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As we move towards a genuinely global society, the ability to speak a language other than English can increase your chances in the employment marketplace as well as allow you to better understand people you encounter on a daily basis. If you are one of the nation's students or adults who choose to learn Arabic as your second language, you'll find yourself in very high demand for positions in education, state and federal governments, social work, and much more.
With more than 300 million native speakers, Arabic can be heard in more than 20 countries. Whether your plans include travel to Arabic-speaking nations or doing business with native speakers in your own country, modern technology will enable you to study the language according to your own schedule and even on-the-go, as most providers of Arabic lessons have easy-to-use mobile apps and audio files that can be used at your convenience.
Thursday, January 21st
Rocket Language's Arabic lessons program is fun and effective, especially for beginners. Rocket's Arabic program is currently offered at only one level of instruction, taking learners from beginner to intermediate level and helping them achieve a good conversational level upon completion of the course.
Rocket Arabic's Premium Level 1 course contains the following:
Other course features include the My Vocab vocabulary builder, the Phrase Finder, progress tracking with badges and leaderboard access, lifetime course access, and a "Survival Kit" that help students quickly master targeted vocabulary within specific conversational situations.
Rocket Arabic offers a 15-minute audio lesson right on the main program page. If you're willing to enter your email address, you can also access a free trial of the entire program, from the student dashboard to the flashcards and writing lessons. We love that Rocket Arabic includes detailed writing and culture lessons - two aspects that are often overlooked by other programs. In the transcripts of the voice lesson's conversations, you can see the Arabic script along with the "Romanized", English-alphabet approximation of how it would be read ("Ahlan" for "Hi") - this is very helpful for beginners who have no experience with written Arabic.
We had some issues with getting our voice sample to record while using the trial access, but most students report that the voice recognition component works well for them so it may be a temporary glitch related to the trial itself.
Rocket Languages is one of very few providers of Arabic lessons to offer a 100%, 60-day money-back guarantee. But, you probably won't need to use it: nearly 2,000 users have given Rocket Languages a five-star rating. And, while even their list price is reasonable, we found that Rocket often has discounts and other special offers to bring the cost down even more; at the time of our review, Rocket Arabic was on sale for just $99.95.
Learning a language with a completely different alphabet, pronunciation, and culture can be a challenge. Rocket Languages' Arabic lessons walk you through the process step-by-step in a way that will give you confidence in using Arabic in a variety of settings. Rocket Arabic is our top pick for beginning Arabic Lessons.
Transparent Language's Arabic lessons promise "radically better language learning, in one complete experience". Their wide variety of strategies - grammar, writing, pronunciation and speech activities, among others - are designed to help you learn Arabic as easily as possible.
Transparent Language allows you to choose from three main paths through your language adventure: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is the form of the language most commonly used in print; Iraqi Arabic; and, Levantine Arabic (used primarily in Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, and Syria). Each of these courses is offered in native script or transliterated versions, the latter of which gives you an English approximation of the pronunciation in Arabic. You'll definitely want to use Transparent's 14-day free trial to see which approach is the best fit for your learning style and goals.
Transparent Language uses a wide variety of tools to help you master Arabic. Core Skill-Building Activities target the four core skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Speaking practice is done using Transparent's own EveryVoice technology, which lets you compare your pronunciation with that of a native speaker. And, the typing activities included in Transparent's Arabic lessons gradually teach you how to use your regular keyboard to type in Arabic script.
If for any reason you are unsatisfied with your subscription or download after becoming a paying customer, you can receive a full refund within six months of purchase (or prior to the next billing cycle if you're a subscriber to one of the online plans).
Transparent's Arabic lesson structure is very flexible: you can move from one topic to another without gaining mastery of previous lessons. For some learners, this fluidity is helpful because they can jump to the vocabulary or grammar they need most; on the other hand, new language learners can feel overwhelmed by the possibilities and feel lost without a determined path for their studies.
For people who want a more personalized experience, Transparent Language offers live classes or individual tutoring: $299 for an 8-week, customized online course that meets weekly, and/or $99 for 90 minutes of one-on-one online tutoring on the topic of your choice. Many Transparent Language customers make use of this option when they have specific challenges with the language and don't have access to native speakers who can answer their questions.
Transparent Languages' Arabic programs are priced affordably and offer several options not found with other courses, such as native vs. transliterated courses and live lessons or tutoring, Transparent Language earns high marks for their Arabic lessons.
If you want to study a new language, you've probably heard of Rosetta Stone. Through a process they call "Dynamic Immersion" - trying to teach you Arabic the same way you learned your first language naturally - Rosetta Stone introduces new vocabulary, phrases, and sentences without constantly translating between English and Arabic.
You can get a basic idea of how this works by selecting the "Try a Free Demo" button near the top of the main Arabic product page. You'll be shown several pictures, which will be labeled in Arabic and accompanied by the matching pronunciation of the word. You match the sound and the written word with the correct image, which will then be paired with two verbs (for example, boy, girl, the boy eats, the girl drinks). Unfortunately, that's the extent of the free demo for Arabic; you can get a free 3-day trial for Spanish, English, French, German, or Italian, but that won't give you an idea of how Rosetta Stone teaches Arabic script, for example. However, even if you're not interested in those languages, using the free trial will still give you hands-on experience with Rosetta Stone's overall approach to teaching languages, so that you can decide if it's a style that works for you.
One positive is that Rosetta Stone's newer pricing is now more competitive when looking at Arabic lessons from a variety of providers. Previously, their language lessons sold for $400 or more, which was often much more money than students could afford. But, at the time of our review, Rosetta Stone's Arabic program was listed at $199 for a two-year online subscription and $179 for access via CD-ROM or download.
Also, their satisfaction guarantee/return policy has improved - 30-day, no risk, money back guarantee on all products, not just their CD-ROMs as the policy had been in the past.
Students' experiences with Rosetta Stone vary quite a bit. Some complain that their resulting level of fluency was much lower than they had expected, and that the program did not deliver a genuinely immersive experience as promised. No language program can deliver a completely immersive experience, short of flying you to an Arabic-speaking nation, so it may be helpful to know that there are hundreds of reviews from students who did gain valuable knowledge by using Rosetta Stone's programs.
Given the complexities of learning Arabic, we would like to see it included in the available languages for Rosetta Stone's free three-day trial. This would help students know which form of Arabic is being used (though we imagine it is Modern Standard Arabic and not the spoken dialect of Egypt, for example) and how Rosetta teaches Arabic script. Overall, we award Rosetta Stone's Arabic lessons high marks for their new and improved pricing and satisfaction guarantee, and we think that their reputation as a provider of language instruction will translate into solid results when studying Arabic.
Innovative Language's ArabicPod101 program provides a wide variety of language instruction levels, from brand-new language learners to those looking to refine their understanding of specific Arabic dialects.
The salesy tactics used by Innovative Language might be a turn-off to some prospective customers. The main site promises a free account with lifetime access, but no further information is available until you enter your name, email address, and level of learning (beginner, intermediate advanced), and then activate your account once you receive the email. The confirmation page then takes you to a "limited, one-time offer" that includes the following:
In order to access this "one-time offer", you'll need to pay $1 as a "bandwidth fee". Otherwise, click on the "No Thanks" link and it will take you to your main account page. On that page, we got yet another "special offer", explaining that we had now been given a 7-day free trial with access to the entire lesson library and Premium tools, but we could get a 10% discount if we upgraded to a subscription plan that day. Fortunately, the sales pitch seems to finish there, as you can jump directly to audio Beginner Lesson 1, "What's his name?"
In that sample lesson, you will find a basic lesson explaining that the language taught in the lessons is MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), but that there is a separate section that can help you learn particular dialects if you wish. We particularly like that the audio speed can be changed right on the main screen if you need to hear the lessons more slowly (or more quickly!). Also be sure to check out the spot at the top of the lesson that says "Download PDFs". Here you'll find a transcript of the lesson, lesson notes (including the approximate pronunciation using the familiar English alphabet, or the "Romanization"), and checklists to help you track your progress through the materials.
Unfortunately, at that point, we found ourselves lost. We did see in the comments below the audio lesson that there are also video lessons, so we went to the series "Learn Arabic in Three Minutes". Those videos made more sense than the audio files, but we weren't sure if we needed to follow the instructions to "add course to dashboard". Below that video lesson, we found links to lessons called "Arabic Alphabet Made Easy", which would be very useful for those who need to master both written and spoken Arabic. We recommend that students go to the Lessons navigation at the top of the page, and select "Learning Paths": here you will find groups of lessons categorized as Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
Additionally, the learning dashboard shows the recommended lesson progression under the "My Pathway" heading, access to flashcards and other tools, and access to the "My Teacher" feature included with Premium Plus memberships.
We were also confused by the pricing for Innovative Language's packages. On one page, it said that their packages were priced at $4/month for the Basic plan, $10/month for the Premium package, and $25/month for Premium+; however, on the main pricing FAQ page, the prices were listed as nearly double those amounts. The difference? The higher prices are for a 1-month subscription, and the lower prices reflect a 50% discount given for a 24-month subscription. Keep that in mind as you decide which plan meets your needs and your budget, and be sure to compare the features offered at each subscription level (interactive voice recording is included with Premium and Premium+ only, while printer-friendly lesson notes are included with all paid memberships).
Innovative Language does offer a guarantee. If you are unsatisfied with your membership at any level, you may request a refund within 60 days. Be aware that you will only be refunded for the unused time on your membership plan.
Because of the breadth of the content offered and the solid variety of teaching approaches (audio, video, MP3 downloads, mobile apps), we give Innovative Language's ArabicPod101 good marks. This rating would improve with fewer hoops for prospective customers to jump through in order to check out what the Arabic program has to offer, and less emphasis on the sales pitch.
Living Language's uses a four-step approach to studying Arabic: Build a Foundation, Progress with Confidence, Retain What You've Learned, and Achieve Your Goals. For almost seven decades, the techniques that Living Language initially developed for the US State Department have allowed students to create a strong foundation of core words and phrases, moving easily to complete sentences and conversations, and eventually conversing comfortably in Arabic in a number of real-world situations.
The Arabic lessons offered by Living Language are delivered in two basic formats: Arabic Essential and Complete, which are presented through books and audio CDs, and the Arabic Online Course:
If you'd like to get an idea of Living Language's approach to teaching Arabic, be sure to take a look at their free Language Lab. You can access it directly from the website, without having to enter your email address or any other personal information. We suggest going directly to Lesson 1: Essential Expressions and trying the vocabulary flashcard game. You may want to set the transliteration feature to "on", which will allow you to see the approximate English pronunciation of the Arabic script. You will also be able to see which topics are covered in the Arabic program; for example, the 10 lessons in the Essential level cover basic expressions and other everyday topics, while the Intermediate level helps you talk about health and food (among many other subjects).
However, we felt that the free Language Lab activities didn't really help us understand how Living Language structures its teaching of Arabic. We were left wondering if there is any direct instruction regarding the Arabic alphabet or its pronunciation, or how they address the difference between Modern Standard Arabic, the version most commonly used in print, and the spoken Arabic that varies by region (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and so on). We would have liked to see, at a minimum, a video or screenshots of the lessons themselves, or a description of the progression within the lessons.
Most competitors allow prospective students to see the dashboard, syllabus, or other detailed information, so that they know exactly what they're getting with their program. Living Language felt like something of a mystery with respect to how, exactly, they teach their Arabic lessons. Especially because there is no return policy or satisfaction guarantee - again, unlike most of their competitors - students may find it best to try one of their lower-priced options, such as the one-month online course, before committing to a more expensive package or subscription.
On a positive note, Living Language's e-Tutoring has many positive reviews from students who feel that it's well worth the investment. Pricing varies, but Living Language includes two e-Tutoring credits with their full-year package, and students can purchase further credits if they wish. Living Language's best value is their Platinum package, which combines the full-year online course and all of the print/audio materials, along with twelve e-Tutoring credits to help you get one-on-one help as you study Arabic.
Overall, Living Language's Arabic lessons seem to be a solid choice for Arabic lessons, particularly with respect to their e-Tutoring program, but we felt that they could be more transparent with the structuring of their lesson program so that students could get a feel for the program without making a financial commitment first. We give Living Language a rating that would quickly improve with a more robust free trial as well as a return/satisfaction policy that is more in line with Living Language's competitors.
The form of Arabic taught in most schools and programs is known as Modern Standard Arabic - which is understood by most native speakers but doesn't convey the nuances of the multiple dialects of spoken Arabic, leaving learners unable to understand even basic spoken conversations. Talk in Arabic aims to change that by giving language learners access to natural, native Arabic in at least eight of its major dialects, including Algerian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Saudi, Iraqi, Sudanese, Tunisian, and Levantine (used in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and Syria).
You can visit the site and get a feel for the audio and video materials provided free of charge, including basic prepositions, introductions, and even songs and other cultural insights that can broaden your understanding of the societies in which Arabic is used. You can also sign up for Talk in Arabic's free newsletter, which will keep you updated on what they have to offer and when new dialects are added to their program.
Talk in Arabic does have a subscription plan for their most comprehensive language instruction. These plans include the following:
Talk in Arabic offers these subscription plans for $15/month or at a yearly price of $126, which represents a savings of 30% over the monthly plan. There is no contract and you can cancel at any time. However, there is currently no refund offered if you aren't happy with Talk in Arabic's lessons, so we definitely recommend that you go through the free features first, and then try a one-month subscription to see if it would be worth your time and money to invest in the full-year plan at the discounted price.
It is very important to realize that, in their own words, Talk in Arabic "is not and does not contain course material". In other words, if you are looking for a structured program based on well-researched techniques for teaching language, you won't find it here. As they put it, "Talk in Arabic has been planned and put together based on high-frequency terms and expressions. It's about giving you natural material in local dialects that you won't find anywhere else." For that reason alone, we recommend this program for people who already have at least a basic understanding of Arabic and who need the exposure to the way it is currently used in Arabic-speaking communities, rather than those who are just starting out and have no familiarity with the language.
Because Talk in Arabic offers something unique to Arabic language learners - that is, the ability to hear Arabic spoken according to specific dialects and learn to use it in the most current way possible - we think that their program will be a great resource for students who need exposure to Arabic as its used in certain regions. On the other hand, because Talk in Arabic is not an actual program of language instruction, it may not be as useful as some of the other programs we reviewed.
Pimsleur is a worldwide name in language instruction, known for their 30-minute audio lessons. If you need to learn how to speak and understand Arabic, particularly the primarily formal version known as Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Pimsleur could be a good fit for your learning goals - especially if you learn best by hearing. What makes Pimsleur particularly useful is that their audio lessons come either as a CD or an MP3 download, so that you can listen on your iPod, smartphone, or other mobile device while you drive or during other moments on-the-go.
The best way to know if Pimsleur's audio lessons match your learning style is to click on the orange "Try a Free Lesson" button on their main Arabic lessons page. Once you enter your name, zip code, email address, and reason for learning Arabic (such as for fun, business, and so on), you can listen to their complimentary 30-minute introductory Arabic lesson. We found the sample lesson easy to understand, and we especially liked the detailed explanation of the nuances of what we heard; many of the programs in our review had us listening and repeating sounds without explaining what we were doing or why. Be sure to choose an environment where you can speak out loud; you'll need to try and imitate what you hear as you listen to the trial lesson.
Unfortunately, if you need to know how to read and write Arabic as well as speak it, Pimsleur probably will not help you make much progress. The product description says that reading instruction is included, but with no description of how that actually happens with an MP3 download. Also, we found several reviews criticizing Arabic programs that only offer MSA; because it is the language used primarily in print and formal situations, students who only learn MSA are often understood in Arabic-speaking countries but find themselves unable to understand what they hear in return. Many of the programs we reviewed include options for Egyptian, Iraqi, and other spoken dialects of Arabic, which may be more widely useful.
Pimsleur's "Proficiency Guarantee" is also lacking, compared with most competitors' return policies and satisfaction guarantees: once you complete Pimsleur's Level I Arabic program, you can opt to take a competency exam through an independent testing company Pimsleur has chosen (which, incidentally, gave us a 404 error when we tried to follow Pimsleur's link to the testing site). You can only get a refund if you fail that exam.
Finally, Pimsleur will hit your wallet harder than any other provider of Arabic lessons. Given that their instruction consists solely of audio lessons, our opinion is that Pimsleur's value is not as high as other more well-rounded Arabic programs that teach listening, conversation, and reading/writing skills for a smaller investment.
If you do feel that Pimsleur's auditory approach might be good fit for your learning style, we suggest that you sign up for the sample lesson before investing in Pimsleur's Arabic lessons. And, make sure to look for any special offers that may be offered, as we saw discounts available from time to time when we visited the site.
Strokes International offers a single program for Arabic, known as Arabic 100 for Beginners and available solely on CD-ROM (no online program or MP3 downloads). Their instruction follows the EU Standards for languages and includes lessons from levels A1 through B2. This CD-ROM set is priced at $157 and includes the following:
Strokes allows site visitors to download a free trial of three lessons (not necessarily from the Arabic program), but problems we found on the site gave us the impression that the files might not be reliable or safe to install.
For example, the page for "Program information" contains no information whatsoever. Then, the "Shipping & Returns" page lists shipping costs within and outside of Europe, but no return policy is even mentioned. This clearly puts Strokes at a disadvantage, given that the majority of the other Arabic lessons providers have a clear policy for getting a refund or making a return if necessary. Finally, spelling and grammatical errors leave us wondering about the quality of the Arabic language instruction.
And, looking at the learning apps offered by Strokes, not only is there no feature for Arabic, but also the apps have not been updated in over two years and have very few reviews. Similarly, the CD-ROM for the Arabic program is only compatible with Windows Vista, XP, and 2000: further evidence that Strokes International's Arabic 100 for Beginners is outdated and may not even work on most students' computers.
Strokes International receives low marks for Arabic lessons in our review. We strongly encourage you to give your consideration to one of the better-established, higher-ranked Arabic programs.
As you decide which program will best help you advance your fluency in Arabic, keep in mind what your preferred learning style is. For example, if you find that you remember what you hear, select a program that delivers your Arabic lessons primarily in an audio format, such as MP3 or CD-based lessons that you can listen to while you drive, commute, or relax at home. On the other hand, if you need to see your lessons to learn best, you'll want to make sure your instruction program of choice gives you ample opportunities to read, watch, and see the lessons you're studying.
One critical consideration as you compare Arabic lesson programs is the written component. Will you need to be able to read and write in Arabic as well as understand and speak it? If so, it is important that your Arabic lessons include detailed instructions for how to understand the written Arabic language, as it is very different from the Roman alphabet you already know. For instance, Arabic is written from right to left in a cursive style and contains 29 letters; however, there are different letter variations depending on where the language is being used, and the best Arabic language programs will help you recognize the difference.
There are three key factors to consider as you choose the Arabic lessons that will be the best match for your learning style and goals. These include:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Arabic lessons available today. We hope these reviews help you find the right Arabic lessons to quickly learn this language right away!
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