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on 18 August 2009
I do wonder if all the other glowing reviews of this book are by users who have assiduously done this course from start to finish. First, the book comes in an attractive package with the CDs. The first six lessons do a good job of teaching the Arabic script, incl. basic instructions on handwriting. Overall, they have done a good job of teaching all the main grammar points throughout the course, yet it is marred by a number of things. Despite all the pictures, the book is basically a grammar course - not enough thought has been given to the most important, useful vocabulary a beginner might need. The verb is introduced far too late, so that the derived forms, weak verbs have to be introduce all in a rush towards the end, which is terrible from a memory perspective. The weakest part however, is the concentration on political vocabulary half-way through the course. Now I can say "minister of education", "convene a meeting", yet I barely know how to communicate. Also, I do feel galled at the quite large number of errors that have gone uncorrected despite being in the second edition. This is simply sloppiness, and rather unforgivable in a course where beginners need to rely on what is written. Finally, the course is poorly indexed and some of the grammar points could be better explained.

I am on the final lesson and I won't be too sad when this is over. I do hope they've done a better job with the second book - I want to master Arabic, and this course is not making it too easy.
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on 1 December 2007
I used this prior to undertaking my Arabic degree and it gave me a good introduction to Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)its structure, grammar and vocabulary. However, it won't help you in the streets of an Arab city as no one speaks MSA as it is a very complicated language the more you get into it, even for Arabs. The spoken tongue is much simpler, has different sentence structure, easier pronunciation and often completely different words. They are, in effect completely different languages. As I say a very good course, but you need to spend time in an Arab country to pick up the spoken tongue.
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on 20 August 2007
I really like this book, which is the second editition and was completely updated: You learn the alphabet in little chunks so that you are not overwhelmed by the Arabic script. The layout of the book is very clear, you have lots of excercises and listening comprehensions.
With this book you even learn how to learn - the authors show you how to learn vocabulary easily and never forget it, which I find especially helpful since my schooldays are long over!
The only downside for me personally: I purchased the book without the audio cds (since I'm a bit advanced), but if you want to be able to do all the excercises you really need them, although this was not pointed out directly. Then also there is no book for the advanced pupil (yet?), but at least the authors give you advice on how to take it from there once you've worked your way through this book.
All in all a very recommendable book for those who want to learn Arabic the fun way!
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on 11 September 2007
I purchased this set recently having only a very little knowledge of arabic (I did a few classes about 5 months before I bought the set) and I found 'mastering arabic' very clear and easy to follow. The book progresses nicely and introduces letters and grammar bit by bit. The audio CDs really help with pronounciation and are vital. It gives exercises that help with reading, writing and speaking, which i found very helpful. It teaches Modern Standard Arabic and the book is clear that it is a starting point for beginners to gain a good basic knowledge of arabic and is not just a phrase book.
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on 3 February 2008
The best book I know of for introducing Arabic and to give the user a solid base. I went on to do a degree in Arabic after using this book. I found this book the easiest to understand and use, and I am aquainted with the whole range availabe (after having worked in one of the best language departments in London (Foyles) in its heyday). Now multimedia is around, there could be some interesting ways of teaching, such as the online schools, but this book would still be a good and practical way of learning. Activities such as actually using a pen and writing are essential and some of the multimedia based learning is not going to use that much, if at all.
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on 12 March 2011
This is a very good introduction to learning Arabic, both written and spoken. The CDs include lots of careful exercises to ensure you can distinguish vital sounds. Writing the script is introduced bit by bit, and the vocabulary has been useful to me (political terms enable
you to understand news).

A few niggles - the dictionary in the back of the book is English to Arabic but not Arabic to English. It would help if the book referred to the CD track numbers for listening exercises (there's 70 tracks per CD!). And many words are introduced as examples of letters or sounds but no English translation is given which is a missed learning opportunity.

But on the whole a very useful and entertaining book.
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on 16 January 2014
The audio CD contains numbered .cda files and frankly I had a problem playing them. The book provides no reference to the audio files except a simple CD icon. Ah, but the package includes a piece of paper indicating the track list, almost like an afterhought. Don't lose it! It's incredible that publishers, editors and all those involved, can produce a book that has a problem clearly and simply matching the text with the audio - a key part of the work - and create a very weak CD (in terms of functionality). For the rest, it may well be good - but for a language course to have problems with the 2 combined items involved (book and CD, text and audio) it's not a good sign.
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on 27 November 2012
I've started on this but am finding it hard work.

The reason is that it immediately drops you into writing and learning a new alphabet, before building any sort of vocabulary - i.e. you are learning the letters without a context or practical use for them. Personally I find this approach a bit of a reverse in the natural order of things (kids point and get the word for a dog before knowing what writing even is).

For me, it makes it very difficult to feel any real progress or to use any of what you have learnt - words I see in the street (I work in the Middle East) contain a number of letters I don't know yet, so I can read a little bit of what I see but can't understand anything. It's a bit frustrating to say the least.

I assume that this will improve as I progress (or if I'd put in a more concerted effort more quickly), but it makes motivating myself harder than, for example, a model where I learned some basic conversation, greetings, numbers and common purchases first.

The choice seems very limited for self-education in Arabic at an affordable price, so this may well be the best book out there. But be aware that you will need some motivation in order to build up momentum at the start at least.

I think I'm going to buy the children's picture based vocab book also available here to work on alongside, so at least I can learn how to order a chicken shwarma before how to read or write it.
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on 9 January 2009
I bought this book about 8 weeks ago (the Amazon market-place seller messed up and I got it at Waterstones). The extent of my Arabic was watching alphabet songs on YouTube!

It provides a balanced coverage of all aspects of the language - written, spoken and reading. It covers (mostly) useful vocabulary and gives hints on techniques to learn it. The exercises are clear and mostly help you progress and use the new words and phrases. The audio CD combines different dialects but there isn't extensive information on the differences between dialects.

To improve it, I would have like the conversation sections expanded and better thought through - they tend to be quite vague and I haven't found them very helpful. There is a chapter with a lot of political vocabulary which was much harder to absorb - this would be better replaced by more content "around the house" which isn't covered extensively - ie the book doesn't cover "bathroom" which is quite important!

On balance, after reaching chapter 18, I am confident in the basics and I'm ready to start practicing on real people. The book has definitely helped me structure the learning and understand the language but could still be improved especially on the spoken side.
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on 7 January 2013
I bought Mastering Arabic 1 & 2 for my son who has previously spent a couple of years living in Bahrain where he picked up some basic Arabic through school friends.

He is really enjoying getting to grips with the language "properly" and is finding the book a fantastic support tool to the CD.

I investigated several similar products but was swayed by a review of someone in a similar situation to my son - i.e some existing experience of the language and it would appear that I made the right choice!
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