Within the Arabic speaking world there is a considerable diversity of dialects spoken. In addition to the colloquial dialects, there is a literary language which can be roughly divided into three historical periods: Classical Arabic, Medieval Arabic, and Modern Written Arabic, which reflects a renaissance in Arab self-consciousness and represents a trend breaking with traditional forms and ideals. However, whatever the differences between the written Arabic of these three periods differences in vocabulary and style, there are strong bonds of continuity, especially in morphology and syntax.
In the Arab world today Modern Written Arabic (MWA) has no native speakers, but has a special function as the vehicle of literary expression within Arab society, with high prestige as the modern counterpart of a highly esteemed literary language of thirteen centuries duration, and a long history of painstaking, thorough grammatical study. It has in addition a number of grammatical categories not present in the colloquials (e.g., case inflections, dual forms for pronouns and. verbs, etc.). This book and audio CD course gives a thorough grounding in MWA, focusing on newspapers, editorials, essays, books, and periodicals, and is designed to give the user access to the official language of journalism, government, and literature. The student is expected to have learned the Arabic writing system and pronunciation; in addition, familiarity with the principles of syllabification and stress, pausal and non-pausal forms, and the transcription system utilized in the notes and vocabulary are also required. Although the course is meant for use with an instructor, a dedicated student may make progress in self-study.
Instruction in Modern Written Arabic in the Foreign Service Institute takes place, broadly speaking, in three stages, each of which partially overlaps with the stage following:
(1) Prepared materials (the MWA course). During this stage the student gains recognitional mastery of a basic vocabulary and becomes thoroughly familiar with basic morphological and syntactic patterns. Because the goal of instruction in this course is to read Arabic for information, the student will translate extensive selections (approximately 1400 typewritten pages of Arabic for this stage), and will prepare a limited part of the total for reading aloud. Matters of speaking a modified form of MWA, comprehension of formal spoken Arabic or any of the dialects, as well as composition are not dealt with in this portion of the FSI curriculum (though they are handled elsewhere).
(2) Newspapers. The student begins to deal with this form of unprepared Arabic materials when they are about three-quarters of the way through the first stage above. They will move progressively from the easier portions of the newspaper (front-page news, usually translated from foreign languages into Arabic) to the more difficult local news, editorials, essays, and the like (all normally composed in Arabic).
(3) Anthologies, books, periodicals, etc. After the student has finished the first stage and has shown ability to read newspapers with reasonable facility, he will begin to read Arabic books which are of relevance to his interests. He will start with the simpler political, economic, and historical materials before moving into literary material (which has its own inherent difficulties).
Thus, the minimum goal for FSI students is to master the second stage; usually not too many go far beyond that unless they have had a prior background in Arabic. The MWA course lays the foundation for this second stage.
In this first volume, the Arabic of all sentences and drills is to be read aloud; in subsequent lessons, the emphasis is shifted to reading an increasing volume of material for comprehension, with a concomitant decrease in emphasis on reading Arabic aloud.