Learning any new language is hard. Some languages, though, are more difficult than others. Most people agree that Arabic is one of the hardest languages to learn. Even most of the local folks here I’ve talked to agree that it is. That is saying something.
Here are a few reasons why.
Let’s talk verbs. When learning a new verb you learn the two forms–the past and present. Katab/biktib for instance. This means to write. Katab means wrote and biktib means is writing. Both the past and the present have a different form based on who you are referring to when you are using it (me, you (feminine), you (masculine), he, she, you (plural), us, they). Past tenses have different suffixes for each and present form takes on different prefixes and suffixes. For instance:
ana baktib-I am writing.
inta bitaktib-You (m) are writing.
inti bitaktibi-You (f) are writing.
hu biktib-He is writing.
hi bitaktib-She is writing.
nihna binaktib-We are writing.
intu bitaktibu-You (pl) are writing.
hum biktibu-They are writing.
The prefixes and suffixes aren’t universal though. There are like 8 types of verbs and you conjugate each of them a little bit differently. You are supposed to drop the “b” in the prefix if you are using the verb as a subjunctive verb. Oh, and to make it future tense you add a “ha” prefix to the present subjunctive form of the verb.
BUT if you are saying a verb but using it to show ownership or something, like, say, “He thanked me,” instead of saying “me” you add the appropriate suffix onto the verb you already conjugated for he. So that would be “Hu shakarni.” There are different suffixes to learn as well to show ownership of objects. Like kitab is book, kitabi is my book, kitabu is your (masculine singular) book etc.
Did I mention that there are TEN different verb forms? What I mean is that there is a different form of each verb to use it how you mean. Let’s keep using katab/biktib (to write). That is Form 1. You use Form 2 when you are using it as a command–kattab/bikattib. Form 3 is used when you are talking about written correspondance for this verb-kaatab/bikaatib. And on and on. Not each verb uses all 10 forms. But…still. The day we went over these in class my head was swimming. I am not a grammer person.
I’m not complaining. I’m pretty pleased with where my Arabic is at for being here 6 months. I think that flashcards have been my saving grace. That and my super patient tutor. I am able to sloooowwwwly read Arabic. It’s like deciphering a secret code…that’s how it feels anyway as I try to do it. Writing is still difficult discerning between some of the letters that sound the same. But I’m getting there. I can totally chat now which makes a huge difference and I’m understanding the conversations that go on around me more and more. It’s so nice! Well…usually. 🙂 Some things I hear I’d be happy to have not understood!