Novel Reading Excercise–Tilka al-Ra’iha

SOURCES and MATERIALS: Studying Arabic as a Medievalist


Below you will find some of the resources I have selected to advance Arabic study. The first section concerns books/tape resources sourced from the UW-Library System. The second section focuses on Online Resources. These resources are not only for medievalists but can be productively employed by any committed language learner.


  1. Introduction to Koranic and Classical Arabic: M.K Thackston (1994): Useful book for anyone just getting started on learning the Qur’an. This text carefully goes through the nuances in the grammar from MSA. The book is very English-friendly, providing the directions in English as well as transliterations, thereby helping with pronunciations. Finally, the handbook has an excellent glossary with both English to Arabic and Arabic to English (the latter again with transliterations). Even if one is not interested in reading the Qur’an this book contains excellent vocabulary that can be reviewed and incorporated.
  2. Arabic stories for language learners : traditional Middle-Eastern tales in Arabic and English:  Hezi Brosh (2013): This book is phenomenal! Contains stories in Arabic and the English translation on the separate page (be careful though, the English translation comes first so flip past this part to you maintain no knowledge about the story BEFORE reading it in Arabic). These stories are frequently funny and always culturally relevant even if the grammar can be somewhat more difficult than that in al-Kitaab Part II. The stories start off easier and will become harder as on progresses.
  3. Constructions of Power and Piety in Medieval Aleppo: Yasser Tabbaa (1997): Strictly speaking not a language learning book however this book can be used to do so! The book contains numerous transcribed inscriptions (nearly on every page) from architectural forms (madrasas, khanqahs, palaces, mosques, shrines) from Ayyubid Aleppo with English translations to follow. Given the difficulty in finding translated materials for paleography this is a wonderful way to get some practice in reading medieval Arabic. Warning: this book does not provide grammatical explanations. However with a few years of Arabic this book can be a good resource for encountering relatively simple texts regarding royal performance. Furthermore, this is a good cultural resource for understanding some of the socio-political history of medieval Islamic polities.
  4. Living Language Arabic: Living Language Series (2012). In the spirit of the NASILP guide for self-directed study I have included one tape resource for studying Arabic. According to the UW Librarian, a student is able to check out USB drives (tapes) from the College Library for up to three days. This book includes a script book to facilitate language learning.
  5. Essential Arabic: Learning to Speak with Confidence: Fethi Mansouri (2012).  Have you taken Arabic but do not feel that your language skills have prepared you for travel? This resource is incredibly helpful for those who want to brush up on how to: find accommodation, order at a restaurant, find tourist sites, telling a doctor what is wrong with your health, talking with the police, and shopping in the market. Complete with both Arabic text, English transliterations and translations with a generous dictionary as well. The book is online through UW-Madison Library.


  1. FC Lang Media: For those who need to brush up everything from simpler to more complex grammar should use this Youtube resource. With 82 short videos (ranging from 5-7 minutes), the Professor walks the student through first and second year grammar. Furthermore, he writes everything out on a blackboard/whiteboard simulating a classroom experience. This is especially useful if you have encountered some of these grammatical rules before but have forgotten them since.
  2. Madinah Arabic: Online resource that covers grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing! Warning: this resource is teaching Arabic with all the case-endings (which change in Arabic) so this may not be the best resource for just learning how to speak Arabic. Nonetheless an useful resource for vocabulary and especially for Quizzes which will test your skill at the Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced Levels. A free speaking trial is also available.
  3. Youglish: Need to improve your pronunciation? Just type any Arabic word or phrase into the Youglish website. The site will then collate internet videos and direct you to a segment that uses your word/phrase. This is especially helpful because it does not just give you the word but improves your listening by placing the word in context.
  4. Islamic Manuscript Studies (University of Michigan): Wonderful resource for learning Arabic paleography. This site directs you to a number of sites, the most useful and complete being Professor Jan Just Witkam’s (University of Leiden) Course in Islamic Paleography. The lessons provide examples in a number of Islamic scripts accompanied by transcriptions (unfortunately no English translations). This allows the student examine the original manuscript alongside and develop reading skills in various forms of Arabic.
  5. Aswaat Arabiyya (University of Texas): Resource for gauging and practicing listening levels. Contains Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced levels. The student is able to slow down the recording in order to better understand the words in context. The topics tend to revolve around documentaries of cultural history both in the Arab Europe and in Europe.
  6. Doha Film Institute: For those interested in Visual Studies this is a great resource! The videos are accompanied by Arabic subtitles and English ones for the videos in Arabic. Even the videos in English have Arabic subtitles allowing the student to read along with the video and pick up new vocabulary.
  7. 31 Favorite Arabic Proverbs: Arabic and English translation and English equivalent for a handful of phrases. Useful to throw into conversation or even an OPI test as to demonstrate proficiency on a cultural level.


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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.