Pimsleur Modern Standard Arabic
January 19, 2014
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Price $119.95 for all 30 lessons
Skill Level Beginner
I really, really, really wish Pimsleur offered 90 lessons for Modern Standard Arabic, often referred to as MSA. I love Pimsleur, and 30 lessons aren’t nearly enough!
Pimsleur is a great resource for dozens of languages. It is extremely interactive and quite demanding.
It is no joke.
Each lesson gets you speaking nonstop in response to a series of increasingly challenging prompts. The product considers the strengths and limitations of human memory in the details of its construction; it is smart that way. There is no mindlessness to be found anywhere.
For Arabic, Pimsleur has three options:
- 90 lessons for Eastern Arabic, also known as Levantine Arabic, which is a dialect spoken in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine
- 30 lessons for Egyptian Arabic, another major dialect
- 30 lessons for MSA, the broadly understood formal Arabic that you will typically see in writing and hear on the lips of newscasters throughout the Arabic-speaking world
There are other Arabic dialects as well—just not with any Pimsleur lessons available. In choosing the best Pimsleur option for you, keep in mind that while MSA is broadly understood across Arabic-speaking nations, it is not the spoken language of any country.
I have completed all 150 of Pimsleur’s Arabic lessons, and the MSA were definitely the hardest. They were useful and totally worth it, though, because they match up more closely with what I have seen in my grammar books than the more numerous Levantine lessons do.
What makes the MSA lessons so hard? Well, for one thing, mysterious word endings keep popping up. Pimsleur rarely explains grammar, so if you want to understand those itinerant vowel sounds latching onto the ends of things, you will need to consult another source. But Pimsleur is a tool that I have adored for nearly 20 languages and dialects now, and I rate it extremely highly, for Arabic and everything else I have tried with them.
If you are considering this MSA product, one or more of the following may enhance your experience and reduce frustration:
- having some pre-existing knowledge of Arabic
- simultaneous study using another resource, such as an Arabic grammar book or website or writing guide or all of the above
- unwavering faith that consonants matter more than vowels in Arabic
Before you commit, consider trying a free lesson from the Pimsleur site. Everyone’s different, and although I am a hopeless, loony Pimsleur fan, here is a language-learning law: If you yourself don’t like a particular study product, it won’t work for you.