When I heard of the idea behind Talk in Arabic, a platform for lessons from several different Arabic dialects, I was extremely excited to try it out. The vast majority of Arabic learning platforms focus on Modern Standard or Egyptian Arabic. There aren’t a lot of resources to study dialects such as Sudanese or Algerian.
This looked like a great idea to fill a much-needed gap in the market.
My initial enthusiasm faded however as at the beginner level there are only a few short audio clips that introduce you to some key basic phrases in the Sudanese, Algerian, and Tunisian dialects. The intermediate and advanced levels weren’t any better and only had a few lessons available for these dialects.
Making matters worse, the lessons weren’t of a very high quality and it seemed like little time went into planning the content.
The Egyptian and Levantine dialects had a lot more lessons to them and they generally seemed to be a bit better thought out. Still though, my high-ish expectations fell completely flat.
While I don’t think anyone could learn Arabic fluently from using Talk in Arabic (the content isn’t particularly well thought out or structured) it could possibly be a somewhat useful resource if used alongside another Arabic course.
This is because it offers up an authentic look at a wide variety of dialects (which not many other platforms offer) and also helps you to gain an insight into different aspects of various cultures from around the Arab world.
As the lessons vary quite considerably in depth and quality, I am not really sure who Talk in Arabic is suitable for as there is no structure to the learning. In theory, you could maybe pick up the very basics of Arabic but, you’d almost certainly miss some very important parts that aren’t covered in their lessons.
Interestingly, some of the intermediate and advanced content is very advanced. There’s no way that anyone could go from a beginner and get to that level by using Talk in Arabic as their main study resource.
While I think it is admirable that they have attempted to include so many dialects from around the Arab world, it would seem that the platform is still a work in progress as there is a lot that they still have to improve.
Unfortunately, it seems like it has been a work in progress for a few years now, without actually improving much. So, I wouldn’t wait around holding my breath for this site to come together and reach its potential.
With eight different Arabic dialects available, users can choose to learn Egyptian, Levantine, Iraqi, Saudi, Sudanese, Moroccan, Tunisian or Algerian Arabic. Each of these is split into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels with each of those sections including Listening, Grammar, Vocabulary and Conversation lessons.
The amount of content varies considerably depending on the dialect you choose with the Sudanese, Tunisian and Algerian ones not having many at all. The lessons that these dialects do have mainly consist of the basics and don’t go into much depth.
The two main dialects on the platform are the Egyptian and Levantine ones and here you’ll find that even the intermediate and advanced levels have quite a few lessons for you to check out. In general the lessons on the platform range from around one minute in length up to around ten or fifteen minutes.
Most of the lessons on Talk in Arabic are short audio lessons although both the Egyptian and Levantine sections have a number of videos for you to watch and these cover quite a wide range of topics.
As it is not a course, there is no particular order to the material that is uploaded and there are no exercises for you to do.
The main focus I suppose is on taking in the different Arabic dialects or to learn by listening and repeating. Lesson notes and transcripts accompany most of the lessons and while some of them are useful, many of them are pretty useless and don’t add anything to the lesson.
All in all, the number of lessons per dialect varies quite substantially as does the quality of the content, along with how deeply the teachers look at the topic.
After gaining access to Talk in Arabic, you sign in and are greeted with your Dashboard. Here you can see the latest lessons that have been uploaded as well as any recent videos and blogs that have been added. On the left side, you can see all of the different dialects that you can choose from.
I decided to go with Sudanese Arabic. Having clicked on it, you are greeted with lessons from each level and you can explore the different sub-headings which you can find when you click on Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced.
Under the Beginner level for all of the dialects, you will find an ‘Essentials’ sub-heading which covers such things as greetings, numbers, how to ask simple questions, how to say the days of the week, and so on.
For Sudanese, these ‘lessons’ generally amounted to a short audio file whereby a native Sudanese said a few phrases. They were all very short and didn’t cover much material.
Thankfully the brief lesson transcripts or notes were somewhat helpful as they gave you an idea as to what had been said. This was useful as the teacher spoke at a normal speed right from the start, only repeating what they had said and not focussing on the pronunciation or breakdown of the words and phrases.
As Talk in Arabic is not a course, there is no structure to any of the lessons and you can simply hop around the content trying out what you want.
Apart from the thirteen Sudanese Essentials lessons (each between one and three minutes in length), there are a few vocabulary, grammar and conversation lessons.
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many of them, they don’t cover much content and a number of them are already featured under the Essentials section.
After that, you’ve actually completed the Beginners level of the Sudanese dialect so it is on to the Intermediate and Advanced lessons which have even less content.
Audio and Video Lessons
Having exhausted the materials in the Sudanese dialect part, I turned to try out the content for the Egyptian dialect and found the same problems with much of the content although admittedly there was a lot more of it.
Teachers again spoke quite fast despite the fact that the majority of the lessons was simply saying short phrases and then giving you time to repeat them. While some lesson notes usefully provided the words in English, Arabic, and Arabic written phonetically in the Latin Alphabet, others neglected to do this which made breaking down the words a lot harder.
The Egyptian dialect teachers actually did explain some grammar points and conjugated a couple of verbs which was an improvement; under the Sudanese dialect part, a teacher took you through a random selection of verbs without having ever shown you how to conjugate them in Arabic.
As you may have gathered from my experience trying out the Sudanese dialect section, in general, the lessons are not very well thought out, have very little structure and they don’t build on each other.
With Talk in Arabic not being a course, the short audio lessons don’t really complement each other and, although there are lots of intermediate and advanced lessons for the Egyptian and Levantine dialects; there is no way you’re going to improve enough to actually be able to use them.
This means that large parts of the content are completely useless for whoever signs up to the learning platform. Beginners will only be able to learn things like colors, greetings, and simple verbs. Meanwhile, these beginner lessons which form a lot of the content are useless for more advanced learners.
As an example, the first lesson I clicked on in the Intermediate section was entitled ‘First Day at School’ and was an eleven-minute video completely in Arabic. While I am sure it was fine for intermediate learners (actually judging by the beginner level lessons I may be being a bit generous to Talk in Arabic here) the jump from beginner to intermediate levels was extreme and there is no way that the platform would ever take you that far through their lessons.
Lesson content and quality varied a lot from one lesson to the other with some looking in great depth at a topic while others were less than a minute in length and just taught you a couple of phrases. The transcripts and notes also varied in quality with some of them being useful and others pretty useless.
In general, the advanced lessons seemed to be pitched at around the same level as the intermediate lessons as quite a few of lessons overlapped. At times however you were given a whole page of Arabic to read in the transcripts even though we were not taught how to read at any point during any of the previous lessons.
What was useful though was that the videos usually came with English subtitles which made it easier to follow and they often covered interesting subjects that gave you an insight into the culture of Egypt.
Overall I found the lack of structure and random collection of lessons hard to engage with. Nothing really built upon the things you had learned in previous lessons.
While the later lessons seemed like they could be quite useful, there weren’t enough of them to justify any intermediate learner paying for as the majority of lessons on the platform are basic lessons for the other dialects.
The main reason why anyone would consider trying out Talk in Arabic is that they offer up eight different dialects from around the Arab world. Unfortunately, the content leaves a lot to be desired and it is not that fun or engaging. The lessons are really hit and miss with some of them being quite good but the majority of them being very basic without any cohesion between them.
Beginners may learn a few phrases, words and grammar points, they would almost certainly fail to progress beyond that and as such anyone who seriously wants to learn Arabic should look elsewhere. There are so many gaps in this resource that you would have to follow another course entirely while merely using Talk in Arabic to check out the different dialects.
Disappointing, to say the least, the only other strong points are that there are native speakers teaching the lessons and that you’ll learn a little bit about the cultural context of the country. With no exercises for you to practice what you’ve learned, you won’t learn how to read, write or speak although you may improve your listening comprehension.
Truthfully, if you want to hear a lot of different Arabic dialects, you’d be better off browsing Youtube.
If you’re looking for an Arabic course, this isn’t the place. I liked ArabicPod101 but most of their lessons teach Modern Standard Arabic.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of Rocket Arabic, it’s definitely better than Talk in Arabic and is focused on the Egyptian dialect.
Plans and Prices
If you are interested in checking out all that Talk in Arabic has to offer, there are a couple of different subscription plans available to you.
Before parting with your cash you can also sign up for a free trial which gives you access to some limited content which amounts to some audio lessons from various dialects. Other than that you can choose between a monthly or yearly subscription or pay a lump sum up front to get lifetime access.
The monthly subscription costs $15 and for that, you get unlimited access to all of the lessons in all of the dialects. This includes downloadable MP3 versions of the lessons, lesson notes and transcripts, videos lessons and access to the member forum.
The audio lessons include those focussed on improving your conversation, vocabulary and listening skills. In addition to this, you also have access to some videos by native Arabic speakers that have English and Arabic subtitles.
The yearly subscription gives you access to all of the same stuff and costs $126 and this works out at $54 cheaper than if you were to pay $15 a month for twelve months.
The lifetime payment option which therefore gives you access to all of the resources for life will set you back $197 and includes all of the same features as well as a ‘free’ All Essential Arabic Verbs Pack.
If you’ve read this far, it should be obvious that I wouldn’t recommend the yearly or lifetime subscription plans. I wouldn’t recommend the monthly one either, but I could understand subscribing for a month just to check it out and hear some different dialects.
I was clearly very disappointed with Talk in Arabic which is a real shame as I like the fact that they offer so many different Arabic dialects.
The reality though is that they have spread themselves too thin and haven’t delivered a quality product in any of the dialects with only the Egyptian and Levantine ones being in any way worth checking out – and even those aren’t great.
The lack of thought put into the content and the lack of structure to the learning method means that it sadly doesn’t really suit any language learners at all. You would have to use Talk in Arabic alongside a number of other resources and for the price quoted you are better off looking elsewhere if you really want to learn Arabic.
All in all, a disappointing experience.