User instructions

The following guidelines and suggestions will help students and instructors to use the book in the most successful way. Modern Standard Arabic is based on 24 lessons. After each six lessons an intensive review period is scheduled, which concurrently will prepare students for exams and quizzes. Every lesson is structured into sections for grammar, vocabulary, reading, conversation (starting with lesson 4 the dialog is presented in both MSA and the 4 main Arabic dialects), exercises for lexis and grammar as well as a written final test.

All areas marked with the symbol are writing exercises. The symbol refers to home work. Areas marked in blue or with contain audio files, while refers to special computer-based drills that can be activated in the e-Edition ( Both publications are identical in their content.

The answer key for exercises and drills with only one solution can be made visible by moving the mouse to the line where a solution should be written.

Classroom hours and sequence of units

  • Each lesson requires between 8 and 12 classroom hours, which should be covered within two weeks. The same amount of time is recommended for preparation and homework before and after class.
  • In order for students to process the new material and vocabulary it is recommend allowing 1 to 2 days of studying before starting with exercises, drills, and homework.
  • At the beginning of each lesson a suggested lesson plan (12 hours per lesson) is provided, which is adjustable for each classroom scenario.

Training methods

a) Pronunciation

Correct pronunciation cannot be accomplished by theoretical explanation alone, but requires various practical drills for listening, repeating and speaking. It is recommended to embed familiar sounds into well-known patterns and sounds of speech and their constant repetition in pairs. It is equally important for the student to read the sample texts and dialogs aloud. Dictations are other proven methods to train the students’ ear when distinguishing between similar sounds and letters and processing them in writing.

b) Writing

Due to enhanced digital tools handwriting is losing its importance. This trend is accommodated by a variety of combined writing drills on the computer. Initially, students have to copy shorts texts, while gradually more enhanced exercises in writing and composition are added. Thus, students learn a skill, which is beneficial and necessary in the professional world.

c) Grammar

Each lesson starts with the introduction of new grammar. We consider this method essential, because without the knowledge of grammar and the subsequent correct vocalization of words it is impossible to read and comprehend a Semitic language like Arabic. The majority of drills are transformation exercises; however, a number of drills practice insertions as well as coupling or completion of words, phrases and sentences through a large number of samples. The objective is to reach a level of unconscious, automatic use of the correct grammatical form, which is essential for active communication.

d) Texts and vocabulary

Although the selected texts are original in content they were modified for didactic purposes. Especially those in the first lessons refer to the respective grammar skills. Students should translate the texts both orally and in writing and discuss different ways and variants of their translation. Lexical drills are connected to the new vocabulary. Some exercises for lexis and conversation provide additional vocabulary, specific terminology, proverbs and sayings that are not always included in the general vocabulary list. Generally, the vocabulary lists include the new words and phrases from the text in alphabetical order. However, they only refer to the specific meaning of the word in the text and do not list additional meanings.

e) Conversation

The conversation exercises are considered suggestions, which instructors should vary according to the students’ interest and level. They can be particularly successful as a group exercise when students reenact the situation. Gradually, the instructor becomes more of a spectator or listener, who interferes only if necessary. In order to avoid intimidation it is recommended not to interrupt the conversation, but to correct afterwards. More inclusive seating arrangements in the classroom as well as gentle encouragements to speak freely in public will serve the same purpose.

f) Dialects

Contemporary Arabic introduces a new, unique way to integrate the teaching of MSA and all major Arabic dialects. No one speaks MSA as his or her native tongue, which is always shaped by a local dialect. Thus, students must be enabled to comprehend conversations and expressions in the dialect. In order to reach this goal, all dialogs and conversations starting with lesson 4 are presented in MSA as well as in the dialects of four main regions:

A. Iraq/Gulf/Arabian Peninsula B. Syria/Lebanon/Palestine C. Egypt D. Maghreb

The conversations in the dialect are offered to train listening comprehension. Typical words and expressions are replaced where is it common in the dialect. Essential changes in syntax and morphology are made when necessary. Several drills are designed to train special dialect features. Before working on the final test of each lesson, an additional listening text in the dialect with pertinent questions is included.

g) Written final test

At the end of each lesson comes a written test summarizing and evaluating the information of the particular lesson. Although students should prepare all questions, it is not necessary to include them all in the test. Depending on the test results, however, the instructor should decide which drills require special attention and review.

h) Intensive review

After finishing six lessons an intensive review period is scheduled to consolidate the material and prepare and motivate students for the final tests.

Appendixes and glossaries

a) Glossary (Arabic – English)

The Arabic-English glossary includes more than 2,600 entries in alphabetical order. Although some paradigmatic relations and patterns might not be visible, the alphabetical order makes it more user-friendly for beginners than the root-based order.

b) Tables

In addition to a table for cardinal and ordinal numbers, the appendix lists the main verbal and nominal forms fully vocalized.

c) Subject index (Arabic – English)

The two-part subject index lists all essential linguistic expressions used throughout the book. The entries highlighted in bold indicate definitions and thematic discussions.