Pimsleur Egyptian Arabic
January 16, 2014
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Price $119.95 for all 30 lessons
Skill Level Beginner
Pimsleur offers highly interactive audio lessons, each about half an hour long, that have so far impressed me more than any other teach-yourself product for spoken language skills.
Everyone has different language-learning tastes, though, so before you buy, I recommend you go to their website and try a lesson for free. It will absolutely give you a sense of the Pimsleur approach, which provides you with many opportunities to practice, and mess up, and correct yourself, and try again, and maybe mess up less the next time, and then be tested yet again down the road, and again, and again, until you finally start remembering in spite of yourself.
But be warned: this is difficult material. Pimsleur for a language like Arabic in particular (as opposed to more familiar Romance languages) is no joke. I had to cajole myself through some of these lessons, and they can be frustrating. You must be patient, redo lessons as many times as necessary without giving yourself grief, and focus on what you are acquiring rather than what you are repeatedly getting wrong. Laugh at yourself! (I did.)
Pimsleur explains virtually no grammar, so consider supplementing your Pimsleur lessons with a text unless you are an overwhelmingly auditory learner. (I am not; I need writing, and books, and grammar, and vocabulary practice, and all that good stuff, which is why I have tested various other Arabic products and written them up for the reviews section of this site.)
Arabic is a heterogenous language with multiple dialects. Egyptian is one oft-studied option, but Pimsleur also offers Modern Standard Arabic (30 lessons) and Eastern Arabic (90 lessons).
Eastern Arabic, alternatively called Levantine Arabic, is spoken in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine. Modern Standard Arabic, which is understood everywhere, is the spoken language of no country. It is used by newscasters and is typically what you will see in writing and in most Arabic language-learning books (though it appears to me that more and more colloquial guides are being published nowadays, especially over at Routledge).
So how do you choose among the three Arabic options at Pimsleur? Having completed all 150 Arabic lessons they offer, I have retained a preference for the Levantine, but that affinity is based largely on the fact that there are three times as many lessons for it as for the other two options.
Modern Standard was for sure the hardest of the three, and if there had been 90 Egyptian lessons, I would gladly have done all of those before considering the Levantine. (Hint, hint, Pimsleur people!) Arabic-language films are dominated by Egyptian dialect, and it is broadly understood throughout the Arabic-speaking world.