Learn to Read Arabic

When I first started learning Arabic in preparation for moving to Jordan, I focused more on learning to speak Arabic than reading it. I figured I could get along for the short time I planned to stay there by asking people for information. 

Boy, was that a mistake!

Not long after arriving and getting a job as a language teacher, I was invited to join one of my students and her husband for an iftar meal. (Iftar is the meal Muslims have when breaking their fast at sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.) I felt honoured and accepted wholeheartedly. They lived in Jerash and would meet me at the bus station when I arrived. I had to get a taxi to the bus station and take the bus to Jerash. Easy enough?

The central bus station in Amman is located in Raghadan. I took a taxi there, and when I got out of the cab, I was overwhelmed. Hundreds of buses were there, coming and going in every direction. Which one should I take to Jerash? I looked at the side of the bus where the destination was written… in Arabic! I could read Arabic, but some buses were moving so quickly that I had no time to read where they were going. Finally, I stopped a hospitable-looking Jordanian fellow and asked him. He told me, "Oh, you just missed it! If they don't stop for iftar, another one will come in about 30 minutes, which could be another two hours." Would I make it?

Well, yes, I did make it as another bus to Jerash did, in fact, arrive 30 minutes later and drop me off in Jerash, where my student and her husband were patiently waiting just as the call to prayer (and thus, iftar) started.

My point in this story is that I underestimated the importance of learning to read Arabic, and I don't want you to make the same mistake. Yes, speaking and listening skills are essential in understanding any language because if you're going to understand a language, most of the time you will be spent speaking it and listening to others respond. However, learning to read (and subsequently write) Arabic is perhaps even more important when learning the language.

The Importance of Learning to Read Arabic

Learning to read Arabic has a way of spilling over into other areas and helps you become more proficient in learning Arabic, like listening, speaking, and writing. In fact, many Arabic scholars will give you the same advice when it comes to learning Arabic – the more you read and listen, the more you will become an effective language user.

Besides boosting your Arabic language skills in listening, speaking and writing, reading also helps you build your vocabulary. The more you build up your vocabulary, the more proficient you become at producing clear and compelling Arabic. This is important for beginners if you're learning Arabic.

However, reading is even more important and beneficial if you are at an intermediate level of proficiency in Arabic. By then, you've moved on from trying to learn essential Arabic words and have started to increase reading comprehension on various topics. At the advanced level, you're learning to improve your reading speed, and by the time you get to university, you'll have reached a level of reading that shows just how effective you are at using the Arabic language.

The Best Way to Learn Arabic is to Make Reading a Daily Habit

It's a fact of life that everybody develops habits, whether good or bad, throughout their lives. While it's easy to start and hard to stop bad habits, it's often the opposite regarding good habits. When developing the excellent habit of reading Arabic daily, we frequently make excuses for ourselves, like "I just don't have time" or "I'm just too tired today." However, once you start a habit, it often trumps the excuses you make, so make reading a daily habit and watch your Arabic language grow every day.

"How?" you ask.

Well, here are some tips that will get you started and keep you engaged in reading Arabic:
  • Silent reading – if you feel shy about making mistakes while reading Arabic, reading to yourself silently will help you understand the words and their meanings in context without the fear of making those mistakes; after all, you're the only one who can hear you.
  • Oral reading – once you've built up your confidence by reading silently, try reading the text out loud, first with yourself, then try it with a teacher or language partner.
  • Extensive reading – you can get the gist of what you're reading in Arabic by reading long passages for overall comprehension and not stopping to understand every word.
  • Intensive reading – If you start reading shorter passages in detail, you'll learn to understand every word and see how sentences are structured and punctuated, which will significantly help your Arabic writing skills.
  • Finish what you've started – Yes, it may be difficult at times, and you may feel lazy or discouraged to finish an Arabic reading passage (especially if it's a long one), but disciplining yourself to complete your reading task will help your Arabic improve and push you to new levels.
So there you have it. Once you've learned to read Arabic, you've opened yourself up to a new world of learning other critical Arabic skills, so do it and do it often.

If you would like to know more about all aspects of learning the Arabic language, please visit us at kaleela.com and download the Kaleela Arabic language learning app to your IOS or Android mobile device. It's one of the best Arabic language learning apps available today for learning to read, write, speak, or listen to Arabic.