When Arabic language learners get together to discuss their difficulties with learning the language, there are many topics that rise to the top of the conversation. One example is that, unlike learning other European languages, Arabic writing doesn’t use Roman letters, but rather its own characters which can make Arabic writing as well as learning to read in Arabic more difficult to learn. Arabic pronunciation can be another obstacle in the path to speaking Arabic like a native. Perhaps the feature that strikes the most fear in the hearts of Arabic students, however, has to do with Arabic grammar – and that feature is called grammatical case.
What is Grammatical Case?
To explain it as simply as possible, the grammatical case is the way a noun is inflected to signify its function in a sentence. In the world of linguistics, inflection means the modification of any word to change its role in the sentence. If a language has many grammatical cases that represent a variety of roles, then that language is said to have a case system.
Most cases specify roles like the subject of a sentence (the nominative case), the direct object of a verb (the accusative case), and the indirect object of a verb (the dative case), to name a few. Many languages around the world have case systems; however, they range from the extremely simple to the extremely complex.
Even English has a case system, but it is so simple, it is hardly mentioned when one is learning the language. There are three cases in English – nominative, accusative, and genitive – all of which can be seen in the three-way differences in how pronouns are used (I, me, mine, for example).
The simplest to understand of these is the genitive case, which we use to signify possession. For instance, if Gary owns a house, English speakers don’t need to say “the house of Gary”, but rather they say “Gary’s house” and add the “s” (or actually the “z” sound) at the end of the one who possesses, in this case, Gary.
As mentioned before, however, English cases are relatively simple with only three cases, but they also represent a quite simple version of a case system. Other languages like German have four. Russian, Polish, and Finnish have an incredible six, seven, and fifteen cases, respectively.
Arabic like English only has three cases: nominative, genitive, and accusative. However, they are for the most part not written which can make them a bit more difficult to learn and you may be tempted to slow down, or even give up altogether. Please don’t do that. You can succeed, even if you are initially intimidated. I lived in one of the Arabic speaking countries for 14 years before I started to learn Arabic officially. I always hesitated because I thought it was too difficult. However, I’ve succeeded and if I can understand Arabic cases, so can you!
How You Should Learn Arabic Language Cases
Through studying how children who learn to speak Arabic learn and master the Arabic case system, even as a foreign language learner, I was able to come up with an efficient, more natural approach to learning Arabic cases
Don’t rely so much on grammar books, but rather rely more on language in context –
Hey, if you like grammar, books go for it, but a much better way for you to learn Arabic cases is by observing them in natural dialogues and live conversation. This means looking for transcripts of actual conversations or getting out there and trying to speak with a native speaker on your own. Study and scrutinize how natives speak and do your best to mimic their speech patterns. Through listening to how the repetition of Arabic cases are used naturally by natives, you’ll be able to develop a greater sense of how and when to use them yourself.
Learn words and observe their functions in a sentence –
Since the grammatical case is all but how a word functions in a sentence, learn how the same word can be used in a number of different ways, with a number of different case endings. Don’t just settle on how that world works in a particular sentence, but observe other ways it can be used in different sentences and how it changes from one situation to the next. A good way to remember how these words are used is by writing them down and using them in example sentences so you can understand how the word is used a whole.
Practice using these words and don’t be shy from feedback –
You’re going to make mistakes at first, but think of them as a learning opportunity to improve, so speak and write as much as you can and welcome feedback when you do. Over time, you will slowly learn to master Arabic cases.
If you’re language doesn’t have cases, it may seem a bit difficult to wrap your head around the idea of cases, but that doesn’t mean cases are too difficult to learn. Remember, they seem difficult to you because you are unfamiliar with them. However, by using the different approaches mentioned above, you’re well on your way to understanding how they work. So, keep at it until they come just as naturally to you as your mother tongue.
If you would like to know more about Arabic cases, or any other part of Arabic grammar, Arabic language or Arab culture, please visit us at kaleela.com, and don’t forget to check out our soon-to-be-released Arabic language learning app. Out of all the Arabic language learning apps out there, it is the premier app to help you learn Arabic at home or on the go.