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matthew aldrich lingualism

20 questions for: Matthew Aldrich (#7)

Episode #7 of my series “9273 roots”: 20 questions for the man who made learning Arabic dialects easy: Matthew Aldrich from Lingualism.

Last updated: 5 months ago

Lisān al-‘Arab (لسان العرب), the famous dictionary of Classical Arabic, contains 9273 roots (and 4,493.934 words). A huge playground for people who are passionate about Arabic such as…

Matthew Aldrich


The man who made learning Arabic dialects easy

  • Year of birth: 1974
  • Place of birth: California, USA
  • Place of residence: Sonora, California
  • Personal website: https://www.lingualism.com
  • Matthew Aldrich's author page on Amazon

Matthew Aldrich
Photo credit: Matthew Aldrich

How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn't know you?

I'm Matthew Aldrich. I'm a recovering polyglot. I spent most of my adult life teaching in countries like Turkey, South Korea, China, and Thailand.

And now I'm back in my home state of California enjoying a more quiet life and publishing language-learning materials.

What was your first Arabic grammar book?

A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic by Karin C. Ryding.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

books lingualism
Books written by Matthew Aldrich.
Photo credit: lingualism.

What is your favorite Arabic book (novel, etc.)?

Taxi by Khaled al-Khamissi.

Remark: Taxi (published 2006) is a collection of 58 short stories – and was a bestseller in . The author tells the stories of taxi drivers in Cairo and gives the reader an idea about real life in Egypt. The dialogues in the book are written in very colloquial Egyptian Arabic.

The book was translated into several languages (e.g., English, German, French) and – together with the Arabic source – it is a great tool to study the Egyptian dialect.

How much time does a native speaker of English need to master Arabic?

A lifetime! ☺

What is your favorite Arabic word?

كتب. It's such a basic word, but I have fond memories of learning for the first time how the root system in Arabic works using this word's radicals, and when the concept clicked in my head, it was a magical moment!

Which Arabic word do you like least?

I'm not sure.

Sonora in California where Matthew Aldrich lives.

You have probably never heard of that village (4,500 inhabitants) – but I am sure you have seen it in films or movies (mainly from the '70s and '80s such as the A-Team).

Sonora is a historic Gold-Rush mining town. There are many old buildings dating back to the 19th century, and the scenery is really amazing as the mountains of the Sierra Nevada are pretty close. More than 300 films were shot in Sonora.

photo credit: wikipedia and pixabay (12019).

Which Arabic dialect do you like best?


What is your favorite Arabic colloquial word or expression?


It is an Egyptian Arabic expression and means: Don't worry about it! / Never mind!

What is your favorite Arabic quote or proverb?

.افتح فمك فقط إن كان ما ستقوله أجمل من الصمت

Only open your mouth if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence.

What is the best thing that was ever said about the Arabic language?

I have no idea.

matthew aldrich lingualism
photo credit: Matthew Aldrich

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

That failure is necessary for success.

Which three people would you like to invite for dinner?

Any old friends I haven't seen in years.

What was the last great meal you had?

Thanksgiving dinner last month, surrounded by family.

What is your favorite city?

Istanbul in Turkey.
photo credit: pixabay (vedatzorluer)

Which book would you give to a dear friend?

Depends on the friend! ☺

A groundbreaking work of Matthew Aldrich: The Big Fat Book of Egyptian Arabic Verbs.

What is your all-time favorite movie?

Life of Pi.

What music do you listen to?

80s alternative and jazz.

When were you happiest?

In my 20s, when I was working abroad for the first time, in Turkey. Good times!

What is your greatest fear?

To suffer a chronic disease or injury and not have a good quality of life/health.

What is your life motto?

Just breathe.

Matthew Aldrich, thank you for your time.

CALL FOR SUGGESTIONS: Who should we interview soon?

Do you know an interesting person who has a special relationship with the Arabic language? Then click yes below and tell us why we should interview this person!

People who were also interviewed in the 9273 roots series:

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An Austrian kid goes on vacation to Egypt and is so enthusiastic about Arabic that the 14-year-old starts learning Arabic on his own back in Austria. That's the story of Georg Binder. Learn more about him in episode 29 of the "9273 roots"-interview series.