how long does it take to learn arabic

Marhaba! Are you interested in how to learn Arabic? Arabic is a rich language with thousands of years of history. Learning Arabic can provide language students with invaluable access to the Middle East, one of the most dynamic and strategically important regions this century.

A range of options are available to you, from online tutoring to videos and even apps. While digital resources can be an asset that complements your language-learning experience, there’s no substitute for immersion: speaking, writing, and living your language. This is how we approach Arabic at the Middlebury Language Schools.

But before you dive in, you’ll want to know a bit more about learning Arabic. In this post, we’ll share answers to many frequently asked questions we get from prospective Arabic language learners. 

Find out about our Arabic language program

Why should I learn Arabic?

For many aspiring language learners, languages are a stepping stone to new opportunities in their personal and professional lives. In this respect, learning Arabic has the potential to open many doors. 

With more than 400 million speakers across multiple continents, Arabic is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. It also serves as the lingua franca for the Arab world, a diverse region that extends from the west coast of North Africa to the Caucasus mountains in the north, to Central and South Asia to the east. Many countries in the Arab world have highly developed economies with vast opportunities for international Arabic speakers. 

Arabic is also the liturgical language of Islam, one of the world’s largest religions and central to the identity of many people in and outside of traditionally Islamic countries. Learning Arabic can broaden your cultural, personal, and professional horizons. 

How hard is it to learn Arabic?

Arabic is a member of the Semitic language family. This means that unlike Spanish, Dutch, and even Hindi, Arabic isn’t related to English, which can make it a challenging language to learn. 

how hard is it to learn arabic

Semitic languages like Arabic and Hebrew are characterized by the “consonantal root.” These are word roots made of three consonants that are modified with vowels to form different phrases. For instance, the root k-t-b refers to writing. Kataba means “he wrote,” katib means “writer,” kitab – means “book”. This is a key concept that English-speaking Arabic language learners will have to understand since consonant clusters don’t encode specific meaning in English.

On the plus side, Arabic shares a number of similarities with Hebrew, Maltese, and even Ethiopia’s Amharic language. Learning Arabic, the most widely-spoken Semitic language, makes it substantially easier to learn other Semitic languages. 

Can I learn Arabic on my own?

In today’s digital age, you can find mobile apps, e-learning solutions, and other resources available online for any language. Many of these options claim they’ll help you attain Arabic proficiency with no external input. While self-learning can provide an important value-add to your Arabic lessons, there’s no real substitute to a real-life immersive Arabic learning experience

That said, we encourage you to explore self-learning options. You can gauge your interest in learning Arabic and nail down some of the key fundamentals such as the script before starting an intense immersion program.

How long does it take to learn Arabic?

The US Foreign Service Institute rates Arabic as a Category IV language. This means that learners will need to invest up to 2200 hours to gain full proficiency. 

With phonology that appears difficult for native English speakers to pronounce, a distinct grammar, and a unique script, Arabic might seem like a formidable challenge. And compared to Indo-European languages such as Spanish, German, and Portuguese, it definitely is harder to learn, at least initially. 

However, the Middlebury Language Schools Immersion program with the Language Pledge makes learning Arabic accessible to beginners and advanced learners alike. 

Where can I learn Arabic?

The Middlebury Language Schools Immersion Program

During the eight-week immersion course in scenic Vermont, learners take a pledge to only communicate in Arabic. In a live-in immersion program, you won’t just learn Arabic in a classroom environment. You’ll live the language in your daily interactions. This provides you with invaluable real-life experience, something that’s just not possible with digital and remote learning solutions. 

After eight weeks of living the language, you’ll gain basic proficiency and a major leg up in your Arabic-learning journey. If you’re excited and have questions about learning Arabic, please reach out to us at Middlebury Arabic School.