Learning Arabic to understand the Qur'an didn't seem like that big of a deal to me until I attended the 10-day Bayyinah grammar course (Fundamentals of Arabic, I think) a few years ago back in North Carolina. And afterwards I didn't really see how anyone could think otherwise about learning Arabic.
Consequently, it surprised me when I found new Muslims who wanted to learn conversational Arabic--local dialects to speak with their Arab friends--instead of focusing on just the Qur'an. But why should they, if they don't even know what kind of a treasure trove the Qur'an is for students of classical Arabic?
So when I started a class for new Muslims myself, a lot of the early feedback was that they wanted to learn Arabic. Nothing fancy at first, but they needed somewhere to start--how to read the language at least. And while teaching Arabic, my focus was learning the alphabet with the sole purpose of learning to read the Qur'an.
Over the past few weeks my attempts to teach have been plagued with various hurdles, including inconsistent attendance and lack of any practice or study between meetings. I'm thinking that the first problem should be fixed by having a class devoted to Arabic for a shorter duration (in terms of weeks of meetings) but with greater frequency, instead of having it appended to a class teaching Islamic studies. Students should know that they have to go a little bit "beyond" to learn Arabic--they need to study it, I can't give it to them.
The second problem could possibly be fixed by having weekly assignments, somewhat like back in second grade. Draw the letter, match it with the name, match it with the connected form of the letter, for instance. That might encourage students to pull out their notes between class times and review--the only way they'll learn it.
Since my in-laws are staying at my home right now (alhamdulillah, it's such a blessing) I've had the opportunity to work on Arabic with my nephew, who is about 5 years old. He's using a standard book that just teaches kid to look at each letter, say it, identify any markings on it (like a madd, fatha--zabur in Urdu, tanween) and then sound it out accordingly. And he's doing a pretty good job of reading and identifying. All he struggles with is proper pronunciation of some of the sounds, especially since many of the letters appear in the Urdu alphabet he's more familiar with but have a different sound in Arabic than in Urdu.
The new Muslim students I've been teaching Arabic are at a completely different place, but I wonder if it wouldn't be best to teach them the same way? Just looking at blocks and reading: alif-fatha "a," alif-kasra "e," alif-dammah "u," and so on. I really worry that I'm just confusing them more than helping them. I've expected that they will review during the week but when we meet again some students are missing, the rest haven't practice, and I feel like I'm back at the beginning. And the next week, it's a different batch of students and I have to repeat, without moving forward (or else leaving almost everyone behind.)
So it's become abundantly clear to me that I'm not qualified to teach Arabic, at least not yet anyway. I can help my nephew review but really I'm not teaching him very much, just reading with him and making him practice. I was teaching a student privately for a few weeks, and by meeting more frequently with her she was able to progress rather quickly as compared to the class. But the only reason she was able to at first was because she practiced everything we went over together during the days we didn't meet.
Any students of Arabic who are just getting started should keep that in mind--they'll only get out of it what they put in, and putting in an hour of class time once a week isn't nearly enough. But practicing and reviewing regularly, that will make the lessons stick so the student can progress to reading and eventually understanding inshaaAllaah.
Anyone have any tips for me for teaching Arabic to adults? The class is pretty much over, but suggestions are welcome.