Preparatory Lessons


Welcome to the Preparatory Lessons of Arabic Without Walls. These lessons introduce you to the sounds and letters of Arabic and help you acquire some basic conversational vocabulary and a few cultural facts about the region known as the Arab world. As with the remainder of the course, you will be using 1) a textbook (in this case Alif Baa), 2) the DVD's that come with the textbook, and 3) the web-based materials presented in Arabic Without Walls. In addition to these three components, you will be using an Arabic keyboard literacy program called Aktub, designed by Yaman Salahi and Sonia S'hiri, UC Berkeley. This program teaches you how to type in Arabic while consolidating your acquisition of the Arabic alphabet, the names of the Arabic letters and numbers. Aktub (meaning "I write") presents you also with a battery of other activities and games built around thematically organized vocabulary and at varying levels of difficulty.

All four parts of the course are used in conjunction with one another. The suggested Unit Guide serves as a map that directs you in using different materials on a daily basis.

The Course Materials in the Preparatory Lessons

  1. Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic Sounds and Letters is the title of the textbook that you will use to learn the Arabic alphabet and some vocabulary for basic conversations and for describing your immediate environment. The book contains a useful introduction to the Arabic alphabet with additional information about pronunciation and transliteration. The Preface is equally important because it explains how the book and the DVDs work and offers useful tips for using the book.
  2. The DVDs that accompany Alif Baa contain audio-visual materials that match the contents of the ten units of the textbook: the Listening Exercises, Drills, Writing, Vocabulary, and Dialogues. The DVDs also include a segment titled Signs that does not have a counterpart in the textbook (see further below).
    • The Listening Exercises, Drills and Vocabulary segments on the DVDs provide the sound for the corresponding sections of Alif Baa.
    • The Writing component features a calligrapher who demonstrates to the learner how each letter of the Arabic alphabet is written, depending on whether it is standing alone or whether it occurs at the beginning, the middle or the end of a word.
    • The Dialogues introduce basic conversations including, for instance, greetings appropriate for different times of the day, polite forms of address, and ways to introduce oneself and friends.
    • The Signs segment in the Alif Baa DVD contains a selection of authentic street signs and advertisements in Arabic. Many of these signs are Arabic transliterations of words (mainly international company names or slogans) that would be familiar to English speakers. The embellished signs are written in various scripts of Arabic and offer esthetic variations on the script introduced in this course. This section is primarily intended as an opportunity to recognize and read Arabic letters written in various different scripts, within the cultural context of the sign.
  3. The Web-based materials in the Preparatory Lessons consist of:
    1. a range of supplementary audio and text-based activities that complement Alif Baa and support your acquisition of the Arabic alphabet, the Arabic sounds, as well as essential conversational vocabulary
    2. additional content-based materials presented under the section entitled Culture to acquaint you further with the Arabic language and the geography of the Arab world.

In the web-based materials that guide you through Alif Baa (point 1 above), you will find, for instance, Listening Comprehension activities that facilitate your understanding of the dialogues on the DVDs as well as your acquisition of the conversational vocabulary they present. You will also find Writing activities that simultaneously build on the conversational phrases and the geographical vocabulary that you acquired in the Culture section on one hand, and consolidate your Arabic keyboard skills on the other. The Speaking activities complement the conversational vocabulary presented in the Alif Baa Dialogues and the vocabulary presented at the end of each of the textbook's units.

Click on the highlighted words to learn about the history of the Arabic language and the Arabic writing system in the Culture section of this unit.