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Alif Baa with DVDs: Introduction to Arabic Letters and Sounds [With 2 DVDs] 2 Pap/DVD Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1589011021
ISBN-10: 1589011023
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Highly recommend this second edition...The DVDs add considerably to students' mastering of the material -- Modern Language Journal, 2006
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press; 2 Pap/DVD edition (August 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1589011023
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589011021
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I used Alif Baa (with DVDs) in Arabic 101 at the University of Maryland (Baltimore County) and it's probably the best beginner book I have encountered. The DVDs are great and add a lot to the text and exercises. It even shows a chart with the letters, and you can click on the appropriate character to hear and show someone pronouncing it in several different voices. Great idea. Lots of exercises to listen to and write down. And, for $5, there's an answer key to Alif Baa which will help an awful lot if you want to teach yourself.
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Format: Paperback
According to the comments this workbook is the best one currently published for learning to read and write Arabic. Even so, it could be improved.

Whether you're in a class or not you need the answer key, period. It should be part of the book but since it's not, get it. Especially to check the result of the dictation exercises. It's best to do the dictation and be able to immediately check your efforts, especially with words containing letters that sound similar. If you have to wait until next class to check your work, you've lost focus on the task and have to pick it up again probably days later when you may not even be able to read your own feeble chicken scratching. Also there isn't necessarily time in class to (tediously) review every exercise in the workbook. I didn't have the answer key for the first few weeks because I didn't even know it existed. You can do without it in the early going but starting with about Chapter 4 many of the drills are simply pointless without it.

Although the book's purpose is not to teach you vocabulary, you are of course encountering vocabulary as you go and it seems to me you might as well learn it, or at least have a consistent place to find it, while you're there. This book is practically coy about the vocabulary--presenting it indirectly (Guess their meaning from the pictues. They include near, far...) rather than simply listing their meanings. The pedagogical principle at play here I guess is that of avoiding the crutch of your own language and instead going directly from an image to the target language, but the effect is undermined by the comically ambiguous nature of many of the illustrations. They saved some money perhaps, using free 80's-style clip art. (Remember clip art?) Examples p 65--sunrise, sun, palm trees? Hand signals--okay?
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Format: Paperback
This book is such an improvement over what was the previous standard: the Orange Book from Michigan. It is not too technical and comes with nicely done DVDs. This and the companion 'Al-Kitab' are elementary and intermediate courses together. There is also an answer key (separate purchase) which I would recommend.

Some reviewers expressed outrage that this book is not designed to teach yourself Arabic, and that's true. It's not. Arabic is a difficult language and I don't recommend that anyone try to seriously learn it on their own. This series is, however, the current gold standard of Arabic textbooks. If you are taking an Arabic class and are using any other book than this, trash everything else and buy this one. If you're planning a trip to an Arabic-speaking country, you should get a phrasebook or something from the 'teach yourself' series instead. This book does have you speaking fairly early, which is a new, more modern approach to language learning.

The general problem with Arabic texts is that there are not many good options out there. Supplemental books, such as the '201 Verbs', is ok, but it quickly loses the average student who is unfamiliar with what the meaning of the 'jussive' verb form is in English. Avoid all books that were published in the 1980s or earlier. They are needlessly complicated.

The authors of the Alif Baa & Al Kitab series are long-time Arabic instructors. Al Batal and Brustad developed this book based on many years experience teaching at Emory University in Atlanta and Middlebury College in Vermont over the summer. They currently teach at UT Austin.

Having sung the praises of this series, there are some improvements to be made. I wish the 'root system' would be introduced earlier.
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Format: Paperback
I met with a partner daily for an hour each day for 6-8 weeks, and we learned a great deal from this book. It is definitely good enough for self-study. The one problem is that for the vocabulary and cultural activities, it assumes you have a teacher to fill in the details, so we didn't get much out of those. We did learn to read, write, and pronounce all the sounds, and it's terrifically neat that I can now read basic Arabic signs which are in pictures in the newspaper.
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Format: Paperback
I've taken Spanish and Russian, so I'm no stranger to learning a new language. I have had some rudimentary Arabic that was based on phonetics, so I never really learned the letters. This book drills in each letter with repetition, so you write each letter multiple times, and utilize it in words so you know the initial, medial, and final positions. The book isn't perfect, and without a solution manual you are in the dark as to whether you are getting the dictation down right. I would recommend either taking an Arabic class (as I am doing) that uses this book or buying the solutions manual to go it alone. As my instructor states, this book and Al Kitaab #1 are the foundation, if you can make it through these books you are on your way, but it isn't easy. If I had to do this on my own, I would be taking longer, but the intense schedule of the class is keeping the words and letters fresh in my brain. Bottom line, if you are buying this for school, it's good to go. If you are buying it to go it alone, get the solution manual.
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