Last updated on November 28, 2020
There are many good websites offering Arabic lessons. Many of them only offer material for beginners or do charge money. In this article, I would like to present two websites that offer free lessons.
Free Arabic audio and video lessons
- Defense language institute
Who is behind it?
Playaling was founded by Jordan Gerstler-Holton (a former CASA-fellow which is an elite Arabic program for US students). Part of his inspiration came from Nadia Harb, a professor at American University in Cairo (AUC).
Advantages of Playaling
- Real-world content
- Interactive captioning: you get Arabic subtitles and English translations
- Fast and easy website
How does it work?
It is very easy. You choose your level and dialect, start the video and choose whether you want to add the Arabic transcription (in Arabic!) or/and English subtitles.
This is what the website says about it:
- Search individual clips by filtering for preferred level, content, dialect or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).
- Play them once to train your ear, and then activate interactive captioning to learn what you missed. All content is equipped with optional transcription and translation, though some also includes conversion to MSA and transliteration.
- Simply move your cursor over the transcribed text to discover meanings, along with grammatical and contextual information.
Where can you find it?
Go to the website:
Defense language institute
It might sound weird that you get some of the finest language lessons from an institute that is linked to the US army. They have developed great language learning material for Arabic that is especially useful for beginners and intermediate learners.
I recently stumbled on a website called GLOSS which stands for Global Language Online Support System.
For which languages can you get free online lessons?
You will see almost all major languages listed as well as languages that the USA consider to be “critical“:
- Modern Standard Arabic: 507 (!) lessons including 42 video lessons
- Egyptian Arabic: 170 lessons
- Gulf Arabic: 52 lessons
- Iraqi Arabic: 223 lessons (I guess you’d better don’t ask yourself why there are so many lessons about Iraqi Arabic.)
- Levantine Arabic: 254 lessons
- Sudanese Arabic: 80 lessons
- Yemeni Arabic: 126 lessons
Who is behind GLOSS?
The website is run by the US Defense Language Institute (DLI). This is the educational and research institution of the US Department of Defense. It provides linguistic and cultural instruction to the Department of Defense, Federal Agencies and other customers.
Okay, I have to admit that all this is far from my circumstances of living – but the lessons they offer online for free are really great stuff.
What are the lessons about?
Culture, politics, military issues, social issues – about almost everything. But they have a very practical focus. I am pretty sure you can find what suits you best.
How it works
Let’s choose level 3 about a demonstration in Iraq. The duration of the exercise is 90 minutes (you can do it much quicker of course). It uses authentic audio material from 2006 by Radio Sawa.
The website tells you more about the learning goals of each lesson. In our example, it is the following:
Comprehend and analyze information expressed in the Iraqi dialect and with sarcasm in an audio about a demonstration in Iraq.
- Listen to a part of the audio report to determine the main idea of the audio.
- Grasp specific details from the audio.
- Extract additional details from the audio and learn about the Iraqi dialect.
- Learn about sarcasm in the Iraqi culture.
- Get a summary of the audio.
When you start the lesson, you will listen to a short audio file and should understand what people are shouting. It is authentic material! And in case it is too difficult, you can listen to an alternative audio version with no background noise.
Then, you have to answer the following question:
(What is meaning of the slogan people shout?) ما معنى هتاف الجمهور المتظاهر؟
If you choose the correct answer, you will even get more information about it:
كان الجمهور يقصد المعنى المجازي للهتاف ” حضرولنا تابوتنا ما نطلع من بيوتنا” وهو “لن نغادر منازلنا مهما كلف الامر
لاحظ أن الجمهور اِستخدم كلمة تابوت ولم يجعلها بصيغة الجمع وذلك للحفاظ على الاِيقاع الموسيقي للهتاف والمفروض أن يقول” حضرولنا توابيتنا ما نطلع من بيوتنا.”
Is there bonus material?
Yes, you can even download vocab sheets.
Are there video lessons as well?
Yes, there there are even video lessons. I check a lesson about immigration to Europe (قوارب الموت). You will find videos and fill-in exercises.
The lessons are usually not political. I found them pretty instructive.
Disclaimer: To be honest, I have no idea why they offer this material online for free. I haven’t found any subscription button nor an information about who is able to use it. I guess since they have no paywall, everybody who is interested can use it.
Where can I access free Arabic lessons?
You can access it by visiting the rather cryptic URL:
Watch out: The website does not support HTTPS. If your browser does not open the website, try it with HTTP only or click on “accept” if there is any warning message. The website is fine.
Missing a website? I know there are many websites offering Arabic material for free. I can’t name them all. I have chosen two very good sites. If you have discovered any great websites offering good material, please use the content section below and share it with other readers. I will constantly update the list.