Words are useful. You need to know many words to have useful skills in the Arabic language. The best way is to use a program that drills you in vocabulary. Paper flashcards are overhyped, they are only good for memorizing a small number of words. You need to learn a large number of words. If you are going to use a program to memorize vocabulary, it has to implement the Leitner system or do something similar, or else it will be a waste of time. Computer program such as VTrain and Pauker are good for this. I have many Arabic Pauker vocabulary lists. Spending an hour three times a week memorizing and reviewing vocabulary with one of these programs will ensure progress.
There are a few things that must be known when learning a word.
- Correct pronunciation: if your Arabic pronunciation is not perfect, you absolutely need to hear the word pronounced properly when memorizing it.
- Always connect the unknown word to its meaning.
- You must have the Arabic word on one side and something that will inform you of what it means.
- If the non-Arabic side does not inform you of what the Arabic word means, it will only confuse you.
- If you can try to connect the word directly to its meaning. Pictures usually help. For example the Arabic word for dog can easily be memorized by saying the word and picturing a dog in your head, or hearing the sound of a dog in your head.
The English word is there only to make the Arabic word's meaning clear. It is not there so that whenever you hear kalb you automatically translate it to "dog". At first that will be what you do: hear an Arabic word and think of an English translation. This method is okay if you completely understand the English word. This is not okay for words where the English word has a bunch of meanings that the Arabic word doesn't have. Remember, you must connect the Arabic word to its meaning not necessarily to an English word.
It is impossible to memorize a word, when you cannot figure out the meaning. I have had this problem with poorly designed flashcards. Here is an example:
to commit إلتزم
I wasn't able to memorize this word, because I could not figure out which of the English meanings the Arabic word meant. I decided later using Arabic grammar and knowledge of related words that it means what "to commit to something" means and does not mean what "to commit something" means.
Poorly designed flashcards will slow you down. I plan to fix up my deck of Pauker Arabic flashcards, in order to prevent such problems.
While memorizing flashcards, include example sentences to illustrate the meaning. This will help you progress rapidly in the language, and make you more fluent (because you would have exposed yourself to how sentences are formed).
What would be really helpful is a book of Arabic phrases with translations into English, and organized well, to drill oneself in, and gain the most Arabic fluency in the least amount of time. Thank god, WikiBooks exists, a book on exactly that, could easily be started.
The problem with traditional methods of learning language is you always have to construct a sentence out of words, and break sentences apart into words. Such a process is more like disecting a language than actually using it. What is needed is many phrases, catagorized properly learning one after the other causing the learner to subconciously understand the patterns. After that, explanation of sentence building can be added.
If you wish to be able to speak Arabic (such as on news broadcasts, or debates), you must be completely unconciously familiar with what is right and what is wrong when it comes to verb conjugation. How does one do this you might ask.
First find a source of Arabic verbs conjugated in all forms.
Such as the 201 Arabic verbs book (the copy that I had had typos). The book 201 Arabic verbs uses complex grammatical terminology, and doesn't provide explanation, no transliteration, and no audio. The good thing about this book is that it shows the verbs conjugated with all the Ha-ra-kaat which is crucial in order to conjugate a verb properly. There are silent alifs at the ends of verbs when conjugated, which are not indicated in the book.
What you need to drill yourself in Arabic verb conjugation, orally. The top row, first say the pronoun and then the verb conjugated, with a word after it. Preferrably using each one in a sentence.
Ex.: ana fa`altu shay'an, anta fa`alta shay'an I did something, you (guy) did something
Then say it without a word conjugated, so that you automatically drop the extra vowels when you are supposed to. I am not sure if the dropping of those vowels is completely neccessary at the end of a sentence; sometimes they are pronounced.
ana fa`alt(u), anta fa`alt(a)
Then go to the next row, and do the same thing.
With the third row (the subjunctive mood). Precede the verb conjugation with لن (lan) (translation: will not/won't) or أن (an), because this row shows how the verb is conjugated with these (as well as others).For Example:
ana lan af`ala shay'an, anta lan taf`ala shay'an
ana lan af`al, anta lan taf`al
The next row (the jussive mood) is used for verbs after لم (lam) (translation:had not). So say it like this:
ana lam af`al shay'an, anta lam taf`al shay'an ana lam af`al, anta lam taf`al
Then do the imperative. With the imperative you may add يا (yaa)+ the group you are addressing, to make the connection between each form clear, like this:
if`al yaa walad, if`alee yaa bint, if`aluu yaa jamaa`ah, if`alaa yaa shakhSayn
You better know what walad (boy), bint (girl), and jamaa`ah (group) mean.
You can later on, once you have gone through every type of verb conjugation, start to drill yourself in the passive. The passive is the opposite of the active. Example in English: Active: I killed something. Passive: It was killed.
In Arabic the passive is only used when the speaker does not know, or does not wish to tell who did the action. It is when the doer of the action is not indicated.
The following is not correct in Arabic. It was written by me. The by me part, coming after, wouldn't exist in Arabic. Instead the following sentence would be used: I wrote it. Through all these spoken conjugation excercises, you will understand all proper Arabic well. And after memorizing a bunch of similar phrases (to learn different structures), a massive amount of vocabulary, and watching tv, you will be able to begin speaking Arabic fluently.