Learning Arabic Verbs : Mighty Patterns

Learning Arabic Verbs - Mighty PatternsOne of the main difficulties students of Arabic encounter when they reach the novice-high level is definitely learning Arabic verbs and specifically the patterns. During my years of teaching the Arabic language, I have noticed this bump in students' learning experience over and over. This encounter with the verb patterns, normally at around the third semester of Arabic when using the Al-Kitaab series, leads students to ask several questions as to the purpose of the patterns and why they have to learn this long table of Roman Numbered patterns that look owe-fully similar.

Learning Arabic verbs and their patterns is an important cornerstone in learning to express oneself precisely in Arabic. As thanks to the differences of these patterns, one can express different nuances that mark the shift from the novice level to the intermediate one. ACTFL defines the ability of the intermediate-mid student as one that allows him/her to be "able to handle successfully a variety of uncomplicated communicative tasks in straightforward social situations" (Source). For that reason, a good knowledge of these patterns leads to learning Arabic verbs the right way and will come in handy when a student is endeavoring in a given conversation.

As a rule, we really need to have our students aware of what they are learning at all times. For that reason, I find it important to explain to students the importance of these patterns, by explaining how a good knowledge of these patterns would empower them by enabling them to memorize new verbs easier, and to trace back new verbs to verbs they already know, which makes it easier to understand a wider range of vocabulary. But this may still remain cryptic if students are not presented with tangible examples with vocabulary they already know. Thus, I found it helpful to give examples already known involving patterns.

I begin by giving easy verbs such aدرس ‫-‬ صنع ‫-‬ ‫خرج s‬ then I would write words such as مصنع - مدرسة - مخرج - and I would make sure that every student knows the meaning of these examples.‬ Then I would write the فاعل form for each of these verbs. Such a display on the blackboard is one the most exciting parts of teaching Arabic, as every time, I see students' eyes shine when they discover the underlying semantic pattern between these words. They end up knowing that a doer of the action comes under the form فاعل while the place of action corresponds to the مفعل pattern. At the time of such a discovery, I make sure to highlight the fact that at this moment every student in the classroom has his/her vocabulary multiplied by many folds because it is easy to extract the place, or the doer of the action once you have the root. Such a revelation is not easily forgotten by students whose main complaint about learning Arabic is the amount of vocabulary they have to memorize. Now, it is the right time to introduce the verb patterns...

 Now that the patterns shifted to verbs I explain that being able to retrieve a verb from a gerund or مصدر will be a helpful skill when reading or when introduced to new verbs. I also make sure to highlight which forms are transitive and which ones are not. This makes the reason behind learning Arabic verb patterns as tangible as possible. Now the ball in the students camp where they have to memorize the verb patterns. Since I often find my students ending up not learning them or simply forgetting them, I have made it a habit to provide them with a tool that would allow them to access the different verb conjugations by posting this Arabic Conjugator in our course management system. Hope that this has been helpful and remember that learning Arabic verbs with the right patterns is your key toward the enormous shift from novice to intermediate proficiency level. And since learning is much easier when you are involved, then you can always draw the winning card : Play the verb pattern game. With this game, learning Arabic verbs is a breeze!

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