Thursday, March 17, 2011

The book - Alif Baa

This title for learning Arabic was recommended by K as being the one for 'people like me' meaning in the main, Americans going into an Egyptian context (even though I am an Englishman in a Syrian one). One recent conversation suggested a link between US foreign policy, diplomacy and Alif Baa, in the sense that the words taught are overtly of a political nature. However, a quick glance through the glossary reveals little of this.

What annoyed me about this book was that a lot of the language we practised to learn the Arabic alphabet and authology was never taught meaningfully. I mean this in the sense that the meanings were never given. Also, it was inconsistent from page to page, sometimes meanings were given, sometimes not. This goes against everything I have been taught and believe about language learning. K argued that this non-focus on meaning was because of the cognitive difficulty of learning to read and write (and deal with meaning) is too much. That said , lady Love has picked up a few words and phrases from the book and we can both read and write (kind of).

The book and DVD-rom were generally thorough and complete. The authology DVD where you watch a professor writing so you can copy was useful. However there wasn’t a lot of variety in the drills and listening activities. Having the answer key built in would also have been useful at times, but I am sure this is evidence of a publishers thinking.

With some letters there was a discrepancy (or at least seemed to be) between the explanation for the sound represented by a character and the sample (for example daad). This could also be down to the fact that there is not a parallel English / French sound (and thus our ears couldn't distinguish it), or to recording quality.

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