WORD OF THE DAY
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How to Learn Arabic
© Saqib Hussain
3 Using an Arabic Dictionary
For the beginner who's just started to study Arabic and has learnt enough grammar to start reading Arabic texts, the Arabic dictionary Hans Wehr will probably be sufficient (certainly for modern Arabic texts, but even for many classical texts). It covers all the usages that you are likely to encounter at the start of your Arabic education, and is very well laid out.
It should be noted however that Hans Wehr is, strictly, a modern Arabic dictionary, based on the usage of Arabic in the media and by modern writers. As such, it is replete with errors from a classical Arabic viewpoint, and should not be relied upon by the serious advanced student. Click here for a detailed review Hans Wehr.
My advice is that once you attain some degree of fluency in your reading, you will need to use a dictionary for advanced learners, such as Hava. The latter will give you the classical signification of a term. However, the definitions given are sometimes, due to their brevity, not entirely clear, and at other times unwieldy. For this reason, it is best to use Hava in conjunction with Hans Wehr, which will provide greater clarity. Click here for a full review of Hava.
You should also start using an Arabic-Arabic dictionary as soon as you feel able. I have found al-Mu’jam al-Wasīṭ, published by the Arabic Language Academy in Egypt (Majma' al-Lughah al-'Arabiyyah), to be the most helpful. Click here for a full review of al-Mu’jam al-Wasīṭ.
Once you are at stage where you are comfortable with both classical and modern Arabic texts, and are finding that the above dictionaries are not providing you with sufficient detail to fully understand all of the vocabulary in the texts you are reading, then you should incorporate Lane’s Lexicon into the dictionaries you use.
Be warned: Lane's Lexicon is an extremely detailed classical Arabic Dictionary - if you use it before you're ready, so to speak, you'll just get lost in all the detail. Don't try to run before you can walk! You will learn Arabic much quicker if you pace your progression. Click here for a full review of Lane's Lexicon.