Learning Arabic can open the door to fresh opportunities and intercultural understanding. Arabic is the official language in over 20 countries and has more than 300 million native speakers. The language is essential for understanding Islam, the world’s second-largest religion, as well as global history. And, many significant advancements in math, science, engineering, and philosophy originated in the Arabic-speaking world.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in translation are expected to grow at least 20% from 2019-2029, and the demand for multilingual employees continues to increase annually. The U.S. Department of State considers Arabic to be a critical language, so much so that it sponsors immersive language learning in Amman, Jordan.
Before diving into the best online Arabic classes, it’s important to know that not all Arabic is the same; its three common forms are Classical or Islamic, Modern Standard, and Dialectical. Classical Arabic is used in ancient literature and writing, Modern Standard Arabic is the formal language, and Dialectical Arabic is the informal or colloquial language. The most common dialects are Egyptian and Levantine, though dialects vary throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East.
The 7 Best Online Arabic Classes of 2020
Best Overall: Arab Academy
Launched in 1997, Arab Academy has been successfully teaching Arabic online for more than two decades with structured, self-paced classes, one-on-one instruction, and in-depth cultural lessons to provide students of all levels with the resources to master the language. Arab Academy offers online courses in Modern Standard Arabic, Islamic or Quranic Arabic, and Egyptian Colloquial.
Arab Academy structures courses around proven pedagogies to help students with different learning styles get the most from their lessons. In fact, Arab Academy is used by hundreds of academic institutions around the world to complement classroom language programs. Classes are crafted for specific age groups, including small children, with different, animated, and interactive features to excite and engage learners.
After registering, students have access to different levels of Arabic study. Each self-paced level takes, on average, three months to complete. Students can also practice speaking skills during weekly one-on-one video chats. Monthly, quarterly, and semi-annual payment options are available, with monthly prices starting at around $99.
Learners that book the semi-annual subscription and renew the program are also eligible for two weeks of free immersion training in Cairo, Egypt, should they decide to take their language skills offline.
Best for Arabic Grammar: Arabic Daily
Learning the fundamentals of complex, Arabic grammar is essential for moving onto Modern Standard, Dialectical, or even Classical Arabic. After seeing the need for these fundamentals for Arabic learners, Faraz Hasan Malik founded Arabic Daily, a four-part course that details letters, parts of speech, verb conjugations, syntax, complex sentences, and more.
Malik, who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, speaking English, holds several degrees and professional certifications for teaching Arabic and Islamic Studies. He teaches every class live via Zoom to ensure students receive immediate feedback and holds the students responsible for showing up to class. Each class is recorded and sent back to the students for further study, along with homework assignments.
Arabic Daily offers four courses: Fundamental Classical Arabic Words, Fundamental Classical Arabic Sentences, Reading Classical Arabic Beginner, and Reading Classical Arabic Intermediate. Each course can be taken either full- or part-time. Full-time students attend class Sunday through Thursday for one hour per day over four weeks, while part-time students have class two or three times per week for eight weeks, depending on availability. An eight-week course costs $150. To apply, the student completes an enrollment agreement and selects a start date to begin a class. Classes start approximately six times per year.
Best Value: Smart Arabic International Online Institute (SAIOI)
Based in Egypt, the Smart Arabic International Online Institute (SAIOI) has been providing quality Arabic distance-learning courses for more than a decade. The lessons, which last 60 minutes for adults and 30 minutes for children, are intended to prepare students not only to pass language exams but also to actively use Arabic in future personal and professional settings.
SAIOI offers a variety of classes for students with different learning objectives, including business Arabic, Islamic Arabic, Arabic for adults and children, and six dialectical Arabic courses. The courses are exceptional and are taught by experienced native-speaking teachers. But what sets SAIOI apart are the wildly affordable prices.
Different pricing tiers are available, depending on learning objectives and availability. Pricing starts at around $75 per month for two classes per week and caps at roughly $170 per month for five classes per week. Quarterly, semi-annual, and annual payments can be made for optimal savings. SAIOI provides all the necessary reading material, a one-hour free trial course, and consistent access to teachers and administrative staff.
On top of all that, low-income families receive a 10% discount and well-performing and active students receive free lessons. SAIOI encourages potential learners to reach out for customized pricing, if necessary.
Best for Beginners: Madinah Arabic
Madinah Arabic is a thorough and comprehensive online resource for anyone attempting to learn Arabic. Though the site is slightly dated, the information is solid, and all the lessons are completely free—a major bonus for beginners who simply need to develop their foundational Arabic before taking more complex courses.
Madinah Arabic, which launched more than 15 years ago, offers complete, free courses in Arabic reading and grammar and morphology, as well as in-depth conversational video lessons, vocabulary, and interactive quizzes. There are nearly 100 full grammar lessons available, in addition to alphabetical charts and audio recordings to learn to accurately write and pronounce Arabic letters. Every self-guided language lesson includes multiple easy-to-follow sections with video and audio recordings, charts to improve clarity, and quizzes to ensure comprehension.
The Madinah Arabic website includes an active blog, where contributors share resources and advice for learning the language. For students looking for more intensive, one-on-one learning experiences, Madinah Arabic offers personalized private tutoring lessons via Skype for an additional fee, as well as a free trial lesson.
Best for Professional Development: ArabicOnline
Developed with the support of the European Union, ArabicOnline offers self-guided lessons for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students with certification upon completion. ArabicOnline, which is based in the United Kingdom, also offers corporate courses for companies interested in developing employee language abilities.
Contrary to other online learning platforms, ArabicOnline teaches according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), the internationally recognized system for language fluency certification.
The CEFR, which is most widely used in Europe, is based on a scale from A to C, with two levels per letter that indicate a level of fluency. For example, A1 is a complete beginner, while C2 indicates near-native fluency. ArabicOnline not only teaches within this framework, but it also provides testing and certification for language acquisition, which is often necessary for international job placement.
Courses are accessible via a subscription service with varying prices that depend on learning objectives. The Beginner to Intermediate course, which includes access to hundreds of hours of lessons, costs around $99, and the material is accessible for one year. You can also choose from advanced, premium, and corporate options. Contact ArabicOnline for accurate pricing.
Best for Modern Arabic: Qasid Arabic Institute
The Qasid Arabic Institute, based in Amman, Jordan, is designed to facilitate Arabic language learning for university-level students and professionals. Alumni from this program include Ivy League graduates, Fulbright Scholars and Researchers, medical doctors, Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship recipients, diplomats, and more.
While the Qasid Arabic Institute offers courses in Classical and Levantine Arabic, the extensive foundational Modern Standard Arabic program is the school’s shining star. The MSA program consists of five different levels, the first three of which are each equal to a year of language study at the university level. The final two levels are special topics courses for advanced MSA students to help ease the transition from academia to conversational Arabic use. These topics include media, human rights, economics, politics, and more.
Though courses are self-paced, students typically complete each level in approximately 30 weeks. Pricing for levels one and two is just shy of around $1,500, approximately $50 per week for the average student pace. Courses include interaction with other students, group sessions, and one-on-one tutoring. Specialty courses are also available for diplomats, and corporate lessons and private study options are options as well.
Best for Moroccan Arabic: Preply
Because of the influence of French, Spanish, and Berbère, an indigenous tribal language, Moroccan Arabic, also known as Darija, is one of the most difficult Arabic dialects to learn and understand. With more than 11 million tourists flocking to Morocco annually, it can be helpful—not to mention culturally responsible—to understand and speak Darija.
After learning Modern Standard Arabic, it’s important to choose a colloquial dialect to focus further on Arabic study, as the spoken language varies in different regions. Most online Arabic schools offer Levantine, Egyptian, and Iraqi Arabic, but it can be difficult to find Moroccan Arabic classes, especially online or outside of Morocco. That’s where Preply comes in.
Preply is an online learning platform that matches language students with private tutors via Skype to improve speaking ability. Speaking practice is essential for Moroccan Arabic comprehension, making a private tutor the best option for Darija learners.
Lessons range from about $10 to $30, though certified teachers and native speakers tend to charge more per hour. Tutors can be filtered based on availability, native language skill, and specializations.
Is It Possible to Learn Arabic Online?
It is possible to learn Arabic online. It takes dedication and practice and a time commitment. It’s important to listen to native speakers, practice speaking, writing, and reading as well as memorizing common words. Everyone has different learning styles, so pick an online class that will best suit your learning style.
What is Taught in an Online Arabic Class?
Online Arabic classes tend to include the following:
- Speaking practice
- Learning words and then putting together sentences
- Topics including religion, culture, and politics
Most classes focus on one of the three Arabic standards which include Classical, Dialectical, and Modern Standard
Who Should Take an Online Arabic Class?
Online Arabic classes can be beneficial for the following:
- Travelers, because Arabic is spoken in more than 20 countries
- Translation jobs
- Understanding Islam
- Broadening your career prospects
- Speaking to friends or family who speak Arabic
How Much Does an Online Arabic Class Cost?
The prices of online Arabic classes vary as do the type of classes, the curriculum, course pace, and teaching style. There are some free options that are self-paced and often include outdated material. However, they can be a good place to start learning Arabic. For a more in-depth class, expect to pay between $75 and $200 per month.
How We Chose The 7 Best Online Arabic Classes of 2020
We researched more than 20 online Arabic classes and narrowed them down to the top seven. We chose the best online Arabic classes based on recommendations from social media, nonprofits, and governments. We also considered pricing, flexibility, lesson accuracy, and teacher qualifications.
Florida International University. "Strategic Language Institute." Accessed Nov. 17, 2020.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Interpeters and Translators." Accessed Nov. 17, 2020.
Belal Abuata and Asma Al-Omari. "A Rule-Based Stemmer for Arabic Gulf Dialect." Journal of King Saud University - Computer and Information Sciences. Accessed Nov 17, 2020.