Leaning Arabic as a second language can be a fun and rewarding experience that could have a lasting impact on your life.
It has to be said, though, that it can also be very challenging.
Arabic has been listed as one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn. It has a completely different alphabet, the written form often eliminates vowels, and it uses many sounds that English speakers simply aren’t familiar with.
Don’t let that worry you, though. The rewards for mastering Arabic are worth it when you realize that you have officially beaten the challenge and learned a second language.
But, how do you know you’ve reached that point?
When can you say that you’ve learned or mastered Arabic?
Well, to be honest, there is no point where you can say that you’ve fully learned another language. Let’s face it, we’re all probably still learning things about our own native language.
So, while there is no official end-point, there are some definite signs that you are starting to master the language.
1. You know the perfect word to express yourself in Arabic, but can’t think of the right way to say it in English.
“It loses something in translation” is a phrase that is used to describe those words and phrases in one language that don’t have any kind of direct translation in another.
It can take a while for you to learn how to use these idioms and expressions correctly, but they’re critical to sounding more like a native speaker.
Before you know it, you’ve trained your brain to think with those phrases, and when you have to express the idea in English, well, it loses something in the translation.
And it’s a pretty good feeling when you realize you’re finding easier to say something in Arabic than English.
2. You can make native speakers laugh at a joke, and you can laugh along with others.
Humor is highly language dependent. When you first start learning a new language, people are going to spend a lot of time explaining to you why something they said was funny.
At the same time, you’re going to spend a lot of time wondering why no one is laughing at your jokes (you can freely assume that no “dad joke” translates over).
Then, one day, you’ll realize that you’re laughing right along with everyone else in an Arabic-speaking situation.
More importantly, it will seem that your comic timing has returned when native speakers laugh appreciatively at your humorous attempts.
3. You start dreaming in Arabic.
This is a tough one, because many of us don’t remember our dreams very well when we wake up.
However, as you keep working on your new language – speaking and listening as much as you can – it will work its way into your subconscious.
And dreams are where your subconscious goes to have a good time.
Eventually, you’ll start speaking and listening in Arabic even while you sleep. And that’s definitely a sign that you’ve made it.
4. You can spot, and appreciate, different dialects.
Arabic can have some very subtle or sweeping differences from region to region.
At Arab Academy, we focus on Modern Standard and Egyptian dialects first, since those are generally understood across most Arabic-speaking countries.
However, when you can hear the differences between, for example, Levantine Arabic and Sudanese Arabic, that’s a pretty big deal. You’ve now mastered the language enough to distinguish subtle or cultural differences in several different Arabic dialects.
5. You can process the language in the back of your mind.
When you first start learning Arabic, it will require your full attention.
You will need to focus on every word a speaker or document is using. You’ll have to think hard about how it is used in a sentence, and you’ll have to tax your memory to try and remember words that are a little more obscure.
Until one day when you realize you were playing a game on your phone while listening to a speaker, and you followed the entire conversation.
As you master a language, the processing power needed will shift away from your forebrain and let you multitask a little more.
6. You can tell when a native speaker is slowing their speech for you.
When you’re just starting to learn a language, just following a basic conversation will feel great.
Then one day, you realize that the person you’re speaking with seems to be speaking slowly and enunciating their words very carefully.
This may feel a little annoying at first. You’re going to want them to speak to you more naturally.
And then you’ll move past annoyance and straight into pride when you realize you’ve spotted what they are doing and know that you can follow them even if they were speaking faster.
It’s Time to Master Arabic
Many of these signs may seem like they’re a long way off from where you’re at, but with enough dedication and work, you can experience it all for yourself.