The problem of arriving at learning plateaus

Why we all get stuck at some point

You know pretty much all the basics but feel like you are not improving anymore. This is because getting better (in any field, not only Arabic) is much harder once you know the basics.

It is weird but if you are a beginner, it is much easier for you to understand and know what needs to be studied and what not. If you want to improve, you need to address your particular weaknesses.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Henry Ford

I noticed many times that no matter how much you read, watch or listen to Arabic, you feel like you are stuck – that you do not learn much anymore. These moments when you feel like “hey, wow, I am really improving” are getting rare. Why?

The problem of saying “I am fluent”

When people tell me that they are fluent, I always ask: What do you mean by that? Oftentimes, people think that they are fluent when they sound like a native. However…

  • You may sound fluent, but your brain gets lazy and always uses the same vocab and expressions. It is natural to use what you know best and what may be sufficient.
  • You sound fluent, but you probably cannot join a discussion because it is about a topic that you are not familiar with.
  • You may sound fluent, but you cannot describe your feelings or emotions.
  • You may sound fluent, but you cannot explain a simple word like “circle” in Arabic.

How to find out if you are “really” fluent in Arabic

  • You can express difficult stuff related to politics, economics, philosophy, history, religion, medicine in simple(r) words.
  • You can rephrase any sentence so that people eventually get what you intend to say – no matter what their background is.
  • You always ask yourself: Is there a better way  to express things you already know?

How to become “really” fluent in Arabic by using certain dictionaries

If you read a text in Arabic, using certain dictionaries can improve your understanding of Arabic dramatically.

An Arabic-Arabic dictionary that kids use in Arab schools

al-Majani al-Madrassi – المجاني المدرسي – قاموس أبجدي مبسط

In this dictionary you find 11,000 words explained in a simple language. You will start to learn how to describe and explain words and concepts and things in Arabic.

Furthermore, the dictionary tells you common plural forms; if you deal with verbs, you will find the masdar and certain verb forms. Big bonus: every word is fully vowelled!

The dictionary follows the alphabetical order and not the root – which saves time if you look up words

How to become fluent in Arabic with the right dictionaries 6
This is how the entries in the dictionary look like.
Photo by Gerald Drissner
Arabic dictionary in Arabic

For example: If you look up the word كتاب, the dictionary will not only give you the vowels but also plural forms and a description in Arabic. These descriptions are one big step if you want to develop eloquence and “real” fluency in Arabic.

A dictionary of synonyms and antonyms

معجم المترادفات والأضداد

How to become fluent in Arabic with the right dictionaries 7
dict synonyms

This book contains words with similar meanings (synonyms) and words that give the opposite meaning (antonyms) of almost any Arabic word.

  • Authors: سعدي الضناوي and جوزيف مالك
  • Pages: 848
  • Price: around 16 US-Dollar
  • Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an ISBN.
  • You can order it at Neelwafurat or Jamalon

A pocket dictionary of synonyms and antonyms

معجم الجيب للمرادفات والاضداد

This pocket book is great fun to read on a train or bus. In the dictionary you will find synonyms and words that give the opposite meaning. Fits into every bag.

How to become fluent in Arabic with the right dictionaries 8
How to become fluent in Arabic with the right dictionaries 9
  • Author: مسعد ابي الرجال
  • Pages: 100
  • Price: around 6 US-Dollars
  • You can order it at Sifatusafa or Dar al-Salam

App for mobile phones

معجم المرادفات والأضداد ‏‎

by almaany

This is a great app for synonyms and antonyms for your mobile phone.

You can download it for free at the Google Play store! It is also available for iPhones.

screenshot muradifat app
Screenshot app muradifat

Alternative: There is a website with an online tool that also works okay (the database is not that great), but you could give it a try: http://radif.sourceforge.net/

How did you improve your Arabic? If you want to share your ideas, please leave a comment below!


Picture credit: Image by ThePixelman from Pixabay

Last updated: Aug 28, 2019 @ 21:21

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