Arabic for Reading?
June 15, 2012 5:08 AM   Subscribe

Partly inspired by this question: is there an equivalent to French for Reading but for Modern Standard Arabic?

I live and work in an Arabic-speaking country. I am an English monoglot. The organisation I work for operates in English, but it would make some parts of my work easier if I could read Arabic with some degree of proficiency. So is there a textbook on reading Modern Standard Arabic, to serve the same kind of purpose as French for Reading? Amazon hasn't turned up anything that looks like what I want. For bonus points, suggestions about other resources? Not contemplating learning literary or Koranic Arabic at present. Speaking is also of interest, but for later. For even more bonus points, has anyone any experience with this book?

I'm well aware that Arabic is not one of the easier languages, and I'm not interested in being told this is impossible. I've reviewed the previous questions on learning Arabic, and this precise question doesn't seem to have been asked before.
posted by Logophiliac to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The book used most often in American-taught language courses is Al Kitaab, but Al Kitaab sucks. While it teaches a pretty good modern standard, it also teaches you things that are not really useful, such as "The United Nations" instead of "where is the bathroom."

While I have not personally used the Foreign Service Institute courses, I have heard good things about them and they are free, so perhaps worth a shot.
posted by emkelley at 5:23 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I studied Arabic for a few years in college, back when I thought I was going into the Foreign Service. We learned out o Al Kitaab (and its rudiments book, Alif Baa). Al Kitaab was not great, but it got me through alright and Al Kitaab II had a lot more useful Arabic in it than the first book. Perhaps it's most helpful to tell you that Al Kitaab and Alif Baa are not on my bookshelf currently, while Ryding's A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic and the Al Marwid dictionary both are. Not that I've opened either of them in more than four years.
posted by The White Hat at 5:31 AM on June 15, 2012

Best answer: Written Arabic: An Approach to the Basic Structures by A. F. L. Beeston was written "to the bring the student quickly to a reading knowledge of the language so that he can use Arabic sources in subjects like history, economics, and sociology." Personally I love this book, as a grammar primer--it is so elegantly efficient in the way it formulates things--but I don't think the book's stated purpose is realistic.
posted by Paquda at 8:10 AM on June 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so far. Al-Kitaab might be both more and less than I want, and Beeston seems to require at least some basic knowledge although it probably comes closest to being exactly what I asked for. But I suspect that no one book will be exactly what I want. Paquda--even if it's not realistic, I hope to get brave enough to give it a shot. At least written Arabic is all around me!
posted by Logophiliac at 9:57 AM on June 15, 2012

Hey, I'm late to the game, but I've been playing around with Wightwick's Easy Arabic Reader lately, and it might be closer to what you're looking for. I came at Arabic from the speaking side, learning Levantine from native speakers, and this book's been helpful in curing me of a little of my embarrassing illiteracy.
posted by lauranesson at 5:18 AM on July 29, 2012

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