This is an introductory text for studying colloquial Gulf Arabic. Arabic is an extremely difficult language to study, not because the grammatical structures are particularly difficult, but because of the particular circumstances of the language. Modern Standard Arabic is a language that was developed from the language of the Holy Qur'an. Books and news broadcasts are in Modern Standard Arabic, but nobody really speaks the language- -it's a theoretical rather than actual standard. Many Arabic textbooks and courses focus on Modern Standard Arabic. If you learn Modern Standard Arabic, you will be able to read books, and educated people from all over the Arabic world will be able to understand you. But most likely, you probably won't be able to understand what ordinary Arabic speakers are saying because they all speak colloquial dialects. People don't actually converse in Modern Standard Arabic; instead, Moroccans speak Moroccan Arabic, Egyptians speak Egyptian Arabic, and Saudis speak Gulf Arabic. The pronunciation, vocabulary, and even grammar of each of these dialects is different, and many native Arabic speakers have trouble understanding other Arabic dialects. If you manage to find a course in colloquial or conversational Arabic, you will learn to speak a local dialect instead of Modern Standard Arabic. That will get you a lot further than Modern Standard Arabic for conversing with friends and neighbors, but then you won't be able to read, since books and newspapers are written in Modern Standard Arabic. So if you learn to read, you won't be able to speak, and speaking classes won't help with your reading. And if you do learn to read, reading newspapers or books won't help you with speaking either. That's why Arabic is so difficult to learn.
That said, this textbook is based on the colloquial Gulf Arabic dialect. The book focuses mainly on the dialect spoken in Saudi Arabia, but most of the vocabulary and structures are relevant throughout the countries of the Gulf, including Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. Since this dialect is only spoken and not written, all Arabic words in the book are written in Latin script, and the Arabic alphabet is not covered. A typical chapter begins with a 2-page discussion of a grammar point, translation exercises, more grammar, more translation exercises, more grammar, more translation exercises, etc., ending with pronunciation exercises, and translation exercises of dialogs. The accompanying tape contains the pronunciation exercises and dialogs. At the end of each chapter is an alphabetical list of new vocabulary words.
I found this book extremely frustrating and difficult to use for self-study because of the incredibly long lists of poorly selected vocabulary for each chapter. Instead of limiting new vocabulary in the early chapters to commonly used or needed words, Holes introduces words like blind, palace, and outer wall already in the 4th chapter. Between the lack of variety in the exercises and the impossibly long lists of vocabulary, I wasn't able to progress beyond chapter 5 in my efforts at self-study. This, combined with the surprisingly few chances to actually use the language during my extended stay in Dubai meant I made little headway. What progress I did make in Arabic was due to actual conversation, and not through using this book. Despite the shortcomings of the book, if you want to learn the basics of the Gulf dialect, this is one of the only resources available. The grammar explanations are, in general, clear and useful. With a talented and patient instructor who is willing to supply more reasonable vocabulary words, the book might prove effective.