Intensive Arabic Program – Semester 1 Review

Intensive Arabic Program

Alhamdulillah. I have just completed Intensive Arabic Program (IAP) Semester 1 with Islamic Online University on 30th of January recently. IAP is divided in 4 semesters for a 2-year program. You may check the curriculum here.

Semester 2 will start in a week time and the modules will be using Madina Arabic Book 2 as reference. I started the first semester from 1st of September 2016 and will be completing this program by 2018 bi iznillah. 

I have to keep repeating my intention of completing this program so that my desire won’t be like a match stick. Sudden impulse and then dies easily. May Allah help me to be istiqomah in this journey. Amin.

Recently, prior to taking the final exam, I have received an email from a reader who would like to know my opinion on IAP. Here is the email.

Good evening,

I see you attended the Islamic Online University for Arabic study.

Did you like it? I am considering taking this program.

I want to learn Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and then later, Egyptian Arabic to understand Arabic culture and then the Quran.



The email is pretty simple but I just could not answer it in a simple manner. 

As the person asking has a unique approach on learning Arabic from his perspective, I also have a goal on why I decided to learn Arabic.

I learn Arabic to ease my understanding of Al Quran by taking Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and I would hope someday to teach this language to others too. Bi iznillah. 

Married to a Moroccan is definitely a huge plus as long as I don’t ask my husband to explain the grammar rules. He is born with the language but not with the grammar.  

I need an Arabic language teacher to tell me that, hence taking IAP. My husband is a walking dictionary. If I don’t understand the meaning of a word or how a word is used in certain context then he could explain that. Masha Allah. 

Learning MSA is definitely the way to go first in learning Arabic, in my opinion and I wholeheartedly agree with what was said by Mr. James M. Price. in his book – All the Arabic You Never Learned the First Time Around.

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He said in a portion of the book dedicated to ‘How to be a good Arabic student’

“My personal advice to those who do wish to learn Arabic well is for them to actively pursue learning a dialect. Here are some points, based on my own experience, which I feel are important to keep in mind if you wish to study colloquial.The Four Noble Truths About Studying Colloquial Arabic1. Do not study colloquial Arabic until you have a foundation in MSA.2. Once you begin to learn a dialect continue to study your MSA. Never, ever, abandon your study of MSA.3. Do not study a dialect before studying MSA.4. Egyptian (Cairene) colloquial is probably the most widely understood Arabic dialect in the Arab world. That consideration aside, it is irrelevant which dialect you study. So pick a dialect that for some reason or other interests you.”

His advices aside; while learning MSA I totally get the idea why he said that we should learn MSA first.

I am surrounded by many Moroccans and other Arab residents where I live and I could not avoid but to listen to their conversation in their dialect everyday. Although I could not understand them but when I got home I asked my husband which words I remembered from their speech.

Surprisingly, some words I did learn them from my study and I could connect the dots easily since I learned MSA first.For example; the word كيف in كيف حلك؟. It is pronounced as ‘kaifa’ in my study of MSA but the Moroccans around me said ‘kif’ colloquially.

See? They are the same but just a bit twisted here and there. It is kinda interesting. Mr Price also said, 

“If you ever want to be good at this language you will have to do more than take one course a semester at a university. But first of all, if you are right now taking a course at a university, make sure that you do the work for that course. Come to class prepared and be ready to contribute to the class that day.”

Yes. This is true.

Although IAP is a program where you need to study online which is different from the conventional study approach where you have a teacher in front of you to ask immediately if you have queries and students around you to discuss your worries and what not but it is an excellent tool for us to study MSA wherever we are without geography restriction.

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You just need time, good internet connection, a computer, discipline and some money for the fee and expenses. 

The student definitely has to strive more and not just depend on the notes and modules provided by the university. Always ask the teachers and clear up your misunderstanding by emailing them.

My advice is to get the basic grammar right the first time! If you don’t master them first thing first you will have a lot of confusion as you carry forward with the study. In the end, you will easily give up.

My approach is to study a module each day but only answer the modules quizzes after studying at least four or five modules.

Never rush to answer the quiz after you complete a module. Write and write and write. I rewrote the whole thing on paper although I could simply print the text module and the notes out.

This way, I could memorize the vocabularies easily. Never leave a day without studying Arabic. Set aside at least two hours. The earlier modules normally are easier.

I spent two hours or so on each module but it gets tougher towards the end and on some days I spent almost six hours a day for a module.

Watching the modules videos, writing, understanding, doing the exercise and memorizing the vocabularies. 

I am a homemaker and I could afford to spend that much time to study IAP however if you have a day job, you may need to schedule your priorities carefully.

info overload

IAP is an intensive course and honestly at some point I felt overloaded by the intensity of the information and burnt out too. 

Tough..but there is no other way around to go about it as Mr. Price said,

“No matter how good your teacher is (and there are some very good teachers of Arabic in this country), your teacher cannot learn for you. The things you will learn the best are the things you will teach yourself, either through reading your text books, or by exposure to the language in a natural context such as a newspaper, book, or a radio or television program.You are the one responsible for your learning of the language, so teach yourself something every day. It is not easy, at times it will be discouraging, but you are more than capable of doing it if you want to. So you must do something in addition to any class that you may be taking, and you should do that something, at least a little bit, every day.”

By the way, I am not in a rush to use my knowledge of Arabic to communicate yet. I still have a long way to go. My husband could understand when I use MSA with him but it is pretty awkward for him to use MSA to reply. He would use his Moroccan dialect and they are worlds apart. Wish me luck!

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Lastly, I always always aim for 100% for all the modules quizzes, mid semester test and final exams however, if I could not get goal is to be on the 90’s range. Bi iznillah. 

For Muslims, I definitely encourage you to do your prayer on time. If you hear the adzan, get up and do not delay your prayer. Subhanallah.

In my own experience, whenever I do this; studying and understanding the modules became easier. 

Last but not the least, hear out Chief Editor of Oxford Arabic Dictionary; Tressy Arts‘s comment on learning Arabic language,

“Fair enough, it’s complex, but it’s all logical, and regular. I, for one, had much less trouble learning these Arabic verbs than the Latin and French ones, simply because there is such an elegant method to them.”

Touché! Subhanallah.

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