August 19, 2005

Arabic Textbooks

I’ve written some other comments about the Bourguiba Institute in general, but I thought I would say a word or two about the textbooks in particular, for people interested in Arabic language instruction. I can’t comment on the texts used in the advanced courses, but I’m now familiar with the beginning- and intermediate-level books.

The beginner’s text is a workbook entitled “Al-Arabiyya Al-‘Aslat.” (That’s an imprecise transliteration of the actual title, which is in Arabic script.) I’m actually quite impressed with it. It’s a workbook of some 225 pages, which uses dialogues, exercises, and a lot of pictures to teach everyday vocabulary, basic grammar, and general conversational fluency. It’s completely in Arabic, using pictures, symbols, and context to communicate the meaning of the words introduced, rather than translations. This makes it ideal for the Institute’s classes, which are composed of students from all over the world with no other language in common. All the texts are voweled, and you learn to describe people and objects, talk about family and work relationships, describe daily activities and foods, explain your symptoms to a doctor, make travel plans, etc.

The ISBN number is 9973-17-177-2, and perhaps you can buy it from Amazon, or I imagine you could contact the Bourguiba Institute about ordering copies. It’s actually authored by Zahia Gafsi, who is the director of the Bourguiba Institute. The book assumes a basic knowledge of the Arabic alphabet. If you are looking to learn Arabic on your own, for conversational purposes or as a beginning to more advanced study, this might be a good book to use. However, it doesn’t come with tapes, so you would need to find a native speaker to help you with reading and pronounciation (and conversational practice).

The intermediate text begins with dialogues, but then moves into short texts, many of which deal with Tunisian history, sites, or cultural activities. As in the beginners’ workbook, each has accompanying exercises. The texts are mostly voweled, but not completely… the book seems to be weaning the students away from needing the vowels to be indicated, by not voweling familiar words, or endings which should be obvious according to grammatical rules. However, most of the vowels are indicated on the assumption that students might not immediately recognize the word and be familiar with its pronunciation. This book focuses less directly on teaching vocabulary. You will need quite a bit of vocab already under your belt, plus a teacher or a good dictionary to figure out the words which are new to you. I found the texts included in this book to be less than riveting, but considering the shortage of intermediate-level instructional materials available with voweled texts, this might be a useful tool for some teachers. Unfortunately, this coursebook does not have a ISBN number indicated.


Blogger Ben said...


I'm a fellow western Arabic student(with some eastern heritage). Al-Arabiyya Al-‘Aslat is a rare book on the internet. I did a search on it and isbn and only got one hit so I'll continue with Al-Kitaab and the other textbooks in my collection.

Are you using the 'multi-track approach' with your language learning? The 'multi-track approach' is simply buying as many different sources of Arabic language books that you can find so that it adds variety to your study which keeps you from getting bogged down. I learnt this technique from "How To Learn Any Language - Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably And On Your Own" By Barry Farber. I found that book to be an excellent motivater to learn any language and it has a list of useful techniques. However it's one thing to have a library of different sources and another thing to use them.

Anyway I'm wafting like I'm the blog writer so I better sign off. Your blog has been a good read. Cheers,

May 20, 2006  

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