى سورية وهنا تعلمت اللغة العربية بالفصحى ويهتم الأساتذة هنا بالطلاب كثيرا وتوجد لديهم

كثيرا وتوجد لديهم طاقات وقدموا لنا الدعم والمساعدة بشكل كبير وحتى في حل جميع المشكلات التي قد نتعرض لها في التعليم

طاقات وقدموا لنا الدعم والمساعدة بشكل كبير وحتى في حل جميع المشكلات التي قد نتعرض لها في التعليم.‏

و ستيف روبرتسون طالب في المعهد أتى للمرة الثانية إلى سورية كانت الأولى سنة 2000 وبقي شهرا ثم غادر وعاد ثانية هذه السنة ليتعلم اللغة العربية ووجد تحسنا وتقدما بالتدريس بشكل كبير ويرى أن سورية تدرس اللغة العربية بشكل جيد ومتطور مقارنة مع باقي البلاد التي لا تزال تعتمد على الطرق القديمة ويقول إن اللغة العربية صعبة جدا ولكن بالمثابرة ومساعدة الأساتذة تمكنت منها حتى أنني أحب الفرق بين اللهجات العامية وأجد متعة في معرفتها وهذا جعلني أفهم الناس بكل لهجاتهم وعاداتهم وحتى المصطلحات الدقيقة التي يقولونها والمؤتمر فكرة ممتازة إذ توجد تحديات مختلفة فالطلاب يأتون من كل البلدان من العالم وممنوع التكلم بالانكليزية هنا بل بالعربية فقط وهذه تحديات خاصة باللغة وتختلف عنه في أميركا وهذا ما ساعدنا على التعلم بسرعة.

براءة سعيد الأحمد

ت: سامر محمود