How long did it take for you to attain a level of fluency?


New Member
US of A - English
To non-native speakers of MSA, how long did it take for you to attain a level of fluency in the language?

I'm in my 3rd month learning the language in a very tough and demanding curriculum, and I'm still having problems with my speaking and listening when trying to gist Al-Jazeera or when listening to "real-time" passages.

Any tips? Tricks of the trade?

How can I best improve my listening, and most of all, my vocab retention and memorization?


  • clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    I'm not exactly sure what my level of fluency is. But, I had to do a lot of speaking when I was in Jordan, which forced me to pick up, retain or otherwise employ vocabulary. Since I've been back in the US, Youtube has been my savior. I'm currently attempting to fully transcribe an interview with Haifa Wahbi on the show Malikat that's in full online. I also study song lyrics and try to watch as much LBC Star Academy as I can =). Definitely living in an Arabic speaking country helped me attain a certain intermediate level of proficiency effectively.

    I think fluency in MSA is probably more difficult because you can't speak it as your every day language with people. I try to read as much as I can, or listen to newscasts and things, but until I'm in school again and taking class which forces me to learn, I don't think that my MSA will ever been as good as my ability in spoken Arabic. Even when I email my friends in Jordan back and forth or chat online, we usually write (in Arabic script) in colloquial, or colloquialized MSA.

    On a humorous note, when I first started learning, I used the famous/infamous Syrian Colloquial course, as well as the Al-Kitaab series. When I got to Jordan however, I discovered that the northern Syrian/Lebanese accents are considered very effeminate for guys to speak, and so I got made fun of a lot. Nonetheless - the book was essential in providing me with a base ability in speaking.


    New Member
    US of A - English
    Thanks for your helpful comments.

    I recently purchased Al-Jazeera on to work expanding the MSA I've already learned.

    I'll be learning a dialect eventually, once I've tested for MSA. I'm guessing that it will be either Syrian or Iraqi, though I'm hoping for Egyptian.


    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    I really don't know how to gauge fluency, but I'd like to think that I am fluent, or near fluent, or at least have a very high proficiency in the Egyptian dialect of Arabic. I still make grammatical errors if I talk without thinking (like using masculine forms of verbs with feminine nouns, and the like. And I know I probably say things in a different and/or incorrect manner than a native would; that is, I don't talk with the eloquence of a native, since I may not be familiar with certain collocations, how certain things are said in Arabic, etc., but I am able to get my point across and be understood, and I think I understand almost everything that is said to me. As for how long it took me, I'm really not sure about that either. Maybe between 6 months and a year. My situation might be a little different from that of the average Arabic learner since I lived with a native Egyptian for almost 5 years, and spoke Egyptian 99% of the time with this person. So I think I was on an accelerated course, so to speak, and was able to achieve a high level of proficiency in less time than, say, someone who did not have the benefit of speaking with a native everyday.

    As for MSA, I've been studying it for 2 and a half years now, not at an accelerated pace, but rather at your usual university course pace. I don't really consider myself fluent, but I would like to think I have a high degree of proficiency. I can read and write very well, or so I've been told, but my listening and speaking comprehension could be improved, as I have not focused a lot on these. When I speak in MSA I frequently revert back to Egyptian pronunciations, since I learned that before learning MSA and it predominates in my thought patterns when I think in Arabic.

    I assume you are at the school in Monterrey, and from what I've heard it is a very good, and like you said, demanding curriculum, so I would think that at the end of the program there you will have achieved a high proficiency in Arabic.

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Well I wouldn't really consider myself fluent. I can understand a lot of what I read and hear in MSA, and also a fair bit in Egyptian & Palestinian dialects and can generally convey pretty much any message I need to a native speaker (even if I often mix between dialects and MSA).

    I've been studying for a long time, but not very intensely. I began first learning the alphabet probably about 7 years ago, but have had long spells of absolutely no activity at all (in some cases up to about a year). In the last year or so I've began to focus a bit, spending a few hours a week, but it's not always as regular as it should be. Also I am surrounded by Arabs (family-in-law and work colleagues) so I should've picked up more than I have so far, but I think I'm just not really good with other languages, English is my language, and it's hard to let go and adopt something new.
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