Arabic today

Arabic today: A student, business, and professional course in spoken and written Arabic. 2nd edn. By John Mace. New York: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. Pp. 355. ISBN 9780748606160. $40.

Reviewed by Omaima Ayoub, Islamic Foundation School

This second edition of Arabic today provides a course of spoken and written Arabic for students and business professionals living, or planning to live, in the Arab world. Intended to facilitate direct and effective communication, this book can be used as a textbook in contemporary Arabic classrooms or as a self-study guide. The book bridges the gap between the written language (which is never used in everyday speech) and regional dialects (which are never written down) by focusing on an emerging spoken form that fosters both speaking and writing skills. Accompanied by an audio material with a native voice, Arabic today offers a perfect resource for Arabic teachers and learners.

The pronunciation guide, which follows the introduction, offers a simple outline of the Arabic sound system. This outline includes vowels and diphthongs, consonants similar to those in English, consonants different from those in English, deep velarized consonants, velarized /a/ and /ā/, stress, hyphens, weak vowels, doubled consonants, and written pronunciation.

Part 1 teaches an educated form of spoken Arabic in fifteen lessons that include contextualized dialogues, grammatical explanations and illustrations, and exercises to reinforce the materials. Dialogues are provided on the accompanying compact disc. The section on spoken Arabic includes chapters on greetings and on interactions that may occur in locations such as at the airport, in town, in a visit to friends, on the telephone, in a restaurant, in a visit to a factory or a village, in the market, and in the news. This first part can be used in isolation to teach spoken Arabic or as an introduction into Part 2, which teaches written Arabic in eleven lessons.

Part 2 stresses on the inner workings of the Arabic writing system. It teaches standard written Arabic through segments on reading and writing, the alphabet, Arabic transcription, insurance, transport and communications, personnel management, petroleum, the newspapers, correspondence, the transfer of technology, and the United Nations.

This edition of Arabic today concludes with a key to the exercises, new word indexes (in Arabic and English), and a grammar index. Overall, this coursebook combines exercises that develop speaking and writing skills, build a vocabulary repertoire of approximately 2000 words, and incorporate dialogues that can help those who have no prior knowledge of the language to communicate in Arabic both directly and effectively.