- Paperback: 290 pages
- Publisher: Spoken Language Services (August 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0879501316
- ISBN-13: 978-0879501310
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.5 x 10.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,129,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tales from Kalila Wa Dimna: For Students of Arabic
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After more or less a complete introduction to Arabic grammar (which took me 3 years), this book/cd set really started to shine as a tool to build confidence and vocabulary, and comprehension, translation and listening skills in a way that is interesting rather than boring.
I do not recommend it as a way to learn the mechanics of the language, but a way to apply and build on what you've already learned from your study of arabic grammar. I would keep a reference grammar handy if and when you get stuck on a particular passage and know all the words but still don't know what it all means or how it all fits together.
The glossary from the 2005 version (and perhaps others) claims to be "comprehensive" but falls far short of this claim with respect to the vocabulary utilized in the stories themselves. After much frustration, I no longer use it because it is hit or miss as to whether it actually has the word I am looking for. In addition, after you learn the root system that forms the basis for Arabic morphology, the alphabetical ordering of the glossary will be confusing. So in addition to that reference grammar (I recommend A New Arabic Grammar of the Written Language), keep a copy of Arabic-English Dictionary: The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic handy and you're all set.
Younes is clearly a master educator, and this book follows on the wonderfully constructive techniques that he used in his introductory and intermediate textbooks (Living Arabic and Intermediate Arabic, soon to be updated, I believe). Younes uses clever delayed repetition of words, and roots in slightly different words, to solidify the reader's knowledge of new words and phrases. My active vocabulary has grown noticeably after working through this book. Even though the vocabulary in Kalila wa Dimna is often archaic, Younes has rewritten the original to use simpler, more modern words most of time time (though some passages are left in their original form for advanced students and masochists). The archaisms are thus present (and who would want to know the specific term for a male turtle--and how can you even tell the male from the female?!), but 95% of the text is language that one might find and use today.
As another commenter noted, these stories also illustrate difficult grammatical forms that are not commonly found elsewhere, or that are found only in stodgy, difficult-to-read texts, unlike these seriously fun stories. The dual form of nouns, adjectives, and verbs is peppered through these stories, including the challenging loss of the final nun with suffixes. The words "inna" and "anna," as well and "in" and "an," are used constantly, and only now do I understand well the differences. And though the case endings are not marked, Younes's recorded oral reading of the stories puts them in, at least in the places where an educated modern reader would put them in. I finally have begun to feel relatively comfortable with the cases (especially when used with words with the masculine suffix--is it "baytu-hu" or "bayta-hu" and why is it "bayti-hi", etc.). One won't learn these rules from this book, but the stories as read by Younes illustrate these rules in a way that is MUCH more enjoyable than in the standard MSA text.
This book is worth every cent of its admittedly elevated price tag. It should be on the reading list of any serious intermediate student of Arabic who wants to nail down the basics and be well-prepared to go on to the next level, whether in the Qur'an or the modern press.
Having said that does not mean that the material in the book is for little kids. My child is a first generation Arab-American who already understands the Arabic language, and whom I wish for to learn good Arabic since early age. So what I do is I choose the stories that I find appropriate.
The book has lots of vocabulary and excellent grammar. I am writing this review to encourage any Arab-American parent to try it for their children. The legend says that prophet Mohammad was sent to live with the Bedouins as a little child just to absorb from them correct beautiful Arabic language.
I am glad that I finally found such book for my child and for me it is worth every penny.