I want to learn Arabic grammar, but I can’t. I start, and then I give up because I find it too difficult. I feel like I’m going back to school when I do grammar. Grammar, for me, is synonymous with difficulty and boredom.
This is what some may think of grammar.
Others will find grammar fun, easy to learn and understand.
It doesn’t matter what situation you find yourself in. The bottom line is that if you read these lines, you have some connection with Arabic grammar.
And you know what, I’ll tell you a story. I didn’t invent it with my imagination. It’s not a legend. But it is indeed a true story.
Do you want to know more? Here we go…
The story of the ant
You are probably wondering why I am talking about an ant. How does this relate to Arabic grammar? Come on. The suspense has gone on long enough. Open your eyes wide and read this inspiring and hopeful, beautiful story.
The story goes:
“A man found himself unable to understand grammar. One day he saw an ant carrying food. She wanted to climb a wall. Every time she stepped forward to try to climb that wall, she would fall with her food. She couldn’t do it. This was repeated several times. She went up and then she fell. She went up again, and then she fell. Finally, after much effort, she managed to climb and cross this famous wall with her food.
This man, who was desperate to understand Arabic grammar, realized what this ant went through and how she suffered. But, she was not discouraged. Eventually, she ended up achieving her goal. She was able to cross the wall with her food. The man then wondered why not act like this ant and continue learning Arabic grammar. So he persevered, and he studied grammar ”.
Do you know what happened to him? Do you have an idea?
He became a scholar of Arabic grammar.
Now, do you understand why I was talking about an ant at the very beginning?
I don’t know what you think about it, but I find this story really encouraging. Especially since this is a true story and not a tale about dreaming and hoping for the impossible, anyone can learn Arabic grammar if they have the will, persistence, and effort.
Make Arabic grammar a habit.
Arabic grammar can indeed seem a bit difficult at first. I say, right at the beginning. But over time, you will see that it is quite the opposite. What can be unsettling at first glance is the difference between Arabic and English grammar.
If you practice a little bit every day or at least twice a week, you will find that what you find difficult will become easy.
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Another story? Yes, this one won’t talk about an ant, I promise.
Did you know how long the rules of Arabic grammar have been around? Do you know the first person to make these rules? Do you know who Abu al-Aswad al-Dualee is?
Before showing you how Arabic grammar came to be, I would like to introduce you very briefly to the one who established grammar rules.
He is called Abu-l-Aswad al-Dualee. Born in 603 and died in 688 CE. Founder of Arabic syntax, he was known for his great eloquence.
As promised, I was brief. Let us now turn to how Arabic grammar was codified.
Several versions are reported concerning the history of the establishment of the rules of Arabic grammar. We will cite two of them.
1. First version
The first story goes back to the fourth caliph of Islam ʿAli ibn Abi Talib. The latter asked to establish Arabic grammar by mentioning the division of Arabic speech into three parts. To know :
- the name
- the verb
- the particle
The caliph is said to have said to Abu-l-Aswad al-Dualee, “Use this support and add whatever comes to your mind“.
2. Second version
Another version relates that Abu al-Aswad al-Dualee himself established the principles of grammar. It has been reported that Ziyad ibn Abeeh charged him with writing down the grammatical principles that ʿAli ibn Abi Talib had taught him. But, Abu al-Aswad al-Dualee refused.
One day, having heard a reader of the Quran make a mistake in the recitation, he declared himself ready to fulfil this mission.
What should be remembered is that the first to have established the rules of Arabic grammar is Abu-l-Aswad al-Dualee on the order of the Caliph ʿAli ibn Abi Talib.
Why learning Arabic grammar?
You may be wondering what the reasons to learn Arabic grammar is? I can understand your question. It is known that it is much easier and more motivating to learn something if you understand it.
So, let me explain the immense benefits that learning Arabic grammar can bring to you in a few lines.
The benefits of learning Arabic grammar
Learning Arabic grammar will allow you:
- To be protected from error
- To understand the meaning of a sentence or a word
- To be able to read without the vowels
Let me explain these three points to you in a little more detail.
Yes, by learning grammar, you will avoid making mistakes in understanding. It will help you to recognize, for example, the subject of a sentence, its verb, its object complement, etc. It will help to avoid misinterpretations. Without grammar, you will not be able to understand what you are reading or listening to. Without grammar, you will not be able to speak properly.
Read without vowel marks.
In addition to that, be aware that most Arabic works are unvocalized. It is quite possible to learn to read and write Arabic in a short time. But, when you are a beginner, you learn Arabic with vowels. Why? To make reading and writing easier for the learner. Unlike the English language, vocalized Arabic can be read without even understanding.
However, to understand and read works without vowels, you have to understand. That’s why Professor Anis Furayha of the American University of Beirut, regarding Arabic, said, “We are the only people who have to understand to read. All the other peoples of the earth read to understand ”!
Do you know what will help you understand what you read or listen to? Do you want to know how to speak without making mistakes? Would you like to know what will help you start reading without vowels? The answer, of course, as you would expect, is Arabic grammar.
Note that Arabic grammar is concerned with the endings of words. In other words, grammar will allow you to know which vowel to put at the end of a word according to its grammatical function (subject, object complement, etc.).
It is known that there is nothing better to understand something than to formulate it as an example. This is what we are going to do together.
Consider the following sentence:
حَمَلَ الرجل الولد
The man carried the child (hamala al-radjoul al-walad)
In English, the sentence is clear. We know that the man carried the child. But, in the Arabic sentence, we do not know, at first glance, who carried whom. Everything will depend on the placement of the vowels on the words.
The subject (the one doing the action) in Arabic takes a “damma” represented by this sign = ُ
The complement of the object (that which undergoes the action) in Arabic takes a “fatha” represented by this sign = َ
If we write the Arabic sentences below, we have:
1.حَمَلَ الرجلُ الولدَ (hamala al-radjulou al-walada)
The man carried the child.
2.حَمَلَ الرجلَ الولدُ (hamala al-radjula al-waladu)
The child carried the man.
In the first sentence, we see that the “damma” is over the word “man”. Therefore he is the subject. The “fatha” is over the word “child”, so it complements the object.
In the second sentence, we see that the “damma” is over the word “child”. Therefore it is the subject. The “fatha” is over the word “man”, so it complements the object.
This example shows us the importance of grammar to be able to read and understand correctly. A simple change of vowel can create a misinterpretation.
Read more: 3 steps to learn Arabic and manage your time
Is Arabic grammar so difficult to learn?
First of all, you should know that Arabic grammar is accessible to everyone. Anyone who wants to learn it can do it. This is proven by many accounts like the tale of the ant, which we have already mentioned.
Many people around the world have learned and are still learning Arabic grammar. No matter where you are from, Arabic can be learned by anyone who can afford it.
Among the greatest scholars of the Arabic language, we find non-Arabic speakers from different countries. They have become experts in this language. They excelled at it because they knew the importance and value of learning it.
There are eloquent Arabs in the nations which Arabized in the early days of Islam.
Al-Boukhari was of Persian (Uzbekistan) origin. He was far from the Arabs. Despite everything, he Arabized himself, and he compiled the words of the Prophet of Islam in a book (Saheeh al-Boukhari) considered to be the most authentic after the Quran.
Others have done the same as Al-Fayrooz Abadi, who is the author of a dictionary known in Arabic (Al-Qamoos Al-Muheet). The latter was not of Arab origin either.
Through all of this, it seems obvious that learning Arabic grammar is accessible to everyone. You need to have the will, a clear goal and practice regularly.
An additional ingredient is missing. Do you know what it is? Patience
Patience is the key to success.
Be careful not to fall into this trap. But what trap exactly? That of doing too much grammar. I’m not saying grammar isn’t important in learning Arabic. I’m just saying that doing too much can be a barrier to expressing yourself with Arabic speakers. Some may not agree with me. I am simply giving my opinion on my own experience, what I have read about the field and what I have seen around me. Remember how you learned your mother tongue. Did you start with grammar? No, obviously. One of the reasons is that you don’t have time to think about grammar rules when you talk to people. Speech must be automatic and natural.
This advice is especially for beginners. Go easy. Don’t try to memorize or be perfect from the start. If you really want to improve yourself, it will take time like anything else. The key is to understand and apply.
From my own experience and what I have seen around me, Arabic grammar is elementary compared to English. You will see the rules are simple and easier to learn. After you’ve learned the basics of reading and writing, don’t hesitate to give it a go.
You now know the founder and the reasons for establishing the rules of Arabic grammar.
Arabic grammar is important to:
- To understand
- Avoid making mistakes
- To be able to read without the vowels
You have to be patient and not give up like the ant.
Ultimately, the key is to understand and apply what you learn.
Go ahead and learn Arabic grammar. You will see the progress after a few weeks.
I hope you enjoyed this article and that it will help you in your learning of Arabic.