How to Practice Speaking Arabic in the West

I’ve been studying Arabic for the past 2 years or so via Zoom and while my reading and listening comprehension has significantly increased, my speaking ability is very weak. This is mainly due to the fact that I don’t get to practice at all. The only practice time I get is once a week with my Arabic teacher, however, most of my responses are restricted to general responses like, “yes”, “no”, “can you repeat that”, “yes I understand”, “ok”, etc. I really struggle with formulating sentences especially expressing complex thoughts.

Recently, I started a self-exercise which I thought I’d share here because it seems to be doing the job. I started keeping a daily diary where I describe my day in Arabic on one page. In it, I express my thoughts and all the activities that went on in my life that day. Then I write down all the words that I had to look up to express myself and memorize them. As the days go by, it gets easier because we often express ourselves using the same words over and over again. If you do this continuously for a month, then you would have gathered a month’s worth of vocabulary that you use to express yourself. Now imagine doing it for three months. This in my opinion is one of the best ways to practice speaking Arabic or any target language.

I realized something else as well, many Arabic students focus heavily on learning words from Arabic to English but not the opposite. This will help you with reading and hearing comprehension but not speaking because you must be able to recall words from English to Arabic when speaking. You have to train your brain both ways, otherwise, it gets stuck in one mode. I find lots of times while looking up words for the day that I already know them in Arabic but just cannot recall them from English, so now I’m having to re-memorize them but this time from English to Arabic. If you want to speak, then you MUST memorize daily words that *you* utilize everyday from English to Arabic.

Before beginning this exercise, I was initially going to memorize a 3000 most often used words in English after translating them into Arabic. But it was daunting, seemed too time consuming, and boring. But with the daily diary, it’s more motivating because you’re creating *your* own list of personal words that *you* use on a daily basis to express yourself. Also, many of those 3000 words, I don’t even use on a daily basis!

This should get you to a broken Arabic level within a month or two insha’Allah. I find the path to speaking fluently is as follows:

No Arabic -> Broken Arabic -> Average Arabic -> Above Average -> Completely Fluent

The way to progress to each level is practice! The more you practice, the better you get! Since I don’t have people to practice with, I plan to start arguing with people in Arabic on Arabic social media pages :-), just to practice and fine-tune my Arabic. This is probably the only time arguing online with random people makes sense.

I assume the steps above can be utilized for learning any new language.

Happy learning!

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