So, you’re here because you want to learn to speak Arabic fast? Well so did I, but I was doing it all wrong for years.
Over the years, I signed up for what felt like a million conversation sessions with Arabic language partners and teachers.
I signed up for these sessions because I thought — Well, isn’t attending conversation class regularly and/or using language partners the fastest way to learn how to speak Arabic?
Um, sadly, it was a no.
The trouble is, that even with all that class my speaking did not improving quickly, or even at all.
After some deep reflection, I figured out the problem and the solution.
Before I get into what I discovered, I’d like to note something.
If you’ve explored Marhabtain’s blog or have a copy of my free e-book or are a student in my Levantine Arabic language course, Zero-to-Fluent, than you know that I believe — from linguistic research and personal experience — that immersing in Arabic for thousands of hours will naturally lead to speaking.
This is absolutely true, and tracks with the natural development of human language acquisition. AND at the exact same time, I’ve also experienced that knowing how to speak, doesn’t equate to feeling comfortable and confident as a speaker.
When I talk about learning to speak Arabic fast, I mean quickly feeling comfortable and confident as a speaker.
And with that – let’s get back to our original programming.
The Problem (aka Why I Didn’t Feel Confident Speaking Arabic): I had no clear goals.
The biggest mistake we all make in conversation classes — and by we, I mean ME of course, because I know y’all would never ever do this — is that we keep the session unstructured and without any goals.
I used to show up to my 30 – 45 minute class and just talk about whatever came to mind.
But after my teacher and I exchanged “How are you?”s and “How was your day?”s and “How was work?”, I didn’t really know what else to say.
And neither did they, it seemed. So in our awkwardness, my teacher would usually take charge by talking for the rest of the session, or by finding a dusty exercise from a workbook to kill the time.
Once I asked my teacher, “Don’t you get bored?” And he couldn’t even lie. He said, “Well, sometimes yes.”
The Solution (aka How I’m Becoming More Confident Speaking Arabic): I practice and memorize scripts to commonly asked questions.
I used to be an actor, and the first thing an actor gets is a script. I memorized the words on the script in rehearsal, so that when I got on stage, I could truly start acting, improvising, and flowing.
Although this may seem odd to hear if you’ve never acted before, here’s a truth: Knowing a script really well is actually what produces some of the most “natural” acting.
The same goes with Arabic conversation class.
The point of conversation practice should be to 1) anticipate questions you’re likely to receive in conversations with Arabic speakers and 2) write, practice, and memorize the scripts to those answers so that you can naturally respond when the time comes.
That’s the 1 simple method: create scripts and memorize the heck out of them.
So here’s how you can begin to improve your Arabic speaking abilities quickly, no matter your fluency level or speaking capabilities:
1 Simple Method to Learn to Speak Arabic Fast (according to your speaking level)
How Beginner-level Arabic Speakers can Learn to Speak Fast
Method: Master small talk. Practice and memorize scripts for common questions asked by new friends and acquaintances. Write the script out if you need to.
Example questions are:
- Why are you learning Arabic? How long have you been learning? Do you like it?
- Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Where is your family from?
- Where do you live? Do you like it?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What is your family like? Are you married? Do you have/want children?
- What do you do for a living? Do you like it? How much do you earn?
- What is your favorite sport? holiday? season?
- Where did you attend school/college/post-graduate studies? What was the experience like?
- Where do you like to travel?
- What are your friends like?
These questions might seem simple, but the answers to these questions can be incredibly deep and meaningful if you really pull out a story from them. For example, if I were to tell you why I started learning Arabic, I’d have to start by explaining what it was like growing up as a first-generation American in a small, homogenous Southern town, pre- and post-9/11. Didn’t expect all that, did you?
Evermore importantly, these “oh so simple” questions are asked 90% of the time when you meet someone new. I’m sure you’ve already gotten them both in English and in Arabic. So it only makes sense to prepare what you want to say beforehand.
And when you answer these questions fluently and in a deep way, you’ll wow the pants off of whoever is asking. And they’ll be more likely to want to build a deeper relationship with you.
How Intermediate-level Arabic Speakers can Learn to Speak Fast
Method: Master telling personal anecdotes about your life. Practice and memorize scripts for at least 10 major scenarios/events that are important to know about you. Write the script out if you need to.
Example questions are:
- Describe the first time you fell in love.
- Describe your relationship with your parent(s), partner(s), children.
- Describe your best childhood memory.
- Describe your greatest success.
- Describe a deep fear.
- Describe a great tragedy.
- Describe a dream that you have now, or that you had as a child.
- Describe something you want to make sure you accomplish in your lifetime.
- Describe someone that you admire.
- Describe art/music/film/etc. that you love and inspires you.
I find it rare that people ask these questions directly. But it is common to have conversations with friends where they’ll talk to you about love, family, art, work and fear. And in those conversations, you’ll want to participate and add, “Oh! That makes me think about…” or “I feel you. It’s like this one time…” That’s where memorizing scripts to these personal anecdotes comes in handy the most. The anecdotes are what will help you build and maintain deep relationships. Honestly, they’re the most important to focus on of all the questions in this article.
How Advanced-level Arabic Speakers can Learn to Speak Fast
Method: Master giving your opinion/debating topics and issues from culture and society. Practice and memorize scripts explaining your beliefs for at least 10 major current events. Write the script out if you need to.
Example questions are:
- What are your thoughts about social media?
- What are your thoughts about climate change?
- What are your thoughts about abortion rights?
- What are your thoughts about capitalism?
- What are your thoughts about having children?
- What are your thoughts about the death penalty?
- What are your thoughts about monogamy?
- What are your thoughts about police brutality?
- What are your thoughts about diet culture?
- What are your thoughts about legalizing drugs?
These conversations are not necessarily “advanced” because they’re difficult to discuss. Rather, I consider them advanced because they’re usually only discussed once you have a strong relationship with someone. And even then, they may not even come up in conversation.
For example, although I talk to my closest friends daily or weekly, I don’t know their answers to all of these questions. I have a sense of what they might say, but I don’t know exactly. And our relationships are not better, worse, or at all impacted by my not knowing. In the hierarchy of which scripts to work on and memorize, these should be the last ones to focus on.
A Final Thought for All Levels of Arabic Speakers
There may still be a burning question on your brain, something like: But, Uchechi — if I focus on these scripts, will I be able to talk about anything else?
To that I’d say: Yes.
In the end, words are words. Phrases are phrases. Most of the words and phrases you’ll use to answer these above-mentioned questions will and can be reused to speak about other topics that you never create a script for. The point is that if at least you do have a clear answer for a large number of questions, you’ll have the confidence to improv the rest.