To say that learning arabic is no “harder” for native English speakers than learning
Spanish would probably be false advertising. In a common scale that groups languages
according to the number of contact hours required to achieve advanced proficiency,
Arabic falls in category 4 (together with Chinese Korean, Japanese, and Hindi), which
is the highest level. This means that it takes longer to acquire the same level of
proficiency in arabic than it would in Spanish or French.
Arabic is relatively difficult because it requires learning a new script, new consonant
sounds, and a different syntax, as well an extensive vocabulary with few cognates.
Inevitably, arabic courses will be among the most difficult some students will ever
take. This probably has as much to do with the nature of language learning as it does
with Arabic—some students would likely find the study of any language challenging.
Despite its difficulty, arabic is not the exclusive realm of “elite” students or the
linguistically gifted. arabic is absolutely “doable” and can be an enjoyable challenge
for any student. Even students with average native talent can be very successful in
learning Arabic; and even gifted students run into frustrations. Stubborn perseverance
and dedicated study are more important than does “catching on” quickly to a new
language. Do not be afraid of Arabic’s reputation. Have confidence in your ability to
learn arabic and to learn it well. Many Americans have reached Superior level
proficiency in arabic and you too should expect to be one of them very soon


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