Syria is "uncomfortable" because it is a police state and poor. But don't let that deter you, you don't notice it much as a foreign visitor. And personally I consider Saudi-Arabia to be much more restrictive than Syria. (Maybe because I am female, but I know there are restrictions on male behaviour too.)
BTW, I really like Jordan. IIRC some universities there offer courses in Arabic too.
Post #10# bertles86.... Just looked at the alphabet on the link you put up.... Phew. Makes the various Cyrillic alphabets look incredibly easy - and it took me two weeks to learn to read the Bulgarian version!!
[ Edit: Edited on 14-May-2009, at 02:34 by Redpaddy ]
Aye the Arabic alphabet is fairly straightforward, you just need to practice and it is easy to remember. The way I was taught (which works very well!) is get some of those mini post-it notes that barristers use and on the front write the Arabic script + the pronunciation then on the reverse write the english i.e:
Side 1: أ 'Alef'
Side 2: 'A'
Then stick them all over the house (kitchen cupboards, back of the bathroom door while u sit on the kaazi, side of the TV, wardrobe, desk etc). Then you see the Arabic script everyday and pick it up slowly but surely.
The other way is just write it out again and again and again in full on single sheets of A4 then turning over and seeing how much you can replicate.
But anyway give it a go!
P.S. The only Bulgarian word I know, taught to me by my best mate (a Bulgarian): 'Gallfohn'
P.P.S. Maia I've just mailed Amman uni to see what they offer! Deffo leaning towards Cairo though, seems to be the cheapest/most popular.
[ Edit: Edited on 14-May-2009, at 10:34 by bertles86 ]
Bertles86, try Yarmouk university too.
Amman is among the ugliest citiest in the Middle East, given the choice between Amman and Cairo I would always choose Cairo.
Redpaddy, I know both Russian and Arabic. So I know both the Cyrillic and the Arabic Alphabet. I agree that learning the Arabic alpabet is a bit more difficult than the Cyrillic one, but it is nothing compared to the Indian (Hindi and Sanskrit) or the Japanese (kanji, hiragana or katakana) system.
In Russian you've got 32 signs, in Arabic you've got 28 signs in 4 positions and 5 additional vowel signs. You start out by learning the 28 signs in their base position (the one under "isolated" in the link bertles86 gave you), then you learn how the sign changes according to the position it takes (beginning, middle or end of a word) and then how it is pronounced together with the vowel sign.
If you ask me, it is easy to learn how to read and write Arabic. What is not easy is the grammar and the fact that spoken Arabic and written Arabic differ so much. Even people whose native language is one of the spoken dialects sometimes need to learn Modern Standard Arabic like a foreign language. That means that you essentially have to learn several languages - MSA and one or two spoken dialects. To top it off, written Arabic draws many of its words from Classical Arabic, very ancient forms that are no longer in use, but known to the general public through the quran. So learning Arabic beyond beginner's level is really tough.
[ Edit: Edited on 16-May-2009, at 11:58 by t_maia ]
I'm living and studying in Syria since few months ago. First, Syria is a wonderfull place to live (not uncomfortable at all): the Syrians are really kind, the food is delicious, the places to visit amazing ones, and is a safe place to live.
To study Arabic I would say is one of the best places you could chose in the Middle East, is not expensive as other countries and there are many good centres teaching Arabic (check the centre of Languages of the University of Damascus, the Institut for Teaching Arabic to non Arabic speakers in Mazze, Abo Noor (is in a mosque..).
I would choose Damascus rather than Aleppo. I like Aleppo as well, but to live and study I would recommend better Damascus. There is a really good ambiance, there are other students from all around as well, so it's also easier to find accomodation (check YallaHouse as well, they have many options of accomodation and even can help with Arabic studies orientation). Besides that you will find many interesting cultural activities to do in Damascus and nice trips to around Syria.
So yalla, just come and experience it yourself!
Thanks to everyone for all the helpful information. I am also planning to study Arabic, in the spring and summer of 2010. I had the chance to travel through the Middle East - Istanbul to Cairo - this past summer and I was plotting my return to study Arabic before I even left!
At the moment I'm leaning towards the University of Damascus purely because I'm on a budget and it appears to be the most affordable option by a longshot. I would kinda prefer to be in Cairo, mostly because there was an energy and a vitality there that I didn't find in Damascus, but the language institutes and the cost of living in Cairo seem to be a lot higher. Can anyone recommend particular programs in Cairo other than the American University there?
Naddoush - you mention there are students from all around the world in Damascus. Is there somewhat of a social scene to be found in Damascus, be it among expats or foreign students & locals? I really enjoyed myself in Shams but I didn't really find many places where people congregate for conversation, nargile, etc... this might be because I stayed in the old city though. I just wonder whether studying in Syria might be somewhat lonely compared to Egypt.
I just saw your message in the forum. I've never been in Cairo, but I can tell that life in Damascus that is really lively. And not only for expat or foreigner students, but places where you mix with the local population.There are many cafes where you can go and talk and smoke nargile, there are multiple cultural activities every week (films, conferences, poetry nights, theater, shows, concerts...). And moreover, the weekend always time for a small trip, or going to the hammam with your friends,etc. At the end you have to struggle to find time to study Arabic in between all the activities you can do in Damascus!