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Al-Kitaab fii Ta'allum…
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Al-Kitaab fii Ta'allum al-'Arabiyya with DVDs: A Textbook for…

by Kristen Brustad

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This book will teach you Arabic, but you won't enjoy it.

I get the impression that this book is intended for the perfect student--not just the A+ student who works hard and has experience in studying languages, but the student who has endless time on his hands and remembers every word after seeing it once.

It often seems that the authors have gone out of their way to make this book as difficult as possible, based perhaps on the premise that students are lazy and will take advantage of any crutches they provide. Maybe they're right. But I'm not convinced that taking away the basic supports leads students to try harder than they otherwise would; it may just make the whole process slower and lead to increased levels of frustration.

A case in point: the table of contents is almost entirely in Arabic, in a book for beginning students who have just learned the alphabet. Will they struggle through the list of Arabic words when they're trying to find that grammar explanation from a few weeks ago, or will it be both faster and easier to flip through the pages until they happen across the section they're looking for? From personal experience, I can say it's the latter.

The grammar explanations themselves aren't always easy to understand. The example sentences tend to be full of the current chapter's vocabulary, which was often seen for the first time only days before. Of course, the ideal student will have memorized all of the new vocabulary immediately. The average student will more likely miss the point of the sentences, or at least waste time flipping through the glossary that could be better spent actively studying.

It doesn't help that the grammar explanations use Arabic words whenever possible, and that these grammatical terms aren't listed in the main vocabulary to be memorized for each chapter. Instead, each chapter has a list of additional words at the end, without the convenience of their meanings. So again, time is spent flipping through the book to find these words, and they're ultimately not learned as well as the words in the main vocabulary. The result is that the grammar sections become harder and harder to follow.

To increase the student's frustration further, almost the only reading passages in the book are "authentic"; i.e., not written with the beginning student in mind. The idea is that the student will pick out the few familiar words from a paragraph, thereby gaining an understanding of the basic idea. Besides the fact that this doesn't work at all if you happen to forget one of the key words, it's just not satisfying to "read" only passages that are too advanced for your current level. There's no sense of accomplishment at all.

The book does have some good points; it comes with multiple DVDs, so the student can get plenty of practice in listening to the language, and I found that everything seemed a lot clearer when I read through it again before beginning my second-year course. As I was actually working through this book, though, I have to say I found it pretty painful. ( )
4 vote _Zoe_ | Nov 2, 2009 |
This book is inadequate for truly communicating in Arabic. I've taken classes at several universities using this text and the general consensus has been that it's confusing and under-informative. There is a lack of useful vocabulary and the explainations of grammar are mostly in Arabic. It seems like this book is intended as the MSA companion to some immersion course for people actually in the middle east. I don't reccomend it as a textbook and certainly not for self study.

Also, I've been going over this book to review for a placement exam. It all makes perfect sense now (having studied Arabic for two years) but the way the material is presented is extremely overwhelming for a beginning student. ( )
1 vote Lin-Z | Jun 7, 2007 |
Once you have the Arabic alphabet and a small vocabulary going, this is the next place to turn. It works good as self study and even better if you have a teacher to converse with and strengthen speaking skills. As far as I've seen, this is the best series of books out there for learning Arabic as an English speaker. ( )
  chellinsky | Mar 30, 2007 |
This book/DVD set provides an excellent use of the communicative method to teach MSA. The exercises employ multiple learning strategies to present the language in a useful and meaningful way. أحب هذا الكتاب ( )
  toasterhead | Jan 3, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 158901104X, Paperback)

Al-Kitaab: Part One develops skills in standard Arabic while providing additional material in both colloquial and classical Arabic. With new video material and revised and updated text and exercises, the bound-in and revised DVDs supersede both the former CD audio set and video DVD previously available only as separate items -- making this singular volume a comprehensive whole for those immersed in the early and intermediate stages of learning Arabic.

Providing approximately 150 contact hours of college-level instruction, parts of this revised edition are updated with contemporary selections for reading comprehension. The organization of the chapters has been adapted to reflect the most current pedagogical developments. Audio tracks for vocabulary sections now allow students to hear a new word followed by a sentence using it in context with previously acquired vocabulary and grammatical structures, enabling students to build new vocabulary skills while reviewing old material. The basic texts have been refilmed with a new cast of actors. The DVDs also contain substantially more material that exposes the learner to Egyptian Arabic: students have the options of seeing and hearing the video of each lesson in both Modern standard Arabic and Egyptian colloquial Arabic. In addition, a short dialogue in Egyptian colloquial Arabic appears at the end of each lesson. New video materials also feature interviews with Egyptians (subtitled in English) about various aspects of Arab culture, such as gender issues, fasting in the Muslim and Christian traditions, social clubs and their significance, and more.

FEATURES OF PART ONE, Second Edition:• Develops all language-related skills including reading, listening, speaking, writing, and cultural knowledge

• Immediately incorporates extensive use of authentic materials for reading, listening, and grammatical practice, thus relating abstract grammatical concepts to practical skills

• Presents narrative-based content through audio and video media rather than written text to develop meaning-focused language processing skills, utilizing two main characters and their extended families

• Develops reading skills through the use of composed texts derived from the main narrative and authentic texts from newspapers and journals

• Introduces grammar using spiraling and inference, challenging students to discover the grammar of the language by means of analogy, problem solving, and educated guessing

• Reinforces grammar and vocabulary through extensive classroom and homework exercises that provide constant review and expand to challenge students as their skills develop

• Introduces students to Egyptian colloquial through scenes based on the main narrative to promote the use of shared vocabulary and structure of the two registers to increase listening comprehension skills

• Contains Arabic-English and English-Arabic glossaries and reference charts as well as a new grammar index

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Al-Kitaab Part One is the second book in the Al-Kitaab Arabic language program and is now available in an extensively revised and reorganized third edition. This book with its companion website develops skills in formal and colloquial Arabic, including reading, listening, speaking, writing, and cultural knowledge, integrating materials in colloquial and formal/written Arabic. It provides a comprehensive program for students in the early stages of learning Arabic. -- Publisher description.… (more)

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