Learning Arabic is atop many a UAE resident's to-do list, new to the country or otherwise. There are, of course, incredible Arabic tutors, classes and courses across the Emirates, but if you haven't got the time or money to commit to a course, learning from apps and podcasts are a tried and tested method that works.
Here is a round-up, which is by no means definitive, of some of the most effective apps and podcasts I have stumbled across and used.
All of the apps and podcasts offer classes and lessons for free, although the apps do have varying bonus features which you can access for a fee. The apps are all available in the UAE stores for both Android and Apple users, and podcasts can be found on various providers.
For budding Arabic scholars, news that Duolingo was available in Arabic was well received. A slow-and-steady approach to learning, the app promises to teach you Arabic in a little as five minutes a day, teaching scholars to recognise letters and sounds, then build words and sentences. As you progress through levels, you unlock new stages, starting with the alphabet, before graduating to descriptors, then countries and topic-specific phrases. As well as the structured levels, there are also personalised practice quizzes you can take to improve your skills. The app is not scared to send you a notification to get you to practice daily, if you fail to log in for a few days, you can expect them to get quite passive-aggressive.
Cost: The best part has to be that it is free to use with no limits, but you can upgrade to an advert-free version of the app for Dh36.99 per month, Dh174.99 for six months or Dh294.99 per year. There's also a free seven day Duolingo Plus trial.
Another app that asks for a little of your time, every day, is Drops. When you begin you pick the "learning path" that is most suited to your needs, whether that is Basic Vocab, Conversation Starters, Confident Tourist, Business Speak or Love Language. You can use the app for five minutes daily for free, and it offers to send you a daily reminder at the time of your choice. In the early stages it alternates between repetitively matching letters to sounds, and yes or no answers.
Cost: You can use the app in five-minute spells daily for free. When you have used your time, it gives you a countdown until you can log in again. Alternatively you can upgrade to premium for Dh37.99 per month, Dh269.99 per year or Dh579.99 for a lifetime, which will give you offline access to the lessons and unlock every level. The app also offers deals – we were offered a Dh154.99 annual subscription.
App: Rosetta Stone
One of the most famous names in language learning, you can learn Arabic on the Rosetta Stone app for free. You begin with 10-minute lessons and work your way up. It covers speaking, reading and listening and has you speaking, identifying the difference between male and female words from lesson one. Unlike other apps, you start with full words and sounds, rather than building knowledge of the alphabet in early lessons.
Cost: The free plan gives you 30 minutes of daily content. With full access, you get access to more than 250 hours of content that covers 12 units, plus you can download lessons to go. Full access costs Dh209.99 for three months, Dh322.99 for six months, Dh459.99 for a year or Dh749.99 for a lifetime.
Memrise is a newer language app. With it you pick your level, beginner or intermediate, and you then say why you're learning, be it for work, love, travel, relocation, education or just brain training. Memrise starts with the alphabet and from the outset, it shows the learner different forms of a letter and breaks up words to build, which can be a little daunting at the beginning. It is not quite as easy to navigate as other apps, but as you start forming words, it shows those you have learnt, which is a confidence booster.
Cost: It is free to use daily. When you first sign up there is a deal to buy an annual deal for Dh109.99, or it's Dh219.99 at full price, which offers offline and ad-free learning.
Podcast: Arabic Pod 101
Learning via podcasts helps with conversational Arabic, with a natural emphasis on listening. Arabic Pod 101 has plenty of lessons pre-recorded that you can download and listen to on the go, and from the start you hear phrases and conversations, which are then broken down for so that the learner can repeat and practice phrases.
Cost: Free on across podcast providers. You can also sign up on the website to download PDF notes to accompany lessons. Visit www.arabicpod101.com
Podcast: Arabic With Sam
In this series, you will find 20 to 30-minute stand-alone Arabic lessons, all of which cover an individual topic.
Be sure to start from episode one, as Sam, the narrator and teacher, covers everything from key grammar points, be it gender verbs or building sentences, and later moves on to topics such as numbers, schooling, animals and countries. The app is a great way to build vocabulary when you have the basics in place. Sam is a friendly, upbeat narrator who is easy to learn from, and he gives thorough explanations. I have found that listening to his podcasts once or twice is helpful.
Cost: Like all podcasts, Arabic With Sam is free.