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15 Levantine Arabic Resources that Have Made Arabic the Easiest Possible Language to Learn

Today is a big day for me. Today, February 5, 2021, marks one whole full year since I re-started learning Arabic using all the untraditional learning methods that I talk about on this blog. To be honest, I figured I’d fall flat on my face. When I started last February 5th, I thought to myself, Look sis, if this doesn’t work, just give up. You’ve tried everything...

To my surprise, I didn’t fall flat on my face. In fact, this year has proven to me that Arabic is probably one of the easiest languages I’ve ever learned. When I say “easy” I’m not disregarding the challenges of dialect, and MSA, and unwritten vowels, and case endings. أبدًا ! What I mean is that the Levantine resources I list in this post made it easy to feel excited about immersing every day in a language I don’t fully understand, easy for me arrange my daily schedule into order to prioritize what’s important right now — Arabic immersion, and easy for me to feel re-energized and ready to start afresh whenever I felt tired or frustrated or burnt out.

When I reflect, I think for me, it was the ease, and not things like “hard work” or “studying” that have contributed the most to my forward momentum. I grew up as a type-A, get all As kind of gal, and learned (maybe a bit too late in life) that “hard work” would never be fulfilling if I didn’t have true inner passion and motivation toward my goals. So what’s been incredible in the past year, has been gathering Levantine resources that made it easy to build internal motivation and passion that only continues to increase. And I think the reason why my internal motivation and passion has become a fire that keeps on burning is because each of these resources has inspired me on a deep and cellular level.

I’ve written them all out here because maybe, just maybe, they’ll inspire you too. Take what you need, leave the rest, and share, share, share with others. سلام .

Btw, I guess in the age we live in, I have to preface this post by saying: This post is not sponsored. I genuinely love everything I’ve written below. I kind of wish this was sponsored, because that would mean I could actually be friends with everyone who made the resources I mention here! But alas, this is not the case. This post is just giving credit where credit is due. Okay, now back to our original programming…

Group 1: Bloggers and YouTubers who showed that plain ol’ folks like me could become fluent too.

  1. Lyn from Levantongue — What I love about her is that she sees needs and gaps in the Levantine learning community and creates great resources. Lyn got together with some friends and wrote a book in Levantine Arabic called: Folktales from Around the World. This book taught me how to read and start to recognize the patterns of the Levantine dialect. This was crucial for my initial listening practice. I’m not even a fan of folktales, but the book is a fantastic beginners resource, and where I think beginners should start. Now, she has a podcast for intermediate/advanced learners called El Bulbul. Ultimately, she’s taught me the importance of giving my time and energy to the language learning community that means so much to me. On the flip side, she’s also creating the Levantine resources that she needs for her own growth, but that don’t yet exist. Her generosity and commitment is outstanding.

  2. The Language Life on YouTube — I stumbled onto her video, “How I Learned Arabic”, at the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020. Although, I didn’t know exactly what she was saying yet in her video, I knew that she had done the WORK. On top of that, she seemed like she was just a normal white girl with a normal background. I’m not white, but I consider myself to be pretty normal. And I was excited to see that I didn’t need any crazy superpowers to speak well. Whoever she is, she inspired me. Sometimes you just need to see yourself in someone else, in order to know you can achieve your goals too.

  3. Dr. Steven Krashen, Khatzumoto of AJATT, Matt vs Japan of MIA and Refold — All of these guys, in similar and different ways have shown through research and practice that fluency through self-study is truly possible. This was so liberating, because I was so drained from the student/teacher model of learning Arabic which hadn’t really worked for me. Most importantly Krashen, Khatzumoto, and Matt have spent endless hours laying out their framework so that others can reach fluency as well, and with as little pain as possible. I so appreciate their generosity. It is because of them, that I’ve been able to adapt their techniques to Levantine Arabic — something I had not yet seen on the internet.

Group 2: Actors, artists, and radio programs that made me fall in love with artistic expression from the Middle East.

Having lived all around the world, the thing that never ceases to amaze me is how widely American entertainment is distributed around the world. After going through these resources (below), I really wished that more ideas from the outside world were distributed around America.

  1. Taim Hassan for his role in Al-Hayba (Netflix) – I have to admit, before watching him I didn’t even think that there would be Arabic TV shows that I’d truly loved. I thought that I’d just stomach the content for the sake of learning, but that I wouldn’t ever feel emotionally invested. Taim showed me that I was wrong و اكتر كمان ! After gobbling up the first season of Al-Hayba in less than 2 weeks, I knew this year was going to unlock unforgettable stories and storytelling.

  2. Dana Mardini for her role in Tango (Netflix) – One of the next shows I watched after Al-Hayba was Tango, which is where I first saw Dana. In the show, she’s reeling from the fact that her now-in-a-coma husband cheated on her with her best friend AND had a kid with her. It sounds like melodrama, but somehow Dana takes the role in a completely different direction. You see her go through real stages of grief, anger, and addiction, before coming back and reclaiming her power as a woman. With all the Western noise about Arab women being oppressed, Dana balks at the notion. Overall, I’ve seen so much strength in womens’ roles on Levantine TV and film this year.

  3. Bassam Kousa for his role in Everything He Ever Does (find his shows on YouTube and Arab streaming services) – If you don’t know who he is yet, consider this a gift from me to you. Bassam is the OG of Syrian television, film, and theater. In fact, he has a nickname: The Joker — because he can play anything. I’ve seen him in dramas, comedies, and there’s even a weird-looking horror film that I’m going to watch soon. To me, he’s the Meryl Streep of Syria. He commits to every role he does and he never disappoints. (Have you ever disliked Meryl Streep in anything?!) Many of my favorite Syrian TV show episodes are because of just a few lines that he delivered.

  4. Bu Kolthoum (Apple, Spotify, YouTube)– He’s a Syrian hip hop and pop artist based in Europe now. What always astonished me was that even when I couldn’t understand his words (which is most of the time!), I could feel his soul. That feeling alone made me want to know what he was saying. Some of my first Anki notecards and Arabic immersion session were just his lyrics because they are so rich. The music will move you.

  5. Sowt Productions (wherever you get your podcasts) – My favorite of all of their podcasts is called 3ib, which talks about the issues that are taboo in Arab society but affected peoples lives. Before that I’d never heard people speak openly about being transgender, about pornography, or about the challenges of motherhood. Furthermore, the production quality is simply impeccable. But if you’re not in a serious vibe they have podcasts on music history, meditation, food history, and more. There’s even one that’s just a sound bath! I actually wish that Sowt made more English content so that more people from around the world could widen they’re view of the Middle East. Download their podcasts, if you haven’t yet. Your day will be so much better for it.
  6. Al D3sa Radio Show (from the Voice of Lebanon) – This radio program, which runs 5 days a week, is just so damn funny. The host runs games on air and has listeners call or text in to answer obscure pop culture questions. He’s snarky, and quick, and downright hilarious. Before this show, I had never truly laughed in another language. For language learning purposes, I love that the show is fully unscripted speech, so it 100% reflects what every day Levantine actually sounds like. And you can get all of the past shows online for free!

Group 3: TV Shows and Movies that pulled at my heartstrings and challenged my mind.

  1. Ahl Al-Garam and Shababeek (YouTube): I cannot speak highly enough about how incredible both of these Syrian dramas are. On one hand, I found them to be very great for ammiya listening practice because the actors used clear language in clear dialects. But more importantly, these shows are amazing because of their subject matter. They talk about things I hadn’t expected to see on Arabic TV like: suicide, abuse, and gender identity. I felt so connected to every story because they felt so real and because they were so beautifully crafted.
    • For that matter, I really have to thank production companies like Sama Art International and Blue Productions Drama for making so much of their content free and available on YouTube. If you’re ever looking for Levantine TV shows, go there! Without them, I would have had such a hard start finding shows.

  2. Beirut City (Shahid): This is the first show where I truly say myself reflected in the storytelling. Beirut City is about the career, family, and relationship struggles of four 30-something women living in Beirut. What I love is that these women halfway across the world have the same struggles, thoughts, questions, and dilemmas in life that I have. As cheesy as it sounds, every time I watch an episode I am reminded of how innately human and connected we all are despite our differences. This show makes me feel like whenever I do make it to Lebanon, I’m going to make some amazing friends.

  3. Barakah Meets Barakah (Netflix): This movie is actually a Saudi romantic comedy, and the first one ever! I don’t usually watch non-Levantine content if I can help it, but I’m so glad I watched this film. What I love about Barakah Meets Barakah is that 1) it’s hella funny and 2) it actually shows depictions of middle- and lower-class life in Saudi Arabia. I thought: What?! No royals, no mansions, no Maseratis? The film reminded me to be aware that while immersing in Arabic TV shows and movies is great, I should still be mindful of the content I take in, so that it reflects real life as much as possible.

Group 4: Real and Virtual Friends who helped to support every step of the way.

  1. YouTube commenters — First of all, I’ve found that reading comments is an amazing way to learn ammiya. But more importantly, a lot of comments just are hilarious and give me a peek into what people in the Levant find interesting and funny. I remember once when I was talking to an Arab friend, she said unexpectedly, Sometimes I watch Arabic shows on Youtube just so I can read the comments. I balked. I thought it was just me! If you haven’t given yourself the chance, dive in and have fun!
  2. My friend, Houda — For sitting with me for hours before the pandemic as I practiced Arabic with her. She was patient and she also gave me more hope than I could have ever asked for. She made me feel like: Yes I can do this. And with that hope, I started this past year’s journey with Arabic.

To everyone, one million times over: شكرا لكم من قلبي ! ممنونة كتيرة

I hope for many more years to come!

Do any of these resources speak to you? Are there any that you already use or would like to use? Let me know below in the comments!

3 thoughts on “15 Levantine Arabic Resources that Have Made Arabic the Easiest Possible Language to Learn”

  1. Pingback: 5 Mindset Changes You Need to Learn Levantine Arabic in Quarantine in 2021 – Marhabtain

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