What’s the Deal With Babbel Arabic? (Course Info)

Updated January 3rd, 2024

So you've recently decided to learn Arabic as a foreign language. You're chopping at the bit to start learning , but you are a little uncertain where to start. 

One way or another you heard about Babbel, and the one million people or so who use the app to learn foreign languages. You hear about the course's reputation for teaching relevant core vocabulary and grammar, and you're excited to give it a try.

But there's only one problem....

Babbel doesn't offer an Arabic course

Why doesn't Babbel offer a course for Arabic?

Arabic is a hard language to teach (to native English speakers)

Arabic grammar, writing, and pronunciation is all drastically different from the English language. This is why the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) rates it as one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to learn. 

To make matters worse the language has several dialects which aren't always mutually intelligible. This makes it hard for companies to market Arabic courses, as one student who is learning Egyptian Arabic won't necessarily be interested in a course that covers Moroccan Arabic. 

Arabic is beautiful and fascinating language

Many Arabic courses leave much to be desired

Because of the many linguistic differences between the two languages it takes a lot of love and care to craft an effective Arabic learning course. Unfortunately though, a lot of language companies put little effort into the task.

Some Arabic courses are simply glorified Spanish courses. It's assumed that if a particular method is effective for learning one foreign language, it will also be effective in learning another. 

However that's simply not the case. Spanish, French, Italian, and even German are all much more closely related to the English language than Arabic is. Thus what works for one foreign language doesn't necessarily work for another.

3 Alternatives to Babbel Arabic

Hopefully the day will come when the folks at Babbel will produce an effective and fun course for learning the Arabic language, but until then here are a few alternatives. 

One of the great things about Pimsleur’s Arabic app is that you can choose from three different Arabic dialects: Egyptian, Eastern, and Modern Standard. Alternatively, you can purchase a monthly subscription that gives you access to all Pimsleur language courses, and toggle between the dialects if you prefer to learn both classic and conversational Arabic.

The latest version of the Pimsleur program, presented via the app, is far superior to older models for several reasons. First, it offers both traditional audio lessons and newer items like speech recognition for pronunciation lessons. Second, it uses more up-to-date conversation in the sample dialogues.

Pimsleur works to teach you core vocabulary and key conversational skills pretty quickly because its audio lessons require active listening. The narrator will pause the sample conversation, presented by native Arabic speakers, to ask you to say a word or phrase out loud or to answer the question that one of the speakers posed. This keeps you engaged and learning.

Pimsleur also famously uses the concept of Spaced Repetition Theory, which is the idea that if you cycle back around to previously learned material with just the right timing, you will begin to learn it so thoroughly that it stays in your permanent memory.

Pimsleur lessons take about an hour to work through. You engage with the 30-minute active listening audio lesson first, and then work through several activities such as speaking and reading following the audio lesson.

Rocket Arabic

Rocket Arabic is built around recorded audio in the form of dialogues. The dialogues have English explanations and usually teach the language in "chunks" or phrases versus individual words (this is great for conversational Arabic). 

If you want a comprehensive Arabic course that emphasizes both conversational Arabic and more foundational aspects like grammar, you may want to try Rocket Arabic. Rocket Arabic teaches colloquial Egyptian Arabic. It also has a fairly deep focus on grammar and writing, which is important since Arabic uses a different writing system with its own script.

Currently, Rocket Arabic only offers a level 1 course. This is a fantastic though pricey resource for a complete beginner, but it will not take you into intermediate-level work.

How does Rocket work? It is a structured course, meaning that you work through it in a set order. Lessons include excellent, natural-sounding dialogues presented by native Egyptian Arabic speakers. You will find both audio and video lessons in the app. For example, the writing lessons are short videos showing you how to form letters and words.

While Rocket does not have a gamified style like Duolingo, it does offer easy ways to track your progress on a leaderboard, and it has a more casual and less stuffy feel to it than some learning programs.

Plus, you have the option to download all of the course materials, including the audio lessons and all the print resources! This way, you can save items for later review even if you stop subscribing to the program.

Overall Rocket Arabic is a comprehensive course that does a good job of incorporating speaking and listening, as well as reading and writing. 

Note: Rocket Arabic teaches the Egyptian dialect of Arabic

Arabicpod101 uses brief audio and video lessons to help you quickly master the basics of Arabic conversations and grammar. Depending on the level of your subscription, you can also access sessions with a personal tutor.

ArabicPod101 has a few pros and cons. It offers a great introductory course for a beginner but has little material for an intermediate learner. 

It also offers three dialects within the course: Egyptian, Moroccan, and Modern Stand Arabic. This is great, as you would often have to pay more for a separate course on each dialect! However, the course does not always clearly indicate which dialect you are learning, which is unfortunate.

Another thing that sets ArabicPod101 apart is that it has very different courses for each language because the program uses so many lessons created and presented by native-speaker teachers. This has some benefits--it means you get authentic and useful conversation lessons, for one thing--but it can also mean that not all video lessons have the same quality.

Note: Arabicpod101 offers lessons for Egyptian, Moroccan, and the Modern Standard dialects of Arabic

The Ling app offers a gamified, fun approach to learning basic Arabic. Kind of like Duolingo, the app promises to teach you the basis of the language in short daily lessons and activities, without a big time commitment from you.

It also offers game-like activities and satisfying ways to track your progress, encouraging you to keep working.

So far, Ling offers a course focused on Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). This is both good and bad--even if you plan to learn a different dialect, like Egyptian Arabic, you may find it useful to understand MSA as it is still the primary dialect used for most legal and religious purposes in Arabic-speaking parts of the world.

In its short lessons, Ling focuses primarily on core vocabulary and less on grammar, though you will find some helpful tips.

Another big advantage to the Ling Arabic app is that it has a really low monthly subscription rate compared to some other language programs. 

Italki is not a language-learning course. Instead, it is a dashboard allowing you to find and connect with hundreds of professional Arabic tutors from around the world.

The app gives you many useful ways to find and sort tutors. First, you can search for tutors focusing on specific Arabic dialects, such as Egyptian Arabic. You can also search for tutors from a certain part of the world, or tutors who offer lessons at the time you have available. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Italki tutors set their own rates. This means that your half-hour or hour-long lessons could cost more or less, depending on which tutor you select. In general, Italki lessons will cost significantly more than a monthly subscription to an app.

That said, you will get a personalized learning experience, a chance to practice real conversation in Arabic, and feedback and accountability for your work, which is hugely beneficial!

*Use this link to purchase a minimum of $20 (US) of Italki credits and receive an extra $10 free! (Bonus added after completion of 1st lesson)

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