The 9 Best Books to Learn Arabic Effectively

Kelsey Wetherbee Published on April 1, 2023
Best books to learn Arabic

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Arabic is a difficult language, and you might have had trouble finding the right resource to help you learn. Using a textbook for studying Arabic is a tried and true method. There are many options available for those who self-study or are studying with a tutor. This article is a guide to the best Arabic learning books available. No matter your level, there’s a book on this list that will help you learn the language effectively.

Arabic is considered one of the most difficult languages for English speakers, but it’s also one of the most spoken languages in the world. There are 25 countries that have Arabic as one of their official languages, with Egyptian, Maghrebi, Gulf, and Levantine Arabic being the most spoken dialects. While dialects are most used for verbal communication, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is more popular in literature, mass media, and academia, but is typically not spoken as a first language. The US government classifies Arabic as a critical need language, and knowing it can help you find scholarship or job opportunities. Even if you aren’t interested in foreign service, Arabic speakers are in high demand at many companies as business in the Middle East continues to grow.

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How We Chose and Tested the Best Arabic Books

For any language learning products we’ve tested or researched, we follow a strict testing methodology to make sure our experts make the same considerations. Here are the factors we looked at when testing Arabic textbooks specifically:

  • Structure and Topics: We took into consideration how easy it was to navigate each book’s content. We also looked for extra features available, like glossaries, answer keys, translations, and more that made the experience smoother.
  • Quality of Content: We checked the complexity of each book’s content, whether or not they provided detailed explanations for grammar topics, how they treated the cultural aspects of the language, and if they fulfilled their goal effectively to gauge their quality and value.
  • Features Available: To verify how useful they are for Arabic learners, we also reviewed additional features like audio tracks, mobile apps, flashcards, recordings, and other tools.
  • Value for Money: We took the three previous factors and compared them to the price of each to determine if they are valuable and convenient resources for Arabic language students.
Best Overall Arabic BookMastering Arabic
Best for BeginnersComplete Arabic
Best for Self-StudyArabic for Dummies
Best for Learning Arabic ScriptMaster the Arabic Alphabet
Best for Arabic GrammarEasy Arabic Grammar
Best for Egyptian Colloquial ArabicKullu Tawmam!
Best for Levantine ArabicColloquial Levantine Arabic
Best for Mastering VerbsPractice Makes Perfect: Arabic Verb Tenses
Best for ReadingArabic Stories for Language Learners

Mastering Arabic

Best Overall Arabic Book

Mastering Arabic is the best overall book to learn Arabic because it provides a gradual introduction to the important skills necessary to understand the language and alphabet. The book teaches Modern Standard Arabic and covers useful situations that you’ll need to navigate and communicate with native speakers. There are tons of interactive exercises including flashcards, printed scripts, and simulated classroom games, but I found that the free online audio and videos that come with the book were the most helpful aspects to ensure you develop all your language skills.

This is a book designed to introduce you to everything you need to know to understand the Arabic language, from pronunciation and joining letters to weak verbs and comparatives and superlatives. In addition, you can also read about the Arabic culture and learn how it influences the language. For me, Mastering Arabic is a valuable resource if you’re serious about studying Arabic. I recommend it to Arabic learners of all levels who want flexibility in their studies–you can follow the progressive structure of the book or begin wherever you want to address your points of weakness! Grab your copy of the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Teaches Modern Standard Arabic and conversational topics to help you communicate with ease
  • It follows a logical order that builds upon what you previously learned to make sure you understand all aspects of Arabic grammar and vocabulary
  • Includes online audio and video so you can listen to the pronunciation and develop your comprehension skills

Complete Arabic

Best for Beginners

Complete Arabic is best for beginners because it starts with the basics and takes you to an intermediate level. Each of the 17 learning units includes grammar explanations, necessary Arabic vocabulary, and many practice questions to make sure you are on track. The book uses the discovery method, which means you see examples to figure out the rules and patterns on your own, which helps you remember the language. There are also insightful notes about the different countries that speak Arabic, so you can learn how the language ties to different cultures.

I was impressed by how easy it was to understand the basics of Arabic with this book, even if you have no prior knowledge of a similar language. The book has clear explanations and examples of how to pronounce the different Arabic letters and each lesson gets progressively harder to give you space to develop your own rhythm of study. Complete Arabic also gives you access to online audio, which allows you to listen to native speakers to improve your listening and speaking skills. For its price, I think it’s a complete resource for Arabic beginners to self-study and build a solid foundation in the language. Learn more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • The book includes 17 learning units that teach you all you need to know to take your Arabic skills to the intermediate level
  • You can complete quizzes to test your knowledge and track your progress
  • Gives you tips to learn the language instead of memorizing content

Arabic for Dummies

Best for Self-Study

Arabic For Dummies is effective for people who want to self-study the language because it’s comprehensive and includes everything you need to develop your skills from zero. Its lessons focus on Modern Standard Arabic and teach you basic grammar and vocabulary to help you navigate common situations in Arabic-speaking countries. The book provides clear explanations for topics like vowels, pronunciation, nouns, using the negative past tense, and more. There are also cultural notes so you can learn how to apply the language in distinct language scenarios, like making small talk, dining out, or working at an office.

Even if you plan to use this book to begin your Arabic studies, the book includes English translations, free online audio, a mini dictionary, and a verb table to make the process of learning easier for you. As you advance, the book relies less on English and introduces you to more advanced Arabic topics, which makes it ideal for those looking to add only one book to their study routine. For me, this is an effective way to start learning on your own without getting overwhelmed by the significant differences between English and Arabic. If you’re a serious learner and want an in-depth source of study that you can reference whenever you need, this is the right book for you. Learn more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Covers all the necessary Arabic skills you need to build a solid foundation in the language
  • Read cultural notes to learn how different cultures use the language
  • Listen to free audio tracks online to improve your pronunciation and listening skills

Master the Arabic Alphabet

Best for Learning Arabic Script

Master the Arabic Alphabet is the perfect choice for those who want to practice writing and reading the Arabic script. The book teaches the correct stroke order and includes practice pages to help you train your muscle memory when writing. Throughout the book, you learn the isolated, initial, middle, and final forms of each character, which is the best way to distinguish each letter with ease. You can practice reading and writing different font variations to help you recognize the different character styles. Each character comes with a basic pronunciation guideline, so you can also identify its sound when you hear people speak.

While the book is marketed for children, it can be a helpful resource for Arabic learners of all ages to become familiar with the Arabic writing system and word construction. The Arabic alphabet uses diacritic marks, and they can change the meaning of a word if they are placed in the wrong place so, for me, this is an essential part of studying Arabic regardless of your level. Even if you’re already familiar with the alphabet, you can use Master the Arabic Alphabet to practice writing it to ensure you can communicate effectively. This book is also fairly cheap when compared to the other options on this list, so I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it. See if this book is right for you here.

Key Benefits

  • Learn the isolated, initial, middle, and final forms of all Arabic characters
  • Trace and practice pages train your muscle memory and improve your writing skills
  • Each character includes its romanized pronunciation to help you distinguish it when spoken

Easy Arabic Grammar

Best for Arabic Grammar

Easy Arabic Grammar is a great option if you want to focus on and perfect the most difficult topics of Arabic grammar. The book is divided into 2 parts: the fundamentals of Arabic grammar, which covers topics that go from the Arabic root system to sentence structure, and the Arabic verbs section which covers the tenses, the different forms of the verbs, and nouns and adjectives formed from verbs. I think one of this book’s strongest points is its thoroughness in explaining basic aspects of grammar, exceptions, and levels of formality with which you can communicate in Arabic in a concise and clear way. This isn’t an extensive tome that will teach you every minute detail, but it’s useful for beginners and intermediate learners to get a better grasp of the language.

The book follows a logical progression and continues to expand on topics seen in previous lessons, but it also encourages learners to reference the content they need to tackle any weaknesses or doubts. There are practice activities that help reinforce what you learn, as well as an answer key you can use to check your progress and practice on your own. The examples also have a large size, which allows you to see how to build words and sentences in the Arabic script. I think the amount of content it covers and its efficiency at explaining difficult grammar topics with brief notes justify its price. See what you think about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Learn the most vital grammar topics you need to communicate in the Arabic language
  • Explains different grammar topics in a clear and concise way to avoid overwhelming you
  • It includes activities, tests, and a key answer that you can use to practice using the language and measure your progress

Kullu Tawmam!

Best for Egyptian Colloquial Arabic

Kullu Tawman! focuses on Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, but gives a basis for Modern Standard Arabic and discusses the differences between the two. The book starts by teaching you the basic vocabulary and grammar rules both varieties have in common and later moves on to more unique topics like vernacular phrases. This is the best book to learn colloquial Egyptian Arabic because it teaches you common and vernacular phrases you might hear in Arabic-speaking countries along with the formal language. Most books overlook the importance of colloquialisms but with Kullu Tawmam! you can make sure you understand the context of the conversation regardless of where you are.

There are thorough grammar explanations and CDs so you can listen to correct pronunciation, which is helpful if your goal is to become conversational quickly. It also includes tons of additional activities like translation exercises, pattern drills, and vocabulary lists to help you practice what you learned. Note that the book doesn’t introduce the Arabic script until the later lessons, so if you’re interested to learn that first, you might need another resource. Overall, I think this is a great resource for beginner students who want to be able to communicate in all kinds of settings. Find out if this is the right book for you here.

Key Benefits

  • Learn the differences between Egyptian Colloquial Arabic and MSA to easily understand when to apply them
  • Includes a lot of additional material so you can practice and continue to improve your Arabic skills
  • Listen to the audio to practice listening and speaking Arabic to become conversational quickly

Colloquial Levantine Arabic

Best for Levantine Arabic

Colloquial Levantine Arabic teaches this specific dialect while trying to bridge the gap with Modern Standard Arabic. This is the best book if you want to learn Levantine Arabic because it focuses on the conversational use of this dialect without ignoring the importance of learning the Arabic script. Throughout its lessons, you study the most important Levantine Arabic vocabulary with common dialogues and gradually dive into essential grammar topics like the difference between the letters and the tenses. There are also verb conjugations with example sentences that show you how to construct Arabic sentences in Levantine Arabic. This way, you can also build a basis to learn MSA in the future.

It’s hard to find books that provide enough practice to ensure you truly understand this Arabic dialect, so I feel that Colloquial Levantine Arabic is a valuable resource. All the content and examples included in the book are relevant to the modern world, and its structure is easy to follow, even if you’re a beginner student. However, the book doesn’t place a big emphasis on the Arabic alphabet, and you might have to use other tools if you want to practice reading and writing it. See what you think about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Provides a useful introduction to Levantine Arabic and a basis for MSA
  • You are gradually introduced to different grammar topics and sentence structure so you won’t feel overwhelmed
  • The content focuses on present-day topics and scenarios, which allows you to communicate with native speakers with ease

Practice Makes Perfect: Arabic Verb Tenses

Best for Practicing Verbs

Practice Makes Perfect: Arabic Verb Tenses is the best book for learners looking to understand exactly how and why to use verb tenses in Arabic. It has extensive explanations, practice exercises, and sentences that reflect the modern use of the language. With Practice Makes Perfect, you learn conjugation by first looking at the root of each verb. Then, you study basic sentence structure components like subject pronouns, the verb to be, and plural forms. There’s also an app that comes with plenty of practice materials you can use to extend your study, like flashcards, audio, and a progress tracker.

The book has thorough explanations that teach you how to apply different verb tenses according to the situation, which means that you learn to use the language instead of just memorizing different conjugations. Because the book exclusively focuses on grammar and verb conjugations, it’s best to have some knowledge of Arabic before using it. I wanted to include this book in the list because of the ease with which Practice Makes Perfect tackles Arabic verbs. This is one of the aspects most Arabic learners struggle to learn, so I think this can be a helpful tool for all types of students. Learn more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Learn the Arabic verb roots and conjugations, and how to apply them in different scenarios
  • All the explanations are in-depth and ensure you understand the conjugation, grammar, and structure
  • Use the bonus app to make your study routine more interactive

With Arabic Stories for Languages Learners, you can read 36 folktales completely written in Arabic with side-by-side English translations. To become fluent in Arabic, you need to be able to read and understand all kinds of texts, but it can be hard to find engaging material that allows you to check your reading comprehension. The folktales in Arabic Stories for Language Learners have been simplified for language learners. Many of these tales were written by famous Arabic writers like Almuhsin Bin Ali Attanukhi and Khalil Hana Tadrus and talk about the dilemmas and difficulties of life in the desert. To ensure you understand what you’re reading, the book also includes comprehension questions in Arabic and English and online recordings of the stories.

This book is meant for intermediate learners, but since it has English translations, it can be used by anyone interested in learning about Arabian culture and language. The tales in the book offer advice and valuable lessons and, most importantly, help you relate to Arabic culture. In my opinion, this is a suitable book for everyone who wants to practice reading Arabic in a way that allows them to learn more about the culture of the language. Note that this book won’t teach you vocabulary, grammar, or sentence structure, so you need to use it in combination with other study resources. You can read more about the book here.

Key Benefits

  • Read 36 classic stories written in parallel Arabic and English to ensure you understand all the content
  • The stories are written in simplified language to help Arabic students of all levels understand
  • The book includes audio tracks so you can listen to the stories and test your listening and comprehension skills

Other Arabic Learning Books We Researched

We reviewed many Arabic books to pick the best ones. Here are some that didn’t quite make the list:

  • Arabic-English Bilingual Visual Dictionary: As the title says, this is a visual dictionary that can help you find the words you’re looking for in Arabic. While this book includes English translations and pronunciation spelling for each word, it doesn’t really teach you the language so what it can do for you it’s very limited. 
  • Salamaat! Learning Arabic with Ease: While this book provides a good introduction to Modern Standard Arabic, using this book for self-study isn’t easy unless you already know some Arabic. The book doesn’t include answer keys for its exercises or accompanying audio, so some of the content can be hard to understand.
  • 2000 Most Common Arabic Words in Context: This can be a handy reference guide if you want to learn and practice speaking conversational Arabic. However, there are some mistakes in the translations as well as unnatural sentence structure.

Why You Should Use Books To Learn the Arabic Language

Using a book to learn Arabic might seem like an old-fashioned way to learn, but it can also be one of the most effective. Books provide detailed descriptions and practice questions that other resources can’t provide. If you are trying to study Arabic, a book is an excellent choice because it offers explanations, tips, cultural tips, and more. And they are portable so you can take them wherever you go.

How To Use Books To Learn the Arabic Language

The best way to study Arabic with a book is to create a language-learning routine. The most progress is made when you study every day, or at least a few times a week, even if you can’t dedicate much time. Consistency is the key to remembering what you learned and building upon it.

Books are effective but are best used in combination with other learning methods. For example, a language app is an inexpensive way to learn a lot of vocabulary and practice basic phrases. You can also take an online Arabic course that has live classes so you can practice speaking and conversation.

Best Books To Learn Arabic: Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve found a book on this list that can help you learn Arabic quickly and easily. There are many excellent options available, and reading user reviews and seeing what additional resources are included can help you choose the book that’s right for you. Once you choose your favorite option, it’s time to get to work. With consistent study, you’ll be speaking Arabic before you know it!

Best Books To Learn Arabic: FAQ

Can I learn Arabic from a book?

Yes, you can learn Arabic from a book. There are many excellent options available that cover all areas of language learning. Some Arabic language books start from the very beginning and introduce you to basic grammar and vocabulary. Others can help you practice reading and writing the Arabic script, while some help you learn a large amount of vocabulary.

What is the first book for Arabic learning?

There are a few high-quality choices for books you can use when you first learn Arabic. For example, Mastering Arabic, Arabic for Dummies, and Complete Arabic are comprehensive options that are good choices for beginners with little to no experience with Arabic. They teach grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing. It’s an easy way to get started learning the language.

What are the best ways to learn Arabic?

The best way to learn the Arabic language depends on your learning style and level. Many beginners enjoy using an interactive language app because it teaches the basics quickly and easily. If you prefer to go more in-depth in the language, books are an excellent choice because they provide descriptions and practice questions, and most have access to online audio so you can also practice listening and understanding. Once you reach an advanced level, a good option is to take online classes with an Arabic tutor.

How can I learn the Arabic language by myself?

You can learn Arabic by yourself up to an intermediate level. There are so many options available to learn Arabic online, such as a language app, course, or textbook. Any of these will help you learn basic vocabulary and grammar to reach a conversational level of Arabic.

Kelsey Wetherbee

Kelsey is the Content Manager and Editor of Langoly. She is a TEFL-certified English teacher with more than eight years of classroom experience in three different countries. She’s an avid language learner with an advanced level of Spanish and is currently studying French. Whenever possible, she loves to travel and enjoys meeting people from all over the world. Connect with Kelsey on LinkedIn.

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1 Comment

  • Mastering Arabic is a disaster. After 14 lessons I still don’t know how to make a proper sentence, still don’t know very basic words and expressions (not even Sorry!/Excuse me!/think/speak/you plural versions etc.) while I know words like donkey, ministry, cabinet etc. I learnt very little grammar to make a correct longer sentence, I don’t know the basic negation either (like I am not/I don’t). In general it also misses colloquial expressions and proper reading passages we have in the Teach yourself books and other books. The book is inconsistent in mixing the more formal and the informal (mixed with the dialects) MSA. It should teach a preferred way and 1 chapter should tell you about the other use. The thematic approach is also a failure. It teaches the family topic without even teaching you the word family and gives very little vocabulary about it while adding the words donkey and river. I think people praise it as it has a very light approach but it’s not practical. Please stop praising and recommend this book. Mastering Arabic 2 looks better with the thematic approach but it’s not for complete beginners.