Recently, we received a query at ArabicOnline from a prospective learner, who wrote: “Hello, I want to enquire about some advice. I am a complete beginner with no knowledge of Arabic. I am interested in learning Modern Standard Arabic for educational reasons, such as engaging with Arabic literature, religious reasons and of course for the purpose of communicating.”

It’s always encouraging when somebody expresses a wish to learn a new language, and one as important as Arabic. But the quote above illustrates the dilemma that many learners face, especially if they are complete beginners. Obviously, people who are interested in a particular language are also interested in the culture and literature related to that language. However, ambition – the desire to understand and appreciate the literature of a language – can be frustrating, and the time needed to get to a stage where the literature and culture can be fully appreciated can test the patience of many learners.

For absolute beginners, the initial step has to be to learn how to use the new language for communication in everyday situations. The Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) provides a road map for teachers, publishers and materials developers how to progress through the various stages from absolute beginners to advanced learner with native speaker competence.

For somebody with no experience whatsoever, the initial stage is referred to as A1. This is a level just above ‘phrasebook knowledge’. Learners at A1 can use certain ‘fixed phrases’ or formulations in specific common everyday situations. They will have little or no command of the grammar of the language and will not be able to hold a conversation in an uncontrolled situation.

At the next level, A2, learners can be expected to use the language in a wider range of contexts, produce more complex sentences, show an understanding of the grammar of the language and be able to use their knowledge of the grammatical system to generate or create new utterances, based on what they already know. But even at this level, learners are a long way from engaging with the literature of the language. This is why many publishers provide graded readers. These are often simple texts that have been specially written, using the language from the course.

When students reach levels B1 and B2, they can then be expected to read original texts in the language they are studying. But to get to this level requires several years study.

So how do learners engage with the literature and the culture of the language they are studying?

One option is obviously to read translations of the literature in one’s own mother language. A nation’s culture is reflected in its language, and even for a beginner with only limited knowledge of the language, cultural understanding is a key to appreciating better a nation’s literature. During the initial stages of learning a language, its literature – even in translation – will become that little bit more accessible.

For the learner who contacted us with the query above, ArabicOnline is one of the very few courses of Modern Standard Arabic that meets all the requirements of the CEFR. ArabicOnline provides a wealth of information about Arabic culture and about living, travelling and doing business the Arab world. On completion of the course, learners will have achieved level A2 and will be in a position to move on to the next stage of their journey and start to engage with Arabic literature.

Thank you for visiting ArabicOnline.Eu. Our award winning interactive courses of Modern Standard Arabic have been developed for anyone with a genuine interest in Arabic, whether for private, educational or professional reasons and are specially designed for self-study. Our website and our language courses are free from advertisements and we don't share any personal details of our visitors or registered members with third parties. Nor do we sell data for targeted advertising. We believe passionately that learning should be free from commercial distractions. For this reason we rely on subscriptions to fund the development of our products. Click here to find out more about our Beginner to Intermediate Arabic courses.