Learning Arabic Online
The global recession has had as much impact on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as anywhere else in the world, but there have been some recent signs of recovery. Of course, when most of us think of the Middle East economy, we tend to immediately associate it with the oil industry, and rising prices have certainly proved to be a boost for these areas, it’s going to take a little more to ensure the recovery continues.
The oil industry does, obviously, have a significant impact on the entire area by generating most of the wealth and moving the labor. Most of these countries have realized that this isn’t enough, though, and they are looking into ways to really start diversifying their economies.
How Much Of It Is Oil?
In the Middle East, particularly in the Arabian Gulf, the reliance on one sector (oil) still remains high. In Saudi Arabia, oil makes up about 80% of the budget revenues and 90% of their export earnings. Kuwait is even higher, and oil is 95% of their revenues and export earnings. Since this leaves economies open to the fluctuations in supply and demand, it can make economic planning something of a challenge. This is why some countries have really started to invest more in developing other sectors, like finance, tourism, reconstruction, and education.
Change and Growth
There have been a number of social and political events in this region over the past few years that have had an impact on the economies in the region. This, though, has led to some political and economic reconstruction that is believed to boost the region as a key player in the international arena.
The windfall from the higher oil prices has given many of these countries the revenues they need to fund some ambitious infrastructure programs, and even some of the non-oil exporters in the region have been able to attract more foreign direct investment to accelerate their current economic growth. The medium to long term outlook is good, but it depends a lot on how the structural reforms are implemented.
What Does the Future Hold?
The recent changes in the region have really had a huge impact on the region, politically, socially, and economically. The Arab Spring has dawned and the global financial crisis had weighed as heavily on the region as anywhere else in the world, but there are still strong indications of recovery. As these countries start to diversify their economies, there will be some new opportunities even more growth.
Really understanding what’s going on in the region will require understanding more than the numbers behind the economic projections. An understanding of the social and cultural factors will also be important. Effective Arabic lessons are an effective way to start getting into the culture, but it’s also important to look at the region’s history and track the reforms that are happening all the time.
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Holidays in Arabic Countries
There are a number of holidays and traditions throughout the Arabic world that have a history going back many centuries. Different countries may have different ways to celebrate these occasions, but the meaning and purpose is generally the same. Whether there is a religious or spiritual element of the holiday or it is a time to enjoy being with family and friends, these festivities and traditions are a great way to experience the Arabic culture.
Two of the major holidays (Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha) follow some of the most important traditions in the year. The celebrations are a time to reflect and develop spiritually, and take the time to be close to loved ones.
In the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast Breaking) is celebrated after spending the previous month of Ramadan fasting. While celebrations may be different from region to region, it is usually a three-day period that begins on the first day of the month Shawwal. On the day of Eid people will get together in the morning, either in a nice outdoor location or at a mosque, for the Eid prayer. After that they will head off to meet with family and friends for some wonderful meals and some gift-giving.
Ramadan directly precedes Eid al-Fitr with a month of fasting and spiritual reflection. If a person is physically able (there are special rules for those who may be infirm or have other medical needs), they are required to fast from sunup to sundown every day of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Evening meals are usually held with the family or the community where you can also share prayers and spiritual reflection, and many cities decorate their streets with lights or other ornaments to celebrate the month.
The fasting during Ramadan is about more than just going without food and water, though. It is about purifying both body and soul. It is an opportunity to refrain from speaking ill of others, listening to obscenities, and seeing the wrong things. This is also a great chance to do charitable acts for others, and go out of your way to help people in need.
The Festival of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) is a religious holiday that commemorates Abraham and Ishmael’s trial of obedience. It is held on the tenth day of the last month of the year, just after the end of the Hajj. This is also generally a three-day celebration that starts with the Eid prayer in the morning. During the holiday people will visit friends and family, but mostly it is a time to show that you are also willing to make sacrifices.
Hajj takes place in the 12th month of the year, and it is the time for the pilgrimage to Mecca. This is one of the more famous traditions in the Arabic world. Millions of Muslims make the journey to Mecca every year, and the sheer enormity of it is fascinating. Pilgrims have the opportunity to examine and renew their spiritual lives and take part in a tradition that is centuries upon centuries old. While access to Mecca is restricted to Muslims only, there are some great documentaries that can give others an impression of what it’s really like.
Experience for Yourself
Participating in some of these holidays and traditions is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you find yourself with a chance to experience something like this, don’t pass it by. If you have to learn Arabic online before going, or if you have to start a special savings account, it will all be worth it. These cultural traditions and holidays have an incredible history, and this is a chance to see what they are really like.
Trip to Umm Kulthum Museum
Last November, our on-campus students had a memorable trip to Umm Kulthum Museum located in one of Cairo’s most prominent districts, Zamalik. This small museum is solely dedicated to the legendary icon Umm Kulthum (1898 – 1975). Most Arabs share a deep attachment to the voice of “Kawkab elSharq” or “Voice of the East” as she is called; she is arguably the Arab world’s most treasured singer from the 1940s through the present and regarded as the greatest female singer in Arab music history.
Umm Kulthum’s stardom peaked during the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, where listeners all around the Arab World used to avidly wait for her 6-hour concerts, broadcast on the first Thursday of the month. These concerts cleared the streets of Cairo as people made their way home and to cafes to listen. She died in 1975 of heart failure and her funeral was packed by millions of mourners who carried her body to the mosque of al-Sayyid Husayn.
Learning the Arabic Language through music is a great method to pick up the proper pronunciation and get to know the Arabic culture. Listening to Arabic songs and singing along them is a fun and amusing way to widen from your vocabulary list. You can download one of Umm Kulthum’s epic songs like Enta Omri – (“You Are the love of my life”), Sirat el Houb (“Tale of Love”) or Alf Leila wa Leila (“One Thousand and One Nights”), learn its lyrics and enjoy!
Arabic Made Easy!
Music and singing helps in any language learning progress, especially in learning the Arabic language. You can easily learn Arabic through music and songs.
Listening to Arabic music and songs makes a huge difference in learning more about the Arabic culture and getting along with the Arab natives. It can break down any cultural barrier and makes you connect easily with different people. It helps you expand your Arabic vocabulary, slang/ typical phrases and idioms as well as improve your accent and pronunciation. More importantly it is an easy and fun way to learn Arabic, as singing creates good atmosphere in Arabic courses and classes as people relate to songs as part of entertainment rather than work and find learning vocabulary through songs amusing rather than tedious.
Tips for learning Arabic through music:
- Pick your favourite type of music:
- If you wish to learn Egyptian Arabic or Lebanese Arabic and pick their dialect, then look for new pop Arabic songs
- If you wish to strengthen your Standard Arabic, then choose one of the oldies songs
The Best Way to Learn Arabic Online:
If you’d like to learn Arabic but don’t have the necessary funds or time to travel to Egypt or Algeria, taking Arabic lessons online is a good option. Learning the language this way takes a lot of dedication and self motivation, but if you are willing to work hard, this method can be just as effective as a traditional language learning course.
If you are interested in learning this important language, then here are a few tips to get you started in your online Arabic learning process.
- Study vocabulary and grammar. These are the building blocks of any language, and it is essential to understand the way in which Arabic vocabulary and grammar works in order to thoroughly learn the language. The best way to study these language basics may not be through rote memorization, however. A great way to take advantage of all the online Arabic learning experience has to offer is to practice these things through the use of activities, games, and real life situations to give you a feel for how the language functions.
- Practice reading and writing: Just like reading and writing in your native language can help broaden your knowledge, doing these activities when you are learning Arabic can help you cement the concepts that you have learned already and widen your expertise in the language.
- Get a learning buddy. Recruit someone to join with you as you learn Arabic. If you cannot convince one of your friends or coworkers to learn with you, try to find someone online who has about your level of Arabic proficiency to practice with. As the two of you learn together, you can encourage each other in your progress.
- Practice with native speakers. There really is no substitute for talking with someone who speaks Arabic natively, and luckily for language learners this is easy to do over the internet. Get involved with the online Arabic community and practice your language skills with someone who can give you honest feedback about your pronunciation and grammar. Most native speakers are happy to assist students with helpful comments and encouragement.
- Learn more about the culture. A good way to deepen your understanding of the Arabic language is to learn more about the people who speak it and their culture. As you study building blocks like the alphabet, make sure to get a good foundation in the history and culture of Arabic and the Arabic-speaking countries as well.
Learning Arabic online is an adventure of discovery. Make sure to get the most out of the technology.