Having previously tried and been disappointed with Rocket Arabic and Talk in Arabic, I was hopeful ArabicPod101 would be better but began to think that maybe the resources for studying Arabic just aren’t that good.
However, unlike my experience with those first two resources, I came away extremely impressed with what ArabicPod101 offers. There are of course many areas that could still be improved, but overall, it’s an excellent resource.
The grammar too is very well explained and each lesson is accompanied by a whole variety of different resources such as lesson notes, transcripts, quizzes and more.
The diversity of lesson topics that are explored makes them fun and engaging to work through. Unlike Rocket Arabic where there was no chemistry between the hosts and the jokes felt forced, on ArabicPod101 the presenter’s personalities shine through and they come across as very personable and friendly.
The lessons certainly progress in difficulty with each different level building on the one before it and learners will get a lot out of the platform.
Although there are lots of great things about ArabicPod101, I believe that Arabic learners would have to use it alongside another resource as it doesn’t offer up many opportunities to improve your speaking and writing.
Another issue is that while ArabicPod101 focuses mainly on Modern Standard Arabic, some lessons are on the Egyptian and Moroccan dialects but there is no way of knowing this beforehand.
If you manage to watch out for this however it’s a great option for beginners and intermediate learners who are looking to take their Arabic skills to the next level.
On ArabicPod101 you follow various ‘pathways’ as you learn the language and there are a wide variety of lessons and resources for you to use in your quest to master Arabic with each level progressing in difficulty.
Starting off at the Absolute Beginner level there are thirty-five video lessons for you to work through and these are generally around four or five minutes in length. The lessons introduce you to a particular topic and they explain the grammar and cultural context along the way. These early lessons are mostly in English and as such Arabic only features briefly in the words and phrases that are being explored.
At the Beginner level, lessons begin using more Arabic and become longer in length. Throughout these 25 lessons, you’ll continue to expand your vocabulary and understanding of Arabic. Still though, the hosts take you through the topic at a comfortable speed and clearly explain everything.
The intermediate level lessons are longer and go into much greater depth and as such, there is a corresponding increase in the amount of Arabic used. These audio lessons are usually around ten to fifteen minutes in length and there is nearly six hours of material for students to work through. The topics covered include anything from sentence structure and Arabic culture to travel and taking a flight.
The advanced level lessons are around three to four minutes in length and are completely in Arabic and as such, they are a large step up from the intermediate level. The forty-five lessons take around two and a half hours to listen to and the topics are very interesting in nature as they look at the Copts in Egypt, Ramadan, and community in Saudi Arabia.
Overall there are a huge number of audio and video lessons available that cover a multitude of scenarios and the focus is really on introducing you to words and phrases that you will actually use in real life situations.
In addition to the lessons (which are usually very well done), you can find the transcripts and notes on the vocabulary and grammar that is used and these are very useful. You can also slow down the audio if it is too fast or play a certain word back if you want to hear how it is pronounced.
In general, the earlier lessons follow a simple structure where you are introduced to a topic and then hear words and phrases relating to it before receiving an explanation on the cultural context in which it is used and how the grammar works.
In addition to the incredible number of lessons, there are also loads of useful vocabulary lists for students to use. Another feature available to Premium Plus subscribers is the ‘My Teacher’ section where you can write and record messages and a teacher will get back to you to correct your written and spoken Arabic.
While this is no substitute for a proper conversation, it is a much-needed feature and does at least give users some much need spoken and written practice; something that is unfortunately largely neglected otherwise.
While this may make the Premium Plus plan look tempting, I think most learners would save money and be better off by finding a tutor from italki instead.
Once you’ve signed up for your free seven-day trial with ArabicPod101 all you have to do is click the confirmation link in your email and you’re ready to start learning Arabic. The link takes you to a one-time offer deal (which is actually pretty great for just one dollar) which you can opt to take up or you can simply continue onward to your Free Lifetime Account.
You start off by selecting your level and this gives ArabicPod101 an idea of what level of lessons you should begin with. Once you’ve done that, you then have access to the whole library and the tools that come with the Premium package for the duration of the trial. From there, it’s time to start exploring your dashboard.
Click on the ‘study’ button to begin your first lesson and if you’re a complete beginner this will teach you how to introduce yourself in Arabic. The presenter gives very clear explanations on how to introduce yourself to others and you’ll also learn a variety of ways in which to greet people.
The video has the words and phrases written down both in English and Arabic for you to follow and the presenter also explains the cultural context and how you should greet people in the Arab world.
If you find that the presenter is speaking too fast then you can set the video to play at a slower speed and follow what they are saying by using the lesson notes and transcript. You can also download the files as well as the audio and video if you want to continue learning offline.
In addition to this, you can add your own notes which you can return to at a later date and the comments section below often feature useful questions by users which are answered by the ArabicPod101 team.
After completing your first lesson, it isn’t all too clear how you’re meant to continue (and this I find to be one of ArabicPod101’s weak points) so simply return to the dashboard and click the ‘study’ button again and the second lesson begins playing.
The format of the early beginner lessons is simple to follow as the presenter introduces the topic and then takes you through the words and phrases while explaining simple grammar points and highlighting when you would use them in a conversation.
If at any point you feel that the lessons are too easy for you then you can head to the Lesson Library and change your preferences to a more advanced level or explore the almost endless amount of Vocabulary Lists. At the Absolute Beginner level, there are thirty-five lessons for you to work through which includes over three hours of video and audio for you to listen and learn from.
In general, the lessons are quite short and this makes them easy to digest. The lessons do progress in difficulty and once you feel comfortable enough you can progress on to the Beginner or Intermediate levels.
Audio and Video Lessons
After having completed the Absolute Beginner level, it’s time to progress on to the twenty-five Beginner lessons and you immediately notice a step up as a lot more Arabic is used.
The lessons are also longer and go into more depth on the grammar, vocabulary and cultural context in which they are used. I found that the presenters do a great job of making it interesting and insightful as they chat together.
At the beginning of each lesson, the hosts present the scenario before you hear the Arabic spoken at a natural speed. The presenters then slow down so that you can hear it better before going through it once again with English translations on offer. They then discuss the scenario in a natural way and you can follow along with the lesson transcripts.
While you do learn more Arabic phrases, words and how they are used, these early lessons are still almost entirely in English. Over the almost six hours of material, you will learn about a lot of different subjects such as going for a haircut, about Amman in Jordan, and Middle Eastern cuisine while the presenters teach you about the various cultures and countries of the Middle East.
The intermediate level looks at more complicated scenarios such as applying for an internship, visiting a pharmacy, and talking about gender equality. The lessons again follow the same format with the presenters introducing themselves before you listen to the conversation on the topic.
The lessons play at normal speed before they go through it again with English translations. The amount of Arabic used again increases in volume and difficulty while the presenters again go a great job of explaining the vocabulary, grammar, and cultural context.
The advanced level represents a massive step up and I am not entirely sure how intermediate students could hope to make the jump using the resources that ArabicPod101 provides as the lessons are a lot shorter but are entirely in Arabic.
For the advanced lessons, the line-by-line audio dialogue is particularly invaluable and it is great that you can slow the sentences down and listen to them at half speed. The PDFs of the texts are also very useful and translations are provided in English.
The lessons included in this level vary quite considerably in quality and content with some having presenters to take you through the topic and others mainly being a text read out for you to follow.
The production value also fluctuates and some of the lessons look like professional videos while others look like a shoddy powerpoint presentation. Again though, they offer up a lot of great insight into some of the cultures and traditions of the Middle East.
Throughout your journey from the Absolute Beginner lessons right up to the Advanced lessons, all of them are accompanied by some great resources which really do help you to engage better with the material.
The presenters mainly speak at a natural speed and so one of the most useful features is the speed dial where you can slow down the video or audio. This is particularly useful when you come to the Advanced lessons.
The lesson transcripts are also great to have and they make following the conversation or dialogue a lot easier. They help you to understand the grammar points a lot better. The line-by-line audio dialogue is another useful addition. Some of the lessons have a vocabulary list below so you can listen to the individual words and see how they are written.
All of these features highlight how well thought out the ArabicPod101 lessons are and there are short quizzes on hand for you to test how you are doing.
In addition to this, the presenters do a fantastic job of making the material fun and interesting to engage with and you gain fascinating insights into the cultures of the Middle East.
While the lessons certainly progress in terms of difficulty, I did find that there was a massive jump from the intermediate lessons to the advanced ones and I think it would be a good idea to have some advanced intermediate lessons to prepare you for the shock.
As it is, I am unsure how anyone would be able to progress to the advanced level simply by using ArabicPod101. It also takes a while for the presenters to start using much Arabic at all during the early lessons and I am pretty sure that other online learning resources would throw you into learning the basics a little bit quicker.
Although the lessons are generally of a very good standard, I did find it a bit strange that on occasion the lessons jumped from Modern Standard Arabic to the Egyptian and Moroccan dialects. Another (massive) shortcoming was that you don’t actually get to practice your written or spoken Arabic at all unless you sign up for the expensive Premium Plus package where you get 1-to-1 access with a teacher.
This I feel is its greatest weakness as you can effectively just listen to the lessons without practicing what you’re supposed to be learning.
Overall, however, I think the range and amount of content available makes up enough for the shortcomings. With so many extra features that complement the audio and video lessons, language learners would improve their listening and comprehension skills and come away with a greater understanding of Arabic vocabulary, grammar and culture.
Unfortunately, learners would have to use it alongside another resource which focused more on speaking and writing. You could practice both of these skills by working with a tutor or language exchange partner on italki.
Plans and Prices
ArabicPod101 has three different plans for you to choose from with subscription lengths ranging from one month up to two years.
Annoyingly, they sort of hide the real price until you get closer to paying. The quoted price is always for the two-year plan, which I’m sure is too much commitment for most people.
If you sign up for the Basic package it costs $8 a month if you only want to sign up on a month-by-month basis and it drops down to $4 a month if you sign up for the two-year plan. In the Basic package, you get access to all of the audio and video lessons as well as the lesson notes and a hundred core Arabic words and phrases.
The Premium package has a lot more to it and it is again cheaper if you sign up for two years straight away. A one-month subscription costs $25 and this falls to $10 per month if you sign up for two-years.
For this, you gain access to all of the same things that Basic subscribers receive and a whole lot more on top of it. This includes review quizzes, flashcards, line-by-line audio dialogue, two thousand core Arabic words and phrases, a grammar bank database, an Arabic dictionary and voice recording tools.
Learners who sign up to the Premium Plus package get all of the above as well as 1-1 access to a professional teacher in addition to a personalized learning programme, regular assignments, and ongoing professional assessments.
This will set students back $47 per month if they pay on a month-by-month basis and it drops down to $22.88 per month if they sign up for two years. That does, however, work out to a whopping $549 if you do decide to sign up for the two years…
For a beginner or intermediate learner, I think the Basic subscription plan is quite good and for eight dollars a month you would certainly learn a lot of Arabic.
The amount of material available even makes signing up for the $4 per month two-year option (which works out to $96 in total) worthwhile in my opinion. But, be aware, that you would have to use it alongside another resource to make sure that you got to practice speaking and writing.
Although you unlock a lot of extra features when you sign up to the Premium Plan, I’m not sure it’s enough extra to justify the higher price. Sure, having access to the word banks and line-by-line audio dialogue would be useful but it isn’t really necessary. All of the main learning points and lessons are included in the Basic subscription.
When it comes to the Premium Plus plan, I think that it is way too expensive, even taking into account the fact that you get 1-to-1 access with a teacher who will correct your spoken and written Arabic. Students could save much more by finding a tutor from a site like italki or Verbling.
As always everyone has their own preferred ways of learning a language and so it is well worth checking out ArabicPod101’s free seven-day trial before forking over your cash. If you do sign up for a plan and find yourself regretting it, there is also a 60-day money back guarantee.
I really enjoyed exploring all of the resources and lessons that you can find on ArabicPod101 and was again impressed at the amount of material available. Covering a huge range of topics, the Arabic lessons seemed to be well thought out.
Beginner and intermediate learners would definitely benefit from the presenters’ clear explanations of grammar points and key vocabulary while the insights on the cultural context in which Arabic is spoken were very illuminating.
It was also great to see how the different levels gradually got harder and harder until the lessons were only conducted in Arabic. Another positive is that there are a number of different presenters so you get to hear how different people speak.
In addition to the lessons themselves, all of the extra ways to interact with the material, especially the line-by-line audio dialogue and lesson transcripts were particularly helpful.
It was a shame however that speaking and writing take a backseat and are barely featured at all unless you sign up for the expensive Premium Plus plan. Other downsides were that I found the dashboard difficult to navigate and it was bizarre that Modern Standard Arabic lessons were intermingled with the Egyptian and Moroccan dialects.
Generally fun and interesting to follow, I believe that ArabicPod101 is an excellent choice for most beginners and intermediate level students. Advanced learners, however, will probably not find enough material to keep them occupied for long.
While the Basic plan is a great value for the cost, I’d be a bit more hesitant to recommend the Premium or Premium Plan plan.
If you’re interested should definitely check out their free 7-day trial and see how well it fits your learning style.