An elementary-intermediate course
Schulz, Krahl, Reuschel
Cambridge University Press, 2000, 641pp
This Arabic-language textbook was originally published in German. Although
a few German idioms sneaked through the translation, it is a very
intensive textbook. Most other textbooks, including Ahlan wa Sahlan
and Mastering Arabic, are full of unappealing cartoon figures.
However, the lessons in Standard Arabic are made inordinately
difficult by numerous small omissions. First, many words are used in the
exercises that are not covered in the lessons, forcing the reader to spend
time searching for them in an Arabic dictionary. Secondly, the
Arabic words and sentences are only phonetically transliterated for the
first lesson. By Lesson 3, even the diacritical marks indicating the vowel
sounds are also gradually phased out. This forces the reader to use written
Arabic in its printed form before gaining confidence with it. Without an
instructor, the reader will be unable to pronounce the words without looking
them up in a dictionary - a task that, for Arabic, is extremely time-consuming
and frustrating for beginners. For example, I never did find some of the
vocabulary words in Wehr's dictionary and could not determine their correct
pronunciation. These problems make the book of very limited value for self-study.
In fact, it might be easier for self-study students to throw this
book away, buy some newspapers, and figure out the language on their own.
However, with an instructor or a lot of patience, these problems eventually
could be overcome. I suppose one should be grateful that any textbooks on
Arabic are available. For some languages (like Taiwanese), it is difficult
even to find textbooks.
The book also contains a glossary and extensive tables of the many,
many verb forms. An advanced textbook is also available, and there are rumors
that tape cassettes may exist somewhere. In my opinion, tapes are not
essential for Standard Arabic; ultimately the student will have to learn
one of the dialects in a classroom setting anyway. The students' main goal
at this stage is to keep their brains from melting.
(Last updated Sept. 8, 2001)