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20 Best (And Worst) Online Arabic Courses For 2020

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Learning Arabic is a unique challenge because there are so many dialects. This means it’s even more complicated to find the best online courses since there are variations in how the dialects are taught. Fortunately, we’ve tried a lot of them—the good and the bad.

In this post, I’ll cover the 16 best courses for learning a range of Arabic dialects. Some offerings are free, while others can be pretty steep in price.

I’ll start with the top tier, ranging down to the worst options for your money and time. Depending on the dialect you’re learning, the way you like to learn, and your ability level when you start out, your opinion of these courses might be different from our own.

That said, we’ll start with our top picks for learning Arabic.


Top Tier

These options for learning Arabic are the highlight of our list. Although they aren’t available in every dialect, if they happen to be available in the one you’re studying, you’d be off to a good start with any of these.

Pimsleur

Best for promoting communication skills

Dialect(s): Eastern, Egyptian, MSA

Price: Basic subscription starts at $14.95 per month

Start as a beginner with Pimsleur and surprise yourself with how much you manage to learn. Sure, there’s not a lot of written material here, but that’s why it’s so simple to work with. You’ll start speaking quickly, and it’s tough not to engage with the lessons.

The conversation style of Pimsleur is a highlight since you get to hear real-life conversations in a variety of voices (both male and female). My favorite part of Pimsleur is how vibrant the audio is, and I don’t miss the written aspect much. However, if you choose the more expensive subscription option, there’s a bit more reading material for practice.

Pros:

  • You can learn basic phrases quickly with a concentration on verbal skills.
  • Each lesson practically demands participation.
  • There’s plenty of cultural insight that makes learning more interactive and exciting.

Cons:

  • You’ll need a supplement for written language since Pimsleur focuses on spoken Arabic.
  • Some parts of the lessons aren’t that engaging.

See our full, in-depth review of Pimsleur here.

Visit Pimsleur

 

ArabicPod101

Best Arabic language supplement

Dialect(s): Egyptian, Moroccan, MSA

Price: Subscriptions range from $8/month to $47/month

You might not think that covering grammar, vocabulary, and culture could be entertaining, but ArabicPod101 does a pretty good job of it. The lessons cover a range of categories, and each level offers more of a challenge while expanding your speaking abilities.

Although the pathway format can be a little chaotic, it does help to add some structure to the lessons. These lessons include lots of English at the beginner levels, but Arabic is used more as you move up. Plenty of hours of lessons are available at each level, and the video offerings help keep your study from becoming dull. Transcripts and notes are handy and let you go back and study the material from the videos and audio.

Pros:

  • There are tons of lessons that are increasingly challenging to boost your skills.
  • The basic plan is super affordable.
  • Dynamic audio material makes listening enjoyable.

Cons:

  • The higher-level plans don’t offer significant value to justify the cost.
  • Sometimes the dialects are mixed up, which can confuse beginners.

Check out our full, in-depth review of ArabicPod101 here.

Visit ArabicPod101

Language Transfer

Top free language learning tool

Dialect(s): Egyptian

Price: Free

What’s impressive about Language Transfer is that it’s free and really well done. The creator, Mihalis, is fluent in a few languages, but he also consulted native speakers in each dialect to ensure his material is correct. The interface isn’t flashy, but the audio files are easy to access and follow along with.

Mihalis’ methodology uses the student teaching method, where you listen to a student speak (and receive correction). It’s an innovative technique that other instructors—like Michel Thomas and affiliated courses—use. Of course, this free resource is way cheaper than Michel Thomas’ offerings.

Pros:

  • The lessons are efficient and cover a wide range of material—so you truly learn from each session.
  • Totally free to use, with a total of nine languages offered.
  • Mihalis teaches you to think about learning while you develop language skills, an approach that helps you build on your vocabulary and understanding.

Cons:

  • Lessons don’t exactly proceed in a traditional format, as you don’t start by learning the basic greetings, etc.
  • None of the audio comes from native speakers, which makes it challenging to hone your pronunciation.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Language Transfer here.

Visit Language Transfer

 

Madinah Arabic

Free courses to get you started and fill in gaps

Dialect(s): MSA, Quranic

Price: Free, tutors available via Skype for a fee

Madinah Arabic features two free courses—Arabic reading and Arabic language—and includes tons of audio files, explanations, exercises, and lessons. There are over 90 lessons you can access for free, and they build on one another, starting with learning Arabic script.

You can navigate the site’s simple structure to find video lesson “hints”, movie clips, and structured vocabulary lesson recaps. Quizzes cover everything from basic prepositions to reading comprehension and increase from beginner to advanced level.

Pros:

  • Lessons are free to access (you don’t have to pay for tutoring unless you want to).
  • The site is easy to navigate, and you can find what level you need because everything is in order.
  • Madinah Arabic features audio, video, and written Arabic, so you can use it as a supplement where other language courses miss an element.

Cons:

  • Tutors are relatively expensive, so using another service like italki would be cheaper.
  • Lessons aren’t very dynamic; the reading lessons involve scrolling through each page of letters, pronunciations, and word meanings.

Visit Madinah Arabic

Memrise

Handy for beginners and developing vocabulary

Dialect(s): Multiple

Price: Free. Premium plans are $9/month.

If you stick with the free version of Memrise for learning Arabic, it’s plenty useful. The user-created study decks are variable and engaging, and you can quickly practice skills and learn some new phrases.

The highlight with Memrise is the variety, but it’s also a drawback. And if you hope to learn a specific dialect, there are no guarantees you’ll find what you’re looking for. Consistency can also be an issue, though the range of vocabulary categories is great for general language exposure.

Pros:

  • Multiple dialects are available via user-created decks, which helps you strengthen your skills in a specific dialect.
  • User-created courses mean plenty of variation and innovation throughout the lessons.

Cons:

  • As you get more fluent, you’ll notice a lack of challenging material.
  • Helpful for developing a foundation, but you can’t depend on it too heavily.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Memrise here.

Visit Memrise

Second Tier

Plenty of these second-tier courses are worth the investment (or lack thereof), but there are a few more drawbacks than with our top picks.

Udemy

A flexible resource with a wide range

Dialect(s): Lebanese, Egyptian, MSA, Moroccan, Quranic, and more

Price: Starts at $12.99

You learn just about anything on Udemy, and that includes a range of Arabic dialects. Courses primarily include video instruction, but plenty of lessons offer additional resources like quizzes, printable worksheets, and more. And if you’re looking for a specific guide on, say, typing in Arabic or learning verbs, you can find it on Udemy.

From courses that last an hour to options that include over 16 hours of content, you choose what you have time for. What’s nice about Udemy is every course receives ratings from real students, so you can see what matches your learning style. Money-back guarantees are a nice touch, too.

Pros:

  • Many instructors offer multiple levels of courses, so you can keep working your way up with the same teacher.
  • You have lifetime access once you purchase a course, so you can always go back and refresh your skills.
  • Beginner through advanced options.

Cons:

  • Teaching styles vary, and course offerings are rather inconsistent.
  • You will have to jump around to cover every topic normally covered in a comprehensive study of Arabic.

Visit Udemy

FSI

Self-guided study with extras

Dialect(s): Levantine, Saudi

Price: Free

FSI has four separate courses for independent Arabic study. Three components include between eight and 18+ hours of audio content (one is text only). You’ll also find PDF booklets which, while way outdated, are a handy supplement for your verbal practice. You can also download the entire audio collection for each lesson in one go, if that’s more convenient for you.

Because FSI is free, it’s tough not to include it as a second-tier resource. It may not take you from beginner to expert, but it is detailed and you can work through the material at your own pace.

Pros:

  • Free and accessible with a simple user interface.
  • Can download to your computer or device or print the PDF files.

Cons:

  • No support if you need help while working through the course of study.
  • The course material is very old—circa 1946 for some of the booklets.

Visit FSI

Duolingo

A general intro to Arabic for beginners

Dialect(s): MSA

Price: Free

Although you won’t gain advanced fluency with Duolingo, I do like its game-like style. After all, if it’s fun to do, you won’t mind studying to keep your Arabic fresh. You won’t find much in-depth information on how Arabic works, though, especially when it comes to the alphabet. Basically, you can get through the audio without a working knowledge of the alphabet—you just listen to the sounds to determine the right answer.

In short, Duolingo is a great, free resource for casual learning and practice but it has lots of limitations. You’ll also notice they only offer MSA Arabic, so you get a general overview without dialect- or culture-specific info.

Pros:

  • It’s free and game-style to keep it engaging.
  • There’s plenty of audio and written content to interact with.
  • Repetitive practice builds on a few basic skills.

Cons:

  • There are some nuances that Duolingo didn’t cover thoroughly, like some sounds coming across wonky in the audio.
  • Alphabet skills instruction is a bit off. You’re better off learning the alphabet elsewhere first.

Check out our full review of Duolingo. 

Visit Duolingo

Arab Academy

A comprehensive online course with a real-life payoff

Dialect(s): MSA, Egyptian, Islamic/Quranic

Price: Subscriptions range from $69 to $99 per month

Arab Academy has a unique structure for language learning. Not only do they offer online courses and Skype speaking classes with instructors but they also have a language learning school in Cairo. You can take anywhere from two to eight private lessons per month, and some subscription plans even include real-life immersion, if you can manage to get to Cairo.

An initial orientation helps the instructors gauge your abilities, and you’ll receive custom placement for your independent study lessons. There are also online student forums where you can chat with other Arabic learners. Courses include animated lessons and exercises for beginners through advanced speakers.

Pros:

  • You can take a free lesson first to check Arab Academy Out.
  • Courses meet the requirements for a handful of college-level educational exams like IB, IGCSE, and others.
  • The courses have been around since 1999, so Arab Academy has tons of experience teaching students at all levels.

Cons:

  • Very pricey, and you can’t get the online courses without paying for a subscription (and speaking classes).
  • There is a significant time commitment—lessons are 50 minutes—and you work independently through the curriculum online, too.

Visit Arab Academy

Learn Lebanese Arabic with Hiba Najem

Extensive video lessons for real-life Arabic practice

Dialect(s): Lebanese

Price: Free, paid Skype lessons are also available

Hiba Najem is a native Lebanese Arabic speaker and took the time to create over 75 video lessons for language learners. You’ll learn practical phrases and sentences covering a wide range of topics. There are videos on airport vocabulary, hotels, numbers, directions, and more.

If you’re looking for more intensive Lebanese Arabic, the website offers links to two phrasebooks (on Amazon) and a form to request Skype lessons. These additional resources come at a price, however. But stick with the free resources, and there’s still plenty to keep you busy while learning Arabic.

Pros:

  • YouTube videos are free, mobile, and allow you to proceed at your own pace or jump around for specific vocabulary.
  • Real-life application and instruction from a native Arabic speaker.
  • Additional resources (two phrasebooks and private Skype lessons) are helpful for language expansion.

Cons:

  • It only covers Lebanese Arabic.
  • Lessons focus on phrases and sentences, not the alphabet or grammar rules/explanations of Arabic.
  • You’ll need other resources to really enhance your learning. Otherwise, you’re just learning phrases here and there.

Watch on YouTube

THIRD TIER

These courses offer some decent content but aren’t the most engaging (or affordable) picks.

Mango Languages

Passable language learning for beginners

Dialect(s): Egyptian, Iraqi, Levantine, MSA

Price: $19.99 per month/$199.99 per year

Mango is relatively expensive compared to similar options, though the content is engaging and well put together. Fortunately, a subscription allows you to access every language in the system. Plus, your local library might have free access, which makes it even better for beginners.

There are some grammar and culture notes, but Mango only scrapes the surface of Arabic. Advanced speakers won’t find much material, though the activities are interesting, and the stats trackers give your confidence a boost. For beginners, it’s a decent intro to a handful of Arabic dialects.

Pros:

  • Your local library might offer free access to all Mango Languages selections.
  • One subscription lets you practice all 70+ languages.
  • The activities are fun and game-like.

Cons:

  • Expensive for what it offers compared to other programs.
  • Few resources for advanced Arabic learners.
  • The translation feature is literally Google Translate via a plugin.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Mango Languages here.

Visit Mango Languages

Glossika

Intermediate level listening and speaking practice

Dialect(s): MSA, Egyptian, Moroccan

Price: $30 per month, $299.88 for an entire year

Glossika Arabic courses span audio content, tests, and interactive drills. You listen to and repeat the sentences you hear for the audio component, which isn’t the most entertaining way to practice. It is helpful for increasing your comprehension skills, though.

There’s not any cultural information with Glossika, as their specialty is covering a ton of languages in basically the same format. For the price, I expected a bit more from the platform. You will likely need another course or supplement to hone your grammar, too.

Pros:

  • One subscription grants you access to all the languages on Glossika.
  • There’s a nice blend of audio plus written exercises, and not everything is multiple choice.
  • The general, repetitive format makes it simple to learn multiple languages as the lessons follow the same pattern.

Cons:

  • There are some noticeable errors in the course.
  • The main learning methodology is only to listen and repeat – not particularly engaging.
  • Pricing is high given the quality and range of the Arabic offerings.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Glossika here.

Visit Glossika

Arabic Online

Cost-effective option to earn certification

Dialect(s): MSA

Price: $180/year for premium, $71/year for advanced, $99/year for beginner, free tester course for basic beginner level

The highlight of Arabic Online is its tester course, which appeals to basic beginners and those just looking for a quick trial. It’s a flash-based course with lots of exercises, but because I’ve only delved into the tester option, there could be more material hiding in the paid subscriptions.

Right now, there isn’t much information about the course beyond what’s on their website. According to Arabic Online, they use a teaching method which is the style used in Europe. To that end, you can complete tests and earn certificates for CEFR. There’s also a corporate Arabic option for professionals.

Pros:

  • Free tester course gives you an idea of what to expect without paying full price.
  • A free resource page helps you practice the Arabic alphabet, learn basic words and phrases, and practice handwriting.
  • You can earn CEFR certification for educational or professional purposes.

Cons:

  • The test version is a very limited view of the overall course. Test options for every level would be a nice touch.
  • Pricing seems high, but the fully paid courses might be worth the investment if they have additional material.
  • There isn’t a lot of information available to fully judge the paid courses.

Visit Arabic Online

Michel Thomas Method

Audio-focused with limited content

Dialect(s): Egyptian, MSA

Price: Starts at $11.99 and ranges up to $100

The good news is, Michel Thomas doesn’t teach the Arabic course. So you avoid his overly critical style in favor of Jane Wightwick, who is a language teacher and graduate of Arabic, and Mahmoud Gaafar, who’s a native Arab speaker. Having a native speaker is a step up for the Arabic course in comparison with other Michel Thomas Method options because you can work on pronunciation more effectively.

There’s a brief free lesson you can try, plus a taster option for a low fee. These are helpful because overall, I don’t recommend Michel Thomas. The free/cheap options let you see if the material is right for you and whether you enjoy the instructors.

Pros:

  • Lessons involve real Arabic learners so you can hear common mistakes and avoid them.
  • Pause and play as you go, so you can work at your own pace.
  • You can try a free lesson first or do the taster course for $11.99 to see if it’s a good fit.

Cons:

  • Material is somewhat expensive for what’s included, and there’s nothing for advanced Arabic speakers.
  • It’s mostly audio, with little written or text instruction.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Michel Thomas Method here.

Visit Michel Thomas Method

Rosetta Stone

A steep price with help for beginners

Dialect(s): MSA

Price: $79 for a 3-month subscription up to $249 for two years

Rosetta Stone might be an okay option for an absolute beginner wanting to learn Arabic, but the price is too high for what’s offered. There are too many other great resources out there to stick with Rosetta Stone and its one-track teaching style.

You won’t find cultural immersion or advanced practice with the program, but the good news is, it’s an online-based option you can take anywhere. It’s accessible even if you don’t know the Arabic alphabet, thanks to the picture-based teaching method. This does, however, have its limitations. Explanations are never given, so things may seem more complicated than they actually are.

Pros:

  • Basic vocabulary gives a simple introduction to Arabic.
  • Lessons increase in difficulty, so there is material for beginners through intermediate Arabic speakers.

Cons:

  • The format is repetitive and not very engaging.
  • It feels a bit juvenile because of the picture-sorting style, which never changes.
  • You only get access to one language for a high price.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Rosetta Stone here.

Visit Rosetta Stone 

Avoid These

These last Arabic courses aren’t excellent choices for any level of Arabic learners. You’ll want something more in-depth no matter where you are in your language journey, so skip these.

Mondly

Basic tool that’s not worth the price

Dialect(s): Not specified

Price: $9.99 per month for one language to $47.99 for one year

The first issue with Mondly is the fact that they don’t specify the type of Arabic you’re learning. The next problem is the lack of engagement or cultural immersion. Sure, you can learn basic Arabic phrases with the learning path tool. Although ten bucks a month sounds like good value, you’d be better off going elsewhere.

No cohesive grammar lessons exist, either, so you get only bits and pieces of phrases in drill form. Yes, it works, barely, but it’s not something I’d recommend.

Pros:

  • You can try a free option before committing to a subscription.
  • There’s enough basic material for an absolute beginner.

Cons:

  • The lesson structure is quite lacking (and boring).
  • There’s no variation in the content among different languages.
  • You can find better and/or cheaper options elsewhere.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Mondly here.

Visit Mondly

Rocket Arabic

Too much money for too little learning

Dialect(s): Egyptian

Price: $149.99 for a one-time purchase

Rocket Arabic comes highly recommended, but I’m not a fan. Most of the course is memorization-based, so you’re not building language skills, just parroting back phrases. It’s nice that there’s a range of exercises, like writing, reading, and listening.

The audio lessons weren’t my favorite, and they were honestly cringey at some points. There’s not any cohesive style to the course, even when Rocket Arabic attempts structured vocab or grammar lessons.

Pros:

  • The grammar and vocabulary instruction is decent and encourages student participation.
  • It’s got writing, reading, comprehension, and speaking practice.

Cons:

  • Very expensive for what it offers.
  • Rocket Arabic only focuses on memorization, not cultural immersion or building fluency.
  • The audio was uncomfortable and unnatural, even cringey.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Rocket Arabic here.

Visit Rocket Arabic

Busuu

A fun tool without much depth, but has a great social feature

Dialect(s): MSA

Price: $9.99/month for Premium and $13.99/month for Premium Plus

I was hoping to like Busuu because they have some neat tools and a decent platform. But the bottom line is that there are better resources to teach you Arabic for free. I liked the format for the lessons, which tests your understanding in different ways and involves some dynamic exercises.

For example, you have drag-and-drop translation activities, dialog to read and listen to, and quizzes. The one highlight was the language exchange feature, in which a native speaker corrects your original speech or writing. But all these features come with the free account, so there’s no reason to pay a premium when you still need another course to learn the basics.

Pros:

  • The language exchange feature is innovative and useful for correcting speech or writing, and it’s free.
  • Busuu has a well-designed platform with a comprehensive learning format.

Cons:

  • Better options exist at a similar price point that are more in-depth.
  • Vocabulary introduction doesn’t make much sense—you don’t start with the basics.
  • Grammar/pronunciation explanations and practice are rather weak, so you still need to learn the essentials elsewhere.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Busuu here.

Visit Busuu

Talk in Arabic

Many dialects but they miss the mark

Dialect(s): Saudi, Iraqi, Levantine, Egyptian, Sudanese, Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan

Price: $15 per month, $126 per year, or $197 for lifetime access

I was hopeful about Talk in Arabic simply because of the many dialects they offer. But the bottom line is, they don’t do any of them well. Some dialects have minimal content, and it was disappointing to see that nothing was well thought out at all.

The lessons are fairly short, which can be helpful for digesting a topic. You’ll find lesson notes and transcripts, but they don’t often add anything to the experience. The bottom line is this isn’t a course so much as an introduction to a handful of Arabic options for dabbling. And at this price, it’s not worth the investment.

Pros:

  • Native speakers give instruction in each of the dialects, something you don’t find everywhere.
  • Not many other options for finding lessons in specific dialects

Cons:

  • Very few lessons—and short ones—in many of the dialects.
  • It’s expensive given how little coverage there is for many dialects.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Talk in Arabic here.

Visit Talk in Arabic

Transparent Language

Lacking depth

Dialect(s): Iraqi, Levantine, MSA

Price: $24.95 per month of $149.95 for a year

You can find many language options on Transparent Language, but it doesn’t do any of them very well. Instruction in Arabic follows the format of other languages in that it’s memorization of phrases rather than building from the basics up.

Snippets of the language in isolation don’t build fluency, and I wish Transparent Language would get the memo. It is cool that they offer a recording tool to put yourself in the conversation—that’s neat to review your pronunciation. But otherwise, the format is uninspired and choppy.

Pros:

  • Pronunciation rating via the voice recognition tool is a nice perk. Accuracy is questionable though.
  • Tons of languages are available in addition to multiple Arabic dialects.

Cons:

  • The interface is dull and monotonous.
  • It’s expensive for a very bare-bones setup.
  • Memorization is a priority over language building—there’s a difference.

Check out our full, in-depth review on Transparent Language here.

Visit Transparent Language

Final Thoughts

If you want to learn Arabic—no matter the dialect—there are tons of options to choose from. They can’t all be winners, but we’ve tested and reviewed them all so you don’t have to. Ready to try an Arabic course? Let us know in the comments which course you like and why!

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Comments (1)

thank you for helping out alot of learners, including me, with the resources you’ve enlisted.

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