How to learn Arabic

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How to learn Arabic
People learn Arabic for a variety of reasons: for work, for travel, for religious purposes, because of marriage or friendship with an Arab, or simply as a hobby. The motivation to some extent determines the most suitable learning method.

Whatever your motive, it’s probably best to try learning a little Arabic at home before committing yourself to more serious (and possibly expensive) study of it. At the very least, this will give you an idea of what’s involved and give you extra confidence during the early stages of any course you may take later.

The first thing to decide is whether you want to learn standard/classical Arabic or a colloquial dialect.

Unless your interest is confined to one particular country, the safest option is to learn a version of the classical language known as Modern Standard Arabic. This is what is used in books, newspapers, radio and television news programmes, political speeches, etc.

Using standard Arabic in everyday conversation sounds a bit formal to Arab ears, but at least you can be sure of being understood by educated Arabs anywhere in the Middle East. It may be more difficult to understand what they say to you, unless they make the effort to speak more formally than usual. Having learnt some standard Arabic, however, it is relatively easy to adapt to a local dialect later.

Among the dialects, Egyptian and Levantine (spoken by Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians and Palestinians) are the most widely understood outside their specific area. Colloquial Moroccan, on the other hand, is of little use outside the Maghreb.

If you are planning to learn Arabic because of an interest in Islam, standard Arabic is preferable to a colloquial dialect. But standard Arabic, on its own, is unlikely to meet all your needs. A specific course in Qur’anic Arabic would be more suitable, perhaps in conjunction with standard Arabic.

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Introduction to Arabic

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Introduction to Arabic
Arabic is usually ranked among the top six of the world’s major languages. As the language of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, it is also widely used throughout the Muslim world. It belongs to the Semitic group of languages which also includes Hebrew and Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia.

There are many Arabic dialects.

Classical Arabic – the language of the Qur’an – was originally the dialect of Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia.

An adapted form of this, known as Modern Standard Arabic, is used in books, newspapers, on television and radio, in the mosques, and in conversation between educated Arabs from different countries (for example at international conferences).

Local dialects vary considerably, and a Moroccan might have difficulty understanding an Iraqi, even though they speak the same language.

Arabic is not the only language spoken in Arab countries. The two main minority languages. Several varieties of Amazigh are used by the Berbers of North Africa, while Kurdish is spoken in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Arabic’s exact position in the league table of world languages varies according to the methodology used.

The linguists’ website, Ethnologue, places it fourth in terms of the numbers of people who use it as their first language. Other rankings have placed Arabic anywhere between third and seventh.

One of the difficulties is that it is almost impossible to compile accurate data. There are also debates among linguists about how to define “speakers” of a language, and speakers of “Arabic” in particular. Many Arabs, for example, are not proficient in Modern Standard Arabic. The complexities are discussed further in an article by George Weber.

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Russian Basic Phrases

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When you are in Russia it is important to realise that Russians have two manners of speaking, formal or friendly. It would be considered slightly rude to use the wrong form in the wrong situation. Use the friendly (or familiar) form when you are speaking to someone you consider a friend. In situations where you have never met the person before you would use the formal form, for example in shops or with taxi drivers. You would also use the formal form as a sign of respect to teachers, or in places like business meetings. Keep this in mind as you work through these Russian lessons. This is much easier than it sounds, as there are only a couple of words that change. (Mainly the Russian word for “you”.)

Please and Thank-You.
The two most important words you will learn in Russian are please and thank-you. You can just add these to any sentence to make it more polite.

PlayСпасибо (“spa-see-ba”) – Thank-You

PlayПожалуйста (“pa-zhal-sta”) – Please (and You’re Welcome)

The word Пожалуйста is also used to mean “You’re Welcome”, after somebody says thank-you. You should always say this after someone thanks you. Пожалуйста is pronounced a little different than it is written, you can basically forget the “уй”.

Yes and No.
Two other very important Russian words are “Yes” and “No”.

PlayДа (“da”) – Yes

PlayНет (“nyet”) – No

Saying Hello.
When you are in Russia and you meet somebody, the first thing you will want to do is to say “hello”. There are two forms of this word.

PlayЗдравствуйте (“zdra-stvooy-tye”) – Hello (Formal)

PlayПривет (“pree-vyet”) – Hi (Informal)

Здравствуйте may be a little difficult for you to pronounce at first, but it is the most common Russian greeting so you should try to practice it. Привет is also commonly used with friends. However, keep in mind that Привет is informal (much like “hi” in English), and should only be used with friends. If somebody says Привет to you, then it is normally safe to proceed in the friendly tone.

Introducing Yourself.
In order to introduce yourself, you may need the following phrases.

PlayМеня зовут … (“men-ya za-voot”) – My name is …

PlayКак вас зовут? (“kak vas za-voot”) – What is your name?

PlayОчень приятно (“och-en pree-yat-na”) – Pleased to meet you.

Note: The above 3 phrases are gramatically unusual. You should just learn the whole phrase, not the individual words.

How are you?
The most natural way to ask someone how they are in Russian is to ask: “how are things?”

PlayКак дела? – How are things?

PlayХорошо спасибо – Good/Well thank-you

PlayПлохо – Bad

Saying Good-Bye.
There are also two words for saying good-bye.

PlayДо свидания (“da-svee-da-nee-ye”) – Good-bye. (The до is pronounced as if it is part of the next word)

PlayПока (“pa-ka”) – Bye (Informal, slang)

You should generally use до свидания, which is appropriate in formal or informal situations. You may also hear people say Пока, but we suggest you only use it with friends.

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Using the Russian Language

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Using the Russian Language
Now we will give you some sample Russian sentences. You might also find some new words in these sentences. We will use only common words, so you should try to learn them all. Also pay attention to the different cases used for nouns and how verbs are formed.

Скажите, пожалуйста, где туалет? – Tell me please, where is the toilet?

У вас есть кофе? – Do you have coffee?

Кофе нет. – There is no coffee.

У вас есть чай? – Do you have tea?

Чая нет. – There is no tea.

Что вы хотите? – What do you want?

Я хочу чай, пожалуйста. – I want tea please.

Дайте, пожалуйста, кофе с молоком и с сахаром. – Please give me coffee with milk and with sugar.

У вас есть водка? – Do you have vodka?

У Анны есть водка? – Does Anna have vodka?

У Ивана есть чай? – Does Ivan have tea?

Я знаю, что ты говоришь по-русски. – I know that you speak Russian.

Он любит говорить по-английски. – He loves to speak English

Моя мама любит музыку. – My mum loves music.

Твой брат говорит по-русски? – Does your borther speak Russian?

Да. Он хорошо говорит по-русски. – Yes. He speaks Russian well.

Собака не говорит по-английски. – The dog doesn’t speak English.

Почему вы не говорите по-русски? – Why don’t you speak Russian?

Я понимаю. – I understand.

Я не понимаю. – I don’t understand.

Ты понимаешь? – Do you understand?

Я знаю, что вы понимаете. – I know that you understand.

Я думаю, что ты понимаешь. – I think that you understand.

Почему ты не понимаешь? – Why don’t you understand?

Я живу в Лондоне – I live in London.

Он едет домой – He is going home.

Где? – Where?

Кто? – Who?

Что? – What?

Как? – How?

Когда? – When?

Почему? – Why?

Что ты знаешь? – What do you know?

Что ты думаешь? – What do you think?

Где он? – Where is he?

Где кафе? – Where is the cafe?

Кто он? – Who is he?

Я читаю журнал – I am reading a magazine.

Я изучаю русский язык – I am studying the Russian language.

Я слушаю музыку – I am listening to music.

Я очень люблю спорт – I really love sport.

Я очень люблю Москву – I really love Moscow.

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Russian language review

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The aim of our twelfth Russian lesson is just to let you practice the language concepts that you already know. It is really a review lesson, althought we may introduce some vocabulary, and show you some different ways of using it. We will avoid introducing new grammar in this lesson.

This Russian language lesson will be based on examples. We will try to use some Russian phrases and sentences that you might see in real situations. Review each Russian phrase or sentence to make sure that you understand both the vocabulary and the structure of the sentence used. Take particular notice of the use of the four cases that we have learnt so far.

Russian Names
Note the use of the accusative case for pronouns in this construction.

Как вас зовут? – What is your name?

Меня зовут Вера. – My name is Vera.

Как её зовут? – What is her name?

Её зовут Алёна – Her name is Alyona.

Как его зовут? – What is his name?

Его зовут Борис – His name is Boris.

Here are some other common Russian names for men…

Николай – Nikolay (Коля)

Борис – Boris

Владимир – Vladimir (Володя, Вова)

Пётр – Pyotr, Peter.

Андрей – Andrey

Александр – Alexander (Саша, Шура)

Дмитрий – Dimitry (Дима)

Сергей – Sergey

Алексей – Aleksey

And here are some common Russian names for women.

Елена – Yelena (Лена)

Наталья – Natalya (Наташа)

Мария – Mariya (Маша)

Ольга – Olga (Оля)

Александра – Alexandra (Саша)

Оксана – Oxana

Екатерина – Yekaterina

Анастасия – Anastasiya (Настя)

Надежда – Nadezhda (Надя)

Анна – Anna (Аня)

Note: the form in brackets is the diminutive form of the name. This is like a pet name. (For example in English ‘William’ is also ‘Will’). There are many diminuatives for each Russian name and they are commonly used. The diminuative is a more personal, or tender form, and should only be used when you are in close firendship. The exception is when a person introduces themself using this form.

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The Most Used Russian Words

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The Most Used Russian Words
This lesson will introduce the most used words in Russian in the order that they are most used. This lesson is a vocabulary lesson to help you learn a number of Russian words that you will use almost every day while you are in Russia. Many of these words you will already know from previous lessons. Visit the vocabulary page to see the words in list form.

The examples included in this lesson are quite advanced. You will not understand all of the grammar, there are some concepts that you have not been taught. The main thing is to learn the 100 words in this lesson. From this lesson and onwards we will use more complex examples to help you passively learn more Russian vocabulary. You are not expected to memorise all the new Russian words.

1: И – And
Russian’s most used word is ‘и’ (and). ‘И’ is preceded by comma when it is used as a conjuction to join phrases with different subjects. Here are some examples of it in use.

Кофе с молоком и с сахаром Coffee with milk and sugar.
Московский Кремль и Красная площадь The Moscow Kremlin and Red Square.
Она соединяет Москву и Владивосток It connects Moscow and Vladivostok.
Берите бумагу и пишите. Take some paper and write.
Дети сели на ковер и начали играть. The children sat down on the carpet and began playing.
Он прыгнул в реку и быстро поплыл к острову. He jumped into the river and quickly swam to the island.
Все пели и танцевали. Everyone was singing and dancing.
Озера и горы Шотландии очень красивые. The lakes and mountains of Scotland are very beautiful.
Она подошла к доске, взяла мел и начала писать на доске. She went up to the blackboard, took the chalk and began writing on the blackboard.
When it is used like “и … и” it can mean “both … and”.

Она и красива и умна. She’s both beautiful and clever.
2: В (Во) – In, into, to
‘В’ means ‘in’ when followed by the prepositional case. Refer to lesson 8 for more information). ‘В’ is pronounced as though it is part of the following word. Sometimes this is difficult to say so ‘Во’ is used instead. ‘Во’ usually proceeds words that start with ‘в’ or a group consonants that are difficult to pronounce.

Я живу в Москве. I live in Moscow.
Я работаю в школе. I work at (in) a school.
Вчера мы были в театре. Yesterday we were at the theatre.
Мы собрали в лесу много грибов. We gathered many mushrooms in the forest.
Он прилетел в Лондон сегодня утром. He arrived in London this morning.
В городе было очень жарко и мы решили поехать за город. In town it was very hot, we decided to go to the country.
Позавчера мы были в парке. The day before yesterday we were in the park.

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Russian Spelling Rules

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Russian Spelling Rules
Here are the so called Russian spelling rules. They are just used to make pronounciation of a word clean when soft consonants might make this difficult. Generally, you will notice that the consonants these rules apply to are the consonants that don’t exist in English.

Spelling Rule 1: Ы – И
Never write the letter “Ы” after the letters ‘Г, К, Х, Ж, Ч, Ш, Щ’ instead use “И”

Spelling Rule 2: unstressed O – E
Never write an unstressed “O” after the letters ‘Ж, Ч, Ш, Щ, Ц’ instead use “E”

Spelling Rule 3: Я – А
Never write the letter “Я” after the letters ‘Г, К, Х, Ж, Ч, Ш, Щ, Ц’ instead use “А”

Spelling Rule 4: Ю – У
Never write the letter “Ю” after the letters ‘Г, К, Х, Ж, Ч, Ш, Щ, Ц’ instead use “У”

Consonant Mutation
There are times when the last consonants of words are changed when the word’s ending is changed. Again this is to make them easier to pronounce. When consonant mutation occurs here are the consonant that change.

п – пл
б – бл
ф – фл
в – вл
м – мл
т – ч
к – ч
д – ж
з – ж
г – ж
с – ш
х – ш
ст – щ
ск – щ
Remember that the spelling rules may apply to the vowels that follow.

You will often see consonant mutation take place when conjugating verbs. In particular the 1st person singular, but there are also other times it’s used. Here are a couple of examples.

Видеть – Вижу (see)
Любить – Люблю (love)
Сказать – Скажу (say)

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German Vocabulary

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German Vocabulary

Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the European language family.[citation needed] However, there is a significant amount of loanwords from other languages, in particular from Latin, Greek, Italian, French[77] and most recently English.[78] In the early 19th century, Joachim Heinrich Campe estimated that one fifth of the total German vocabulary was of French or Latin origin.[79]

Latin words were already imported into the predecessor of the German language during the Roman Empire and underwent all the characteristic phonetic changes in German. Their origin is thus no longer recognizable for most speakers (e.g. Pforte, Tafel, Mauer, Käse, Köln from Latin porta, tabula, murus, caseus, Colonia). Borrowing from Latin continued after the fall of the Roman Empire during Christianization, mediated by the church and monasteries. Another important influx of Latin words can be observed during Renaissance humanism. In a scholarly context, the borrowings from Latin have continued until today, in the last few decades often indirectly through borrowings from English. During the 15th to 17th centuries, the influence of Italian was great, leading to many Italian loanwords in the fields of architecture, finance, and music. The influence of the French language in the 17th to 19th centuries resulted in an even greater import of French words. The English influence was already present in the 19th century, but it did not become dominant until the second half of the 20th century.

At the same time, the effectiveness of the German language in forming equivalents for foreign words from its inherited Germanic stem repertory is great.[citation needed] Thus, Notker Labeo was able to translate Aristotelian treatises in pure (Old High) German in the decades after the year 1000. The tradition of loan translation was revitalized in the 18th century, with linguists like Joachim Heinrich Campe, who introduced close to 300 words that are still used in modern German. Even today, there are movements that try to promote the Ersatz (substitution) of foreign words deemed unnecessary with German alternatives.[80] It is claimed that this would also help in spreading modern or scientific notions among the less educated and as well democratise public life.

As in English, there are many pairs of synonyms due to the enrichment of the Germanic vocabulary with loanwords from Latin and Latinized Greek. These words often have different connotations from their Germanic counterparts and are usually perceived as more scholarly.

Historie, historisch – “history, historical”, (Geschichte, geschichtlich)
Humanität, human – “humaneness, humane”, (Menschlichkeit, menschlich)[81]
Millennium – “millennium”, (Jahrtausend)
Perzeption – “perception”, (Wahrnehmung)
Vokabular – “vocabulary”, (Wortschatz)

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German word order

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German word order is generally with the V2 word order restriction and also with the SOV word order restriction for main clauses. For polar questions, exclamations and wishes, the finite verb always has the first position. In subordinate clauses, the verb occurs at the very end.

German requires for a verbal element (main verb or auxiliary verb) to appear second in the sentence. The verb is preceded by the topic of the sentence. The element in focus appears at the end of the sentence. For a sentence without an auxiliary, these are some possibilities:

Der alte Mann gab mir gestern das Buch. (The old man gave me yesterday the book; normal order)
Das Buch gab mir gestern der alte Mann. (The book gave [to] me yesterday the old man)
Das Buch gab der alte Mann mir gestern. (The book gave the old man [to] me yesterday)
Das Buch gab mir der alte Mann gestern. (The book gave [to] me the old man yesterday)
Gestern gab mir der alte Mann das Buch. (Yesterday gave [to] me the old man the book, normal order)
Mir gab der alte Mann das Buch gestern. ([To] me gave the old man the book yesterday (entailing: as for you, it was another date))
The position of a noun in a German sentence has no bearing on its being a subject, an object or another argument. In a declarative sentence in English, if the subject does not occur before the predicate, the sentence could well be misunderstood.

However, German’s flexibile word order allows one to emphasise specific words:

Normal word order:

Der Direktor betrat gestern um 10 Uhr mit einem Schirm in der Hand sein Büro.
The manager entered yesterday at 10 o’clock with an umbrella in the hand his office.
Object in front:

Sein Büro betrat der Direktor gestern um 10 Uhr mit einem Schirm in der Hand.
His office entered the manager yesterday at 10 o’clock with an umbrella in the hand.
The object Sein Büro (his office) is thus highlighted; it could be the topic of the next sentence.

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German dialects

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German dialects

The continental West Germanic dialects

German is a member of the West Germanic language of the Germanic family of languages, which in turn is part of the Indo-European language family. The German dialects are the traditional local varieties; many of them are hardly understandable to someone who knows only standard German, and they have great differences in lexicon, phonology and syntax. If a narrow definition of language based on mutual intelligibility is used, many German dialects are considered to be separate languages (for instance in the Ethnologue). However, such a point of view is unusual in German linguistics.

The German dialect continuum is traditionally divided most broadly into High German and Low German, also called Low Saxon. However, historically, High German dialects and Low Saxon/Low German dialects do not belong to the same language. Nevertheless, in today’s Germany, Low Saxon/Low German is often perceived as a dialectal variation of Standard German on a functional level even by many native speakers. The same phenomenon is found in the eastern Netherlands, as the traditional dialects are not always identified with their Low Saxon/Low German origins, but with Dutch.

The variation among the German dialects is considerable, with often only neighbouring dialects being mutually intelligible. Some dialects are not intelligible to people who know only Standard German. However, all German dialects belong to the dialect continuum of High German and Low Saxon.

Low German
Main article: Low German

The Low German/Low Saxon (yellow) and Low Franconian (orange) dialects
Middle Low German was the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League. It was the predominant language in Northern Germany until the 16th century. In 1534, the Luther Bible was published. The translation is considered to be an important step towards the evolution of the Early New High German. It aimed to be understandable to a broad audience and was based mainly on Central and Upper German varieties. The Early New High German language gained more prestige than Low German and became the language of science and literature. Around the same time, the Hanseatic League, based around northern ports, lost its importance as new trade routes to Asia and the Americas were established, and the most powerful German states of that period were located in Middle and Southern Germany.

The 18th and 19th centuries were marked by mass education in Standard German in schools. Gradually, Low German came to be politically viewed as a mere dialect spoken by the uneducated. Today, Low Saxon can be divided in two groups: Low Saxon varieties with a reasonable Standard German influx[clarification needed] and varieties of Standard German with a Low Saxon influence known as Missingsch. Sometimes, Low Saxon and Low Franconian varieties are grouped together because both are unaffected by the High German consonant shift. However, the proportion of the population who can understand and speak it has decreased continuously since World War II. The largest cities in the Low German area are Hamburg and Dortmund.

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