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Personal experiences with middle-eastern languages?
January 28, 2006 7:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm hoping to start learning a middle-eastern language

I'm thinking Farsi, Urdu or Arabic. Does anyone have personal experiences learning any of these languages? Recommendations on learning material? For what it's worth my native tongue is English but I also speak French. Thanks!
posted by saraswati to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Forget Urdu. Although the official language of Pakistan, it is native to 8% of the population, as opposed to Punjabi (60+%). Urdu is not really a middle-eastern language either. It's Hindustani with Arabic and Farsi vocabulary influx. Hindi is Hindustani which has been Sanskritized. OK,, that's one advantage of learning Urdu, you'll understand Hindi adequately. But in that case, you should learn Hindi directly. Arabic sounds more useful in the current geopolitical climate, but there are various dialects with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility (I've had Palestinian, Jordanian and Pakistani roommates). Advantage with Hindi/Urdu is that *ahem* media is easily available through torrent sites (due to the large South Asian contingent in the US) so getting exposure is easy even if you don't know many Indian/Pakistanis.
posted by Gyan at 8:16 PM on January 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


I've been learning arabic for a few months now (I think it's been that long). It's certainly...daunting, in a way, but the alphabet really isn't that hard to tackle. Hell, after Japanese, anything seems easy.

If you're interested in specific textbooks and such, I can help you with that, and it's disgustingly easy (in a good way :P) to download teaching company mp3s anywhere.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 8:43 PM on January 28, 2006


Gyan: Thanks for the info. I think I'm going to go with Arabic.

Lockeownzj00: Textbook recommendations would be nice. Also if you could tell me the name of an audio course you found particularly useful that would help me in my search.
posted by saraswati at 9:16 PM on January 28, 2006


I'm a native farsi speaker and I'm currently learning arabic using rosetta stone software (see related question).

It depends on what you want to learn the language for. Naturally I'm biased but farsi is beautiful, fun to speak, more similar than you would expect to english, and farsi speakers really get a kick out of someone who isn't persian speaking their language. But, economically, politically, and simply considering the number of people who speak the languages, arabic is more useful.
You've got about 60 million (if that) farsi speakers (plus people who speak dialects of it in Afghanistan and Tajikstan) compared to three times the number of arabic speakers.

It depends on how you learn languages, but I'm really enjoying my rosetta stone software so far and I'm finding it to be a good value.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:48 PM on January 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thanks BuddhaInABucket. I looked at the Rosetta Stone software and it looks quite good and suitable to my learning style. I was a bit worried about diving into something so expensive that I've never tried until I saw that there's a six month return policy if you're unsatisfied. The Arabic 1 package should be on its way to my house next week. Thanks again!
posted by saraswati at 12:13 AM on January 29, 2006


It seems like you have what you need but for the sake of other people reading the answers to this question I'll add a comment: if you're going to buy a book on learning Arabic make sure that it is Standard Arabic (assuming that you want to be understood by everyone) and not some dialect. I bought a book assuming that it was going to be SA but it turned out to be Egyptian dialect, a fact that was not mentioned anywhere in the marketing of the book.

If anyone is interested in Iraqi Arabic, this book is more or less decent although it will only take you so far and it does use transliteration rather than the Arabic alphabet.
posted by teleskiving at 2:22 AM on January 29, 2006


I'm sorry you made up your mind so quickly; I was going to recommend you learn Persian/Farsi, which is Indo-European (and thus has a grammatical structure far closer to English than Arabic) and far easier to pronounce—as well as having (in my opinion) a richer literary tradition. But I'm sure you'll enjoy Arabic, and once you've learned the writing system Persian and/or Urdu will be that much easier.

if you're going to buy a book on learning Arabic make sure that it is Standard Arabic (assuming that you want to be understood by everyone) and not some dialect.

Depends what you want to use it for. All Arabs insist that you learn "real" (standard/classical) Arabic and sneer at the "dialects," but the latter are what people actually speak (think French/Spanish/Italian versus Latin), so if you wanted to spend time in Cairo you should learn Egyptian dialect, if you wanted to communicate in Lebanon or Syria you'd want Levantine Arabic, and so on. But if you just want to read it, then sure, the standard classical-based language is the way to go.
posted by languagehat at 6:23 AM on January 29, 2006


Another vote for Rosetta Stone. I actually just ordered their Farsi tutorial the other night.

In the past few years, my wife has informally tried to teach me (but ... all I've really learned are curses, animals, food items, basic colors, some very small numbers, and some nice things to say), and now I feel I need to step up the learning. I'd used the Rosetta Stone software before to brush up on my French prior to returning to college and I found the stuff to be well put together, I liked the exercises and was impressed with how well it did with a "Level One" instruction.
posted by kuperman at 7:48 AM on January 29, 2006


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