The motherlode

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An awesome user at the /r/learn_arabic sub-reddit on Reddit has put in some major work and is making what is already one of the best resources for Lebanese Arabic I have ever seen (and he’s just getting started!).  It’s called Yalla! Learn Lebanese, and it is spectacular.

So far he has numbers, colors, verb forms, greetings, a map of Lebanon, food and kitchen related words, and an answer key for Shou Fi Ma Fi.  He’s even got the new مشروع ليلى song “3 Minutes” (which, if you haven’t heard it, what the hell are you doing with your life?).  Best part?  NO A BARE MINIMUM OF FREAKING TRANSLITERATION!!!  Transliteration is the bane of my damn existence, especially when it comes to dealing with vernacular Arabic, and fortunately his site has very little of it (and even where he does have it he has Arabic script with it, and he makes a good point about its utility for certain words).

Me when I see transliteration.
Me when I see transliteration.

He said he’s thinking about making a textbook, which would be fantastic, but even if he doesn’t he’s already given us one of the best organized and most helpful Lebanese Arabic resources I’ve found.  Make sure you check it out.



  • leb

    I don’t think you understand how useless resources without transliteration are to most people learning this language. But you’re free not to like it. It’s just that not having transliteration makes people who are learning this language LESS likely to come to your site. It’s a spoken language, and most people would like to know how to pronounce words, hence transliteration. Unless of course your goal is to attract Arabic natives, which I’d imagine defeats the purpose, but then what do I know.

    • Michael

      Hi, and welcome to my site!

      I’m attempting to be sympathetic to your concerns but they aren’t quite clear to me. Once you’ve learned the Arabic script the need for transliteration is eliminated, as long as the vowels and sukuun, etc. are marked. Certainly these are currently mainly spoken (as opposed to written) languages (though they do exist in written form on social media), but they can be written and in fact not doing so, as the author of the blog in question says, just serves to further the false notion that vernacular Arabic is somehow inferior or not “real Arabic”. Hence my confusion over your claim…by the logic you’ve given me it would then follow that anyone coming from a Latin alphabet background would need transliteration, ergo if they were to learn Russian, Hindi, Hebrew…indeed I should put transliterated Greek resources on this site by this reasoning. However, as the language, though primarily spoken, can be written in the Arabic script and since that script, having been developed for a relative of that language, is not only sufficient but arguably better at faithfully portraying its phonological and morphological features, and since knowledge of that script will enhance one’s ability to further interact with the population that speaks that language in a meaningful way, I can’t see any harm at all in preferring non-transliterated sources. You’re certainly right, attracting native speakers of Lebanese Arabic would serve little purpose (although speakers of other dialects might find it helpful, who knows), but it is precisely because my audience is learners that I would hope they would, well, learn the Arabic script (for which there are a wealth of resources).

      Now, if that’s not to your liking that’s of course totally fine; in fact you’re in luck because there are, as I intimated, a plethora of transliterated materials from which to take your pick, some of them quite good even (except, of course, for the transliteration ;)). If you have any trouble finding them, let me know and I’m sure I can point you in the right direction 🙂

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