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« on: Dec 17, 2007 02:25 AM »


Do you have any? Cuz this is really hard.
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« Reply #1 on: Feb 18, 2008 05:10 AM »

Learning Arabic by S. Hussain

My experience of foreign students is that they tend to rush into Islamic Studies without first having put in the necessary groundwork in terms of their Arabic. This is to some extent understandable, as most people have only a limited amount of time they can be away from home. However, it is definitely worth doing some focused language studies before embarking into the Islamic Sciences, especially if one is willing to study for a number of years (6 or more), as really is necessary to understand all the main sciences at a good level. I suggest that a beginner might find it useful to go through the following steps:

1 - Work through an English-Arabic textbook, or two, and learn the vocabulary and grammar systematically.

The majority of people tend to start either with a basic classical Nahw text (like al-Ajrumiyyah) or a modern Arabic textbook for teaching Arabic to foreigners (e.g. al-Kitab al-Asasi or The Medina University course). My experience of learning Arabic and seeing how much progress people who have taken various different routes to the language have made, has demonstrated to me beyond doubt that both of these approaches are grossly deficient.

Classical Nahw texts were written by Arabs (or scholars of the Arabic language) who spoke fluent classical Arabic, for Arabs who spoke fluent classical Arabic, as a means to analyse the language. It was never intended that texts like al-Ajrumiyyah would be used to teach foreigners Arabic! This is clear from even a cursory look at the way the books present the information - the focus is entirely on abstart theorising of grammatical categories, rather than practical usage.

As for al-Kitab al-Asasi etc., quite apart from the several errors in these books, they were written for use by modern Arabic teachers, who can’t speak the languages of their internationally diverse students. Using them, when one has recourse to much more accurate, much more systematically laid out and much more complete grammars of the Arabic language written in one’s own mother tongue, is I believe a terribly inefficient way to start.
I would suggest Haywood and Nahmad - the grammar covered is to a good level and is systematically presented. You should aim to get through at least the first 35 chapters, which means memorising the vocabulary and being able to do the excercises in your head. Note that this may require you to do the exercises and go over the grammar a number of times (e.g. six, seven or even more). In particular, you should understand and memorise the weak verb tables (e.g. (i) doubled verbs - you should know the difference in verb conjugation between verbs on the patterns radda yaruddu, farra yafirru and malla yamallu, (ii) defective verbs - you should know the difference in verb conjugation between verbs on the patterns nasiya yansaa, da’aa yad’u and ramaa yarmee). As a second textbook, Teach Yourself Arabic, Tritton (published around 1950, not the modern textbook) is very useful - it will reinforce the rules you learn from Haywood and Nahmad, as well as provide extra vocabulary and useful phrases.
2 - After about Chapter 23 of Haywood and Nahmad, you should be able to start reading (with some difficulty at first, and with the help of a dictionary) stories for children in Arabic.

In particular, Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi has a number of books in this genre, such as Qisas al-Nabiyyeen and al-Qira’at al-Rashidah; both series are written especially for foreigners learning Arabic by someone who was an expert of the language. As your reading becomes more fluent, and once you’ve completed up to about Chapter 30, you should start reading as much modern and classical authors as you can. Try various authors - it’s vital at this stage not to pick someone who’s style one finds too difficult, as that can be off putting. It’s important also to vary what you read - it’ll help maintain interest and increase your vocabulary.

Three authors deserve special mention, namely Ramadan Buti, Yusuf Qaradawi and Mohammad al-Ghazali - all have a lot of literature on a fairly wide range of subjects, and, though one might not necessary agree with all of the ideas expressed in their works, as the topics they address are contemporary and interesting, it will certainly help your Arabic. If you want to read something more classical at this stage, then both Abu Hamed al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyya should be considered, as they both have a very readable and relatively easy style (except of course in their more technical works, like Ghazali’s al-Mustasfa, his work on Usul al-Fiqh, which should be avoided). May I suggest something like ‘Minhaj al-Abidin’ by al-Ghazali as a starting point? In addition, any small monographs you find on subjects of interest to you would be useful at this stage.

It is imperative, when reading, to take down and memorise the useful vocabulary you come across (i.e. vocabulary that will help you express yourself and converse at a high level with other students and, later your teachers - too high a focus on concrete vocabulary items, such as the names of various vegetables, flowers, will at this stage be a hinderance). Keep the vocabulary sheets for the different books you read separate - this will help you, later on, to indentify the preferred style of different authors, as well as notice mistakes in the lexical usage of modern authors (e.g. many authors like to use the verb tasaa’ala to mean ‘to wonder’, wheras, in fact, it has no such meaning in classical Arabic, and is an entirely modern, and therefore, stricly speaking, incorrect use).

3 - At some point (but not before you’ve learn’t Arabic!) you will have to start working through an Arabic grammar book - probably something like ‘al-Durus al-Naywiyyah’, three books in a single volume, which will introduce you to the grammatical terminology used by the Arabic grammarians, as well as introduce you to the science of I’rab (parsing sentences, which the beginner should not concern himself with, despite what any well-meaning Arabic teacher would have you believe!). I suggest that you do books one and two well - memorise all the information and be able to parse the example sentences without difficulty. I strongly advise against studying anything classical at this stage (e.g. ‘Qatr al-Nada’) - it will be far too detailed, and it’s unlikely that you’ll derive significant benefit. At a more advanced stage, as far as advanced Arabic-English grammars go, you should consider ‘Wright’s Grammar’ and ‘A Grammar of Classical Arabic’ (Fischer).
4 - In terms of dictionaries, for the moment I Imagine Hans Wehr is sufficient - it covers all the usages that you are likely to encounter at the start of your Arabic education, and is very well laid out. It should be noted however that this is, strictly, a modern Arabic dictionary, based on the usage of Arabic in the media and by modern writers. As such, it is replete with errors from a classical Arabic viewpoint, and should not be relied upon by the serious advanced student (although, for the reasons mentioned earlier, he will continue to find it useful). My advice is that once you attain some degree of fluency in you reading, you should use Hans Wehr in conjuction with a dictionary for advanced learners, namely Hava. The latter will give you the classical signification of a term, but the definitions given are sometimes, due to their berevity, not entirely clear, and at other times unwieldy. You should also start using an Arabic-Arabic dictionary as soon as you feel able. I have found ‘al-Mu’jam al-Wasit’ to be the most helpful - it’s published by the Cairo Arabic Language Academy. At a more advanced stage, you should Lane’s Lexicon for Arabic-English dictionaries (an unparrallelled work in 8 volumes), and ‘Mukhtar al-Sihah’ for Arabic-Arabic dictionaries.

Abi Nur

Last year I completed the third year of Abi Nur’s 3 year Arabic program for foreigners (Ta’hili); although it has a number of shortcomings, the most patent of which is the ridiculous number of subjects (seventeen!), many of which are of little to no benefit, I would still recommend it to anyone who wants an overview of the Islamic Sciences and what they involve from a traditional perspective. Subjects covered include Hadith (memorising most of Nawawi’s 40 Hadith and reading a modern commentary), Usul al-Hadith (’al-Bayquniyyah’), Fiqh (Shafi’i - ‘al-Fiqh al-Manhaji’, a modern text by three Damascene scholars) Nahw (’Tahdheeb Qatr al-Nada’) and so on. In the second year, one is expected to memorise Juz 29, and in the third year an equivalent of another 2 Juzs from various parts of the Quran (I don’t know about the first year as I went straight into the third year, but I suspect that you have to memorise Juz 30); opting out of any of the subjects is not an option. The main benefit for me was being able to listen, for 6-7 hours every day, to reasonably good Classical Arabic from the teachers.
Abi Nur also does a 6-level program for beginners, with each level lasting 2 months. I’m afraid I don’t have much detail on this program, but I know it is ongoing. Although Level 1 is in theory for complete beginners, you should work through at least some of the steps above before enrolling to really benefit. The focus is solely on Arabic, although one is obliged to attend Tajwid lessons too (there is no Quran memorization).

As with any course, how much the student gets out of these above-mentioned programs is really down to his dedication, intelligence and organization. Students have been known to start speaking very good Arabic after only a few weeks of studying, and others cannot manage it even after a number of years.

Private Studying

The other option is to study privately, i.e. one teacher to a small group of students, usually in the teacher’s house or else in a mosque. Most long term students tend to try combining studies at an institute with private studies. Short term students usually go for one or the other, depending on how much they’ve done before coming to Damascus - really, to study privately with a good teacher, one would need to have a good grasp of spoken Classical Arabic. The advantage over studying at an institute is that one can just focus on the subjects which are to one’s interest, the quality of the teachers is generally higher, and one gains a much better feel for what studying traditionally would involve. However, it isn’t necessarily very easy to find good private teachers; one needs to be fairly well connected with people who’ve been here a while, and even then people are often reluctant to ’share’ their teachers with others. Even once one has started studying, there is every possibility that things like financial or time constraints on the teachers, or even government restrictions (all private teaching has to be approved!), will mean that the lessons are cancelled, meaning that you have to find another teacher.

There is actually a lot more that could be said on these topics, but I think that’ll do for now! I hope it’s of some use.

Wassalam
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2008 09:49 PM »

Assalaamu alaikum

I hope the following points may be useful to the discussion raised about tips for
 learning Arabic. The points below focus on learning grammar and tips for learning in general.
 More significantly, I have tried to include helping one to change their whole outlook about
 the Arabic language - that is, that it is not hard at all, in reality, and this is a
 point discussed below. So the first point:

1. Some of the people of knowledge say that Arabic (for some) starts off (seeming) hard,
 but at the end of it, everything becomes easy - bi-idhnillaah. I bear witness to the
 truth of this statement.

More progression into this beautiful language will make it easier and easier to
 understand and grasp inshaa Allaah, such that it will even feel more natural than your own
 language. If not that, then, when you write with it, it will feel like you are writing and
 thinking in your own language while in reality, you are writing in Arabic, and thinking in
 Arabic - this is what some have expereinced (including myself walhamdulillaah - even though
 I am still learning it). So this is the first point about its reality and that the ease
 will come inshaa Allaah but it requires sincere work and effort - as you know.

2. This work and effort ought to pre-occupy all of the student's spare time, and he
 should be very seriously attentive to his studies. It will help greatly if the student removed
 everything in his way that will interfere with his study as well as anything that will
 spoil or affect his reflection of what he studies. Reflection is important when studying
 and one needs a clear mind for this.

3. With this clear mind, one ought to proceed studying this language in a process of
 deliberate, organised steps and not something learnt hurriedly. This point is useful
 especially for home-study students. Learning it too quickly will affect the qaulity of one's
 understanding and will place stress on the heart and body. Such stress - even if one does not
 realise it immediately - will weaken the mind's ability to grasp the material; and
 something that is not difficult, will appear difficult because the heart and body are not
 fully relaxed . This will spoil one's ability to reflect, ponder, and connect his areas of
 knowledge. Trying to connect what he is learning is very useful.

4. Via connecting, one is able to start to see the beautiful harmony of the various parts
 of the Arabic language and how they naturally blend with each other to present deep and
 penetrating meanings, coherent and structured. This will help him to start to have a
 basic "overview" of how Arabic "operates" as a language. Also, having an unhurried pace will
 allow the soul to actually enjoy learning Arabic and will taste the sweetness of the
 language of the Quraan - something probably not tasted fully by those who learn it too fast.
 These sentiments are something very precious to the student learning Arabic -especially
 the home-student who is not forced to follow the pace of a college or not fully versed
 teacher - and such sentiments will serve as an great incentive and drive to want to learn
 more.

5. For home-study students, having good Arabic grammar books are very important. The way
 Arabic grammar is taught in a book may contribute to a student's impression about Arabic.
 If the author of a book has not got the ability to present material in a way that makes
 it easy to understand, then people must not "blame" the language. It is certainly not the
 language but just the author's inablity to write or teach well. Conversly, an author who
 has got the ability to impart his knowldge of Arabic in a way that actually shows the
 clarity and beauty of Arabic, then this will help students form the right impressions of
 Arabic. In this regard, it is good to stick to authors who have scholars or have some
 scholarship in the language and are known authorities in the field of Arabic.

6. Allaah -subhaanahu wa ta'aalaa says: "Wa la qad yassarnal-Quraana li-dhikree fa hal
 min muddakkir" [soorah Qamar] "Indeed We have made the Quraan easy to understand and
 remember. So is there any that will remember or receive admonition?"

Allaah emphasised to His believing slaves that the language of His Book is not difficult
 but easy to understand. He mentioned the above then He - subhaanahu - repeated His
 statement. Then once again, then again. So there are four repetitions of this statement which
 if the student of Arabic has true eemaan in, will not find his journey to learning Arabic
 difficult in reality. And Who is more Truthful than Allaah in Speech? Indeed Allaah is
 the Most Truthful in Speech; He is the Most Perfect in every sense.

7. The above Noble aayah is also in harmony with the general principle in Islaam and that
 principle is one of facilitation and ease for the Muslim. Thus Allaah says:

   
"..Yureedullaahu bi-kumul-yusra wa laa yureedu bi-kumul-usraa.." [soorah baqarah] "Allaah
 wants ease, and prosperity and richness for you, and He does not want hardship, distress
 and poverty for you" [trans. of the meaning].

8. Up to there, I hope the reader is seeing how one's attitude about Arabic can affect
 one's perception of it and this perception affects his learning the langauge. I also hope -
 up to here - some practical tips are being imparted too. To continue...

9. I think it is always good to remind ourselves that the strength of our obedience to
 Allaah and distance from sins-minor and of course major - is something that plays a very
 great part in making learning Arabic - as well as the doing of good deeds in general - easy
 and manageable. It is therefore no surprise that if we were to ask a scholar for some
 tips about learning Arabic, the first "tip" he would probably give is that the student
 should be careful to  abandon every sin, and strive to be obedient to Allaah to the best of
 his ability. This is because sins and weaknesses are the real obstacles to learning, and
 difficulties in learning can return back to causes such as the slave's own sins or
 weaknesses. Allaah says:

"Watta qullaaha wa yu-'allimu-kumullaah" [soorah baqarah] "Fear Allaah and be obedient to
 Him just as He loves and has prescribed, and Allaah teaches you". [trans of meaning]

This means the Muslim as well as the student of Arabic, is one who ought to frequently
 turn to Allaah seeking His forgiveness and singling Him out in seeking help to understand
 Arabic. It is none but Allaah Who can make us understand the rules and grammar
 constrctions etc. But if we were to have eemaan in His statements (such as those statements quoted
 above)  - and this eemaan is different to just knowing and repeating the aayaat on the
 tongue - rather it goes much deeper than that, emanating from one's heart - as is known - so
 if we were to have eemaan in Allaah's Words, and seek Allaah's Help and forgiveness, and
 make a sincere effort to learn, and not believe that Arabic is difficult in reality, and
 not listen to the whisperings of Shaytaan who casts doubts into our hearts but
 counter-attack him by seeking refuge in Allaah constantly, and not let our sins and weaknesses
 (like too much sleep, too much food, too much talk and socialising) ruin what we are trying
 to build, and not be hasty in what we are learning, and not depend on ourselves or our
 teachers or our books but upon Allaah Alone and trust that He will teach us for indeed
 Allaah desires that we learn the language of His Book and ponder it and act upon it more than
 we desire this for our own souls - then if we did all this, and we persisted in this,
 such that these matters become part of our actions to the extent that others will start to
 recognise this as being part of us  - then - inshaa Allaah - the heart will start to
 become purified, and will be given such strength and abililty by Allaah that will enable it
 to understand and grasp easily what others are still struggling to grasp in Arabic.

And, if Allaah Wills to open this heart up, then learning Arabic will become an easy and
 natural thing in a way you never expected it to. Following this, everything will be a
 delight and ease for you in the learning of Arabic - bi-idhnillaah - just as the statement
 of the people of knowledge  - at the start of this post - alluded to. And we have the
 re-assurance of Allaah Himself:

"And indeed We have made the Quraan easy to understand and remember..."

And Allaah knows best.
Wassalaam.

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« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2008 08:05 PM »

Jazakallah khair for the beautifully written encouragement.

I've recently been trying to get back into studying Arabic and reviewing and sometimes it just like feels like I'm looking at a huge mount everest that I'll never be able to scale, but I guess I should think of it as little hills and valleys and me traveling a long the path and even on the way seeing beautiful sights!

ws
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« Reply #4 on: Jun 16, 2008 06:42 PM »

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullaah

I have noticed quite a serious transliteration typing error which I have made when I attempted to transliterate an aayah from soorah al-Baqarah in my reply to "Tips for Learning Arabic" [reply#2]. Please kindly correct this error as soon as possible - otherwise my mistake reflects a meaning than is not correct - may Allaah forgive me. The correction is:

"Yureedullaahu bi-kumul-*yusra* wa laa yureedu bi-kumul-usraa" [soorah al-Baqarah aayah no. 185]

meaning: 'Allaah wants ease, prosperity and richness for you and does not want hardship, poverty and distress for you'.

My excuse is that I am not very good at transliterating Arabic.

Jazaakallaahu khayraa.
Wassalaamu alaikum.

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« Reply #5 on: Jun 18, 2008 07:24 AM »

I'm learning arabic nowadays... in a class...

It's really cool because the teachers refuse to speak in any other language, so you are forced to communicate in arabic (or in my case, sign language).  It's 12 hours a week, and they give you about 6 hours worth of homework.  Really basic, but time-consuming stuff.

I tried self-study, and it was the absolute worst combination (me and a self-help book). I find this to be way easier.
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« Reply #6 on: Jun 26, 2008 06:06 AM »

Salam,

I've tried really hard doing Arabic self-study but it's impossible.  fez  I only know 2 people who have been able to do this (my dad and one other sister that was valedictorian of her law school!) and they are extremely extremely disciplined people (ie getting up at 7am by themselves to study etc). I think no one else can learn this way. The best thing is a class, a teacher or going overseas. 

Good luck on your Arabic inshallah Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: Jul 03, 2008 06:35 PM »

  Patience in your studies…

A patient student will realize that Arabic is an ancient language, and does not always have to make sense in their native English. One has to think like an Arab in order to fully grasp the beauty and eloquence of the language. There have been a few test questions I’ve gotten wrong simply because I answered it the way an American would look at the question and not from an Arab perspective. Instead of letting my frustration get the best of me, I told myself I have to have patience and think like an Arab if I want to understand their language and culture. Below are a few helpful tips for dealing with the downs…

Patience with Vocabulary


One single Arabic word can encompass great meaning. Get used to writing the definitions for your vocabulary in Arabic and wean yourself off of relying on English equivalents.

Fi3l-Friendly: Learn and memorize Sarf tricks to help you with verb conjugation. It makes life so much easier.

Ism Orientation: It definitely takes a lot of patience and interest in order to retain Arabic vocab.  It’s best whenever learning a new word to find out its forms in singular, plural, feminine, masculine, as well as its synonyms and opposite. When you learn a new ism in its singular form it’s best to use Sarf tricks to help you figure out its plural on your own.

Don’t hate the Harf:
You may find yourself feeling frustrated at times when you cannot find an English equivalent for a fi3l-harf combination and can’t make sense of it. To put it simply, Arabic is an age-old language, (much much older than English) so give it the respect it deserves. Whenever you learn a new verb make a point to memorize the harf(s) that go along with them and understand that using the wrong harf can instantly change the meaning (ex. Raghba fi vs. Raghba 3an) !

Patience with handwriting


Learning how to write clearly and quickly from right to left takes lots of effort. Mechanical pencils with really good erasers will become your best friends. Once you master the letters and how to write them properly in their beginning/middle/end forms, get used to the following shortcuts:

- Draw a  short horizontal line instead of two dots for the Ya or Ta.

- Use an upside down ‘V’ instead of three dots for the Sheen or Tha

- Curve the end of the Noon into its empty center instead of drawing a dot above it

- Curve the end of the Kaf into the empty center instead of drawing a hamza in the middle. [In it's end form]

- Draw the Ta Marboota at the end of the word as if it is upside down V shape, no dots required

Patience with Teachers


Know that you are privileged to have an Arabic language specialist sitting in front of you ready to weed our all your mistakes. I’ve found that when speaking to friends in fus-ha they don’t often correct my mistakes and as long as they understand the intended meaning of my speech they carry on the conversation as if I’ve said everything correctly. My Arabic teachers at school are much stricter alhamdulilah and if your teacher is not being strict with you in that sense then I suggest you bring that to her attention. My teachers listen to every sound and test my every word. Or if there’s a better way of getting my point across they’ll correct my sentence and give me better wording to use. Have patience and hang onto your train of thought because they may often stop you mid sentence to correct you, don’t take it personally.

Patience with Your Peers


Keep in mind that you may take longer than your friends to achieve the same results. You may require more study time than your roommates…handwriting may take a lot more effort for you while you see your classmates already finished writing the lesson from the board. Have patience with yourself and know that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Sammer and I, for example, are a complementary pair of classmates because the areas she’s stronger in I’m struggling in and the areas I’ve grasped faster may take more effort on her part. Since we were in level one we’ve always managed to score between .5 and 2.5 points difference between eachother and it always alternates, either she’ll score higher than me by a couple points or vice versa. Competition is healthy but only when your intentions are sincere and you allow it to motivate you to do your best. Don’t let it get you down.


From a sister studying Arabic in Cairo: http://aliainegypt.muslimpad.com/2008/07/03/patience-in-your-studies/
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« Reply #8 on: Jul 13, 2008 07:31 AM »

Assalaamu alaikum

Please tell us what you mean when you say we should "think like an Arab".

Please give us some practical scenarios / questions, and answer them
the way an Arab would think, as well as an English-speaker, so that we can see the difference insha Allaah.

Shukran yaa 'ukhta-naa fil-islaam

Wassalaam

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« Reply #9 on: Jul 13, 2008 07:46 AM »

wsalaam wrt,

I'm not sure what the author meant as that was a blog entry of her's, but I think she means think like an Arabic-speaker, not necessarily "Arab" as in a person of Arab origin, cuz we all know the dialects the average arab speaks is quite different from classical Arabic that we are trying to learn.

An example that I'm forcing myself to get used to now that my sister in law is here who only speaks Arabic is staring with the verb always. So for example:

English: Where were you?
English: I was in the kitchen.

Arabic: Ayna kuntee?
Arabic: Kuntu fil matbakh.

English: The man went to the market.
Arabic: Dhahaba al-rajul ila souk.

So it's always verb first in Arabic and Subject first in English. So you have to switch how you communicate.  I always think subject verb even in Arabic but then my mind switches them for the final output so if I could fix this I would be a more fluent Arabic speaker. Also like Arabic has He/she for stuff and no it, just like French's la and le.

Also once you learn some Arabic when you read English translations you pick up on translation mistakes. You just know the Arabic translation (without even reading the Arabic) was something else but then they translated it as something else in English. I forget examples of where I noticed this, but it's interesting when they pop up.

If you know some Arabs who are learning English you can note their mistakes in how they speak English and you can pick up why they speak like that because they are trying to translate from Arabic to English. Like the forgetting of conjunctions and certain verbs.

So the best thing for people trying to learn languages is to try to wholly put themselves into the mindset of that language. To "think" in that language, and as they say, you know you have mastered a language if you dream in it.

um aboodi
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« Reply #10 on: Jul 13, 2008 05:05 PM »

salam
 

try to watch old arabic cartoons or kids programs.  they speak fus-ha in those.  a show called "iftah ya simsim" is very good.  look for it on you tube or try to buy DVDs of it online.

take care
wassalam
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« Reply #11 on: Jul 15, 2008 06:40 AM »

Assalaamu alaikum

Many thanks to the author of reply #9.

May I add that it is not always the verb first in Arabic when wanting to express something. For example to say:

'The man went to the market'

- can be expressed in the form of a jumlah fi'liyyah - as you have done, or as a jumlah ismiyyah. i.e.:

1) dhahaba r-rajulu ila s-sooqi [fi'liyyah]

2) ar-rajulu dhahaba ila s-sooqi [ismiyyah].

Although the translation in English is one and the same, the Arabic reflects two meanings by virtue of whichever word you begin your sentence with - either verb [no. 1] or subject [no.2].

This is just one illustration of the preciseness and therefore beauty, of the Arabic language.

Wassalaam.

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« Reply #12 on: Jul 15, 2008 06:46 AM »

wsalaam,

true, but i believe all my teachers would mark that wrong. i know it's done as emphasis or poetical form in certain things like the Quran, but it's not the usual way arabic grammar is supposed to go? i believe the general rule is verb first w'Allahu alam. 
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« Reply #13 on: Jul 19, 2008 09:39 PM »

Assalaamu alaikum

I forgot to mention [in my reply at #11] that this is what I learnt from a respected professor of Arabic to whom I put a question about knowing the difference between a jumlah fi'liyyah [verbal sentence] and ismiyyah [nominal sentence] in which the translation is seemingly the same.

Briefly: to choose a fi'liyyah over an ismiyyah indicates you want to focus on the verb - i.e. the *action* of the subject, not the subject itself. You would do this, for example, when the listener already knows who/what the subject is.

But starting with an ismiyyah, indicates you want to focus on the *subject* itself, and not their action initially, even though what may follow afterwards in your sentence, is merely information about what they did [ie. an action of theirs].

But the focus is distinct for each usage, allowing for a purer and clearer response.

Eg: Bilaalun saafara

The correct translation is: 'It is Bilaal who travelled.' [i.e. it is not his brother, or his freind or anyone else but Bilaal who is the one who travelled].

Whereas: Saafara Bilaalun

-indicates you were wondering something about Bilaal and that thought was: did he or did he not travel? You were not wondering *who* travelled: i.e Bilaal, or his brother, or his freind or anyone else.

With some reflection, one will see the difference between these subtleties very easily and this is something that allows for a purer, more fluent expression as I mentioned earlier. It also highlights to me something of the exactness and richness of the Arabic language giving rise to more appreciation and love for it.

Wallaahu 'alam.
Wassalaam.

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« Reply #14 on: Aug 10, 2008 07:53 PM »

Assalaamu alaikum

I've been pondering more on what might be included in the meaning of the statement: "think like an Arab".

In English, for example, there are certain words and phrases called 'cliches or 'catch-phrases' where the meaning is clear to English speakers but not necessarily to non-English speakers. Eg:

a) 'Making a mountain out of a molehill' or

b) 'Out of the frying pan and into the fire'.

An English speaker will know what is meant by these phrases and will understand the point being made.

I wonder if this is also the case with Arab speakers with 'phrases' particular to their language/custom?

For example I've read the phrase:

'May your mother be bereaved of you'

I would probably have to think like an Arab here to understand what is meant, otherwise I would not have much of a clue.

I also read in Saheeh Bukhaaree in the glossary that some words are just exclamatory expressions and the literal meaning is not what is meant but an Arab will use it to express something else - eg. disapproval etc.

I hope someone can ask their Arabic teacher and give me a more definite response inshaa Allaah.

Wallaahu 'alam.
Wassallam
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« Reply #15 on: Aug 13, 2008 08:45 PM »

as salaamu alaykum,

there are other ways that the Arabic language differs from English; for example in a simple sentence construction in Arabic you would say 'Ureedu an adhhaba ila al-masjid' which would literally translate into English as 'I want that I go to the masjid'.  The fact that both the first and the second verb are in first-person form and that the particle 'that' is needed differs from normal English ('I want -to go- to the masjid.')  So the Arabic ('He wants that he goes; he likes that he studies') differs from the English construction ('he wants to go; he likes to study').

Another interesting thing is in terms of istithnaa - using the term 'illa' ('except').  In English, when you say "all of something 'except' something else", you assume that the second thing is a *part* of the first. 

Example: All of the students went to the school except Zayd.

This indicates that Zayd was one of the students too, but he did not go to the school.  In Arabic, that would not necessarily be the case and you would have to look at the context of the statement.  It's perfectly acceptable in Arabic in some instances to use the word 'illa' [except] in such a way that the second thing is NOT part of the first, for example to say 'All of the men went except Zainab' or 'All of the people went except the donkey.'  I believe this is called Istithnaa Munqati'. 

An example of this from the Quran is in Suratul A'araf ayah 11:

And surely, We created you and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being); then We told the angels, "Prostrate yourselves to Adam", and they prostrated themselves, except (illa) Iblis (Satan), he refused to be of those who prostrated themselves.



We know that Iblis was of the Jinn and not of the angels, so we can see here how the exception is not a part of the former group.  pretty interesting I think Smiley

When a student of Arabic gets into balagha (usually translated as rhetoric, studying poetry etc and seeing how language can be made eloquent) and learns about the forms of majaaz (metaphors and others tools of expressiveness in language), you will find some very beautiful and interesting stuff, some things that cross over into English and other things that do not.

Something else interesting I learned recently is that basically there is no such thing as a synonym in Arabic!  Every word and adjective has a very specific and particularized meaning that differs from the other words out there that are similar.  This is why a lot of times in Arabic you will find a description of something with tons of adjectives, one after the other, each giving a different shade or impression which in the end gives a very clear and beautiful picture; while if you tried to translate that same passage literally into English, it would just sound repetitive and long-winded.  In English I think the more precise and short the description is the more effective, especially in modern day...

Allahu 'alam...

wasalaam
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« Reply #16 on: Aug 21, 2008 06:35 AM »

Assalaamu alaikum

The following tip is to help improve your Arabic writing ability inshaaAllaah. It will apply to those who have some knowledge of grammar. However, the tip is a personal opinion and observation. If it is in accordance with the Haqq then all praise is for Allaah; and inshaaAllaah it will benefit others too.

Some questions need to be posed first as follows:

When you write in your own language [eg. English for most people visiting this board] - when you write in English, then:

a) Do you have the ability to express yourself clearly?

b) Can you construct sentences in a way that makes it easy to grasp the point you wish to make?

c) Can you write in a 'polished' fashion without the use of extra, unecessary words, successfully avoiding what writer's call "wordiness"?

d) Is your writing free of ambiguity?

If you have answered 'yes' to all these questions, then inshaaAllaah, this reflects you have some ability to *think* clearly. Clear thinking is a foundation for clear writing. This is because clear writing is the product of, and stems from, clear thinking [as language teachers will tell you].

Conversly, if your writing is poor, this reflects that your thoughts are not clear. All of this will show up in your writing since this is how it appears to you when you think.

How does this link to writing clearly in Arabic? You can take the ability you have been given by Allaah - which is being able to write clearly in English - and apply this ability to help you construct a clear sentence in Arabic bi-idhnillaah.

This is because the mental processes needeed to write clearly in English, are actually the same processes needed to write clearly in Arabic.

English: I read the Qur'aan this morning out of love of Allaah and fear of Him.

Arabic: 'ana qara'tu l-Qur'aana haadha s-sabaaha hubban lil-Laahi wa khawfan minhu.

English: I [this is subject: what about 'I'?] read [this is the predicate] [read what?] the Qur'aan [when?] this morning [why?] out of  love of Allaah and fear of Him.

Arabic: 'ana [mubtada] qara'tu [jumlah fi'liyyah, fee mahalli raf: khabar] [maa/maa dhaa?] al-Qur'aana [mafoolun bihi] [mataa?] haadha s-sabaaha [zarfuz-zamaan] [limah?] hubban lil-Laahi wa khawfan minhu.  [mafoolun li-ajlihi].

____________

This is what I have observed with these languages [though I'm still a learner] and is something that helps me quite a lot - bi-idhnillaah - when I write Arabic.

If it is correct, then it is from Allaah and His guidance. And if correct, then it is from Allaah's Mercy in that He has made Arabic easy to construct and understand [provided the conditions are met].

And if I have erred, then it is my error alone, and I welcome corrections.

Wallaahu Taa'laa 'A'lam.
Wassalaam

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« Reply #17 on: Aug 21, 2008 06:37 AM »

Assalaamu alaikum

I've also learnt that there are no synonyms in the classical Arabic language and if one is found, it is very rare. This also applies to the language of the noble Qur'aan  - as students of tafseer will know.

And this fact  - the Qur'aan being free of synonyms - is something that is deserving and befitting the Noble Qur'aan, since it is the language of Guidance. And guidance needs to be conveyed in the most superior, most rich, eloquent and clearest of tongues in order to facilitate understanding, acceptance, love and compliance.

And this leaves no room for doubt, confusion, misunderstanding, arguments, rejection etc.

wal-Hamdulillaahi 'alaa ni'mati l-lughatil-'arabiyyah.

Wassalaam.

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« Reply #18 on: Aug 28, 2008 08:07 PM »

Assalaamu alaikum

.... brothers and sisters: a point to remember when reading my reply #16 is:

There is naturally a clear difference between English grammar and Arabic grammar : for example there are clearly limitations in English grammar while no such limitations exist in Arabic grammar but rather, great scope and breath of expression.

What you should try to remember is that it is the *logic* that is present in your thinking  - the kind that enables you to express yourself clearly as well as see the clarity or drawbacks of other's people's speech and ability to express themselves  - it is this - I believe - which is something very useful and a blessing from Allaah, that will assist you and help you to understand any foreign language better - but especially the noble Arabic language bi-idhnillaah - since it is in reality, the easiest of languages.

So the key is in the strength of one's clarity of thought.

And Allaah the Most Great, has described His Noble Book - in many places - as "mobeen" [clear]. And He  - Azaa wa jall - has decribed the language of His Noble Book also as "mobeen" [clear]. This is something to carefully think about...

Wallaahu 'A'lam.
Wassalaam.

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