The Arabic language is exceptionally rich and may require several years to master thoroughly. However, this should not deter students from tackling it for there is no obstacle to obtaining some basic understanding in a relatively short time.
Time spent in the Arab World is by the far the most effective means to further one's knowledge of the language and its subtleties combined with an intricate knowledge of Arab customs and traditions. Even the barest knowledge of the language can open new doors for the visitor as usually Arabs are most impressed that you have taken an interest in their tongue.
Students of Arabic are endlessly pestered with the eternal question: "Why are you studying Arabic?" The implication is quite clear; that many perceive the language to be strange, unconventional, and absurdly difficult and can never make it as a mainstream language. Studying Italian for example is seen as conventionally acceptable, although being in global terms possibly less significant. Some even question Arabic's right to be called a modern language. It is important therefore to point out how useful and important the language is, and that it is not only a shame but a definite hindrance to have so few people especially Europeans who can converse in this truly great language.
A good language school will recognise that people learn languages in different ways and try to accommodate different learning styles to ensure that all students get the most from their course.
Studying Arabic in a country where it's the everyday language is perhaps the best way to learn the language. There are Arabic language schools in a number of Arabic-speaking countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebannon, Kuwait, Morocco, Syria, Tunisa and Yeman. These countries have a lot in common in terms of culture, but there are also differences in their history, landscape and climate. One interesting place to study is Damascus in Syria.
Syria has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters, although inland it gets progressively drier. Not much rain falls anywhere, but what there is falls mainly on the coast.
Damascus is Syria's largest city and capital. It grew up around the Barada River and Ghouta Oasis, which make life possible in an otherwise uninhabitable landscape. Damascus is another contender for the world's oldest continuously inhabited city - there was a settlement here as long ago as 5000 BC.
Today, its fascination lies in its mysterious oriental bazaars and the gracious, somewhat decayed, charm of some of Islam's greatest monuments. The centre of the city is Martyrs' Square (aka Saahat ash-Shohada) - most of the restaurants and hotels are close by.
Syria has two international airports, one 35km (22mi) southeast of Damascus, the other just northeast of Aleppo. Both Damascus (DAM) and Aleppo (ALP) have regular connections to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. There's a departure tax of about 500.00.
Buses run between Damascus and Istanbul (Turkey), Amman (Jordan), Beirut or Tripoli (Lebanon) and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). Trains go from Aleppo to Istanbul and from Damascus to Amman. Service taxis also run from Damascus to most of the neighboring countries.
This article is by To Learn Arabic, an Arabic language school in Damascus, Syria.
Links to Arabic language schools