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Exactly which Arabic words should you learn? Learning a language, especially one as broad and complex as Arabic, is no small commitment. Mastering Arabic, or even just achieving a working knowledge of the language, demands a great deal of time and effort. So it makes sense that you would want to make your learning time as efficient as possible. This can only be achieved if you know with confidence what it is that you should be learning.
Thankfully, there is a book that tells you exactly which words are the most useful to know in Arabic; it is called “A Frequency Dictionary of Arabic: Core Vocabulary for Learners” (paid link) by Tim Buckwalter and Dilworth Parkinson.
Unlike other dictionaries, this book lists the vocabulary in order of frequency.
The dictionary covers the 5,000 most frequently used words in Arabic. It also contains thematically organized lists of the top words from a variety of key topics such as weather, sports, clothing, and family terms.
Something that I have found most useful about this book is that it also includes an index of different parts of speech. So, for example, if I wanted to know what the most common verbs in Arabic were, I can refer to the book’s list of the most common verbs, given in order of frequency. It also lists in order of frequency the most common conjunctions, interrogatives, numbers, prepositions, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs and nouns. For those that wish to use the book more as a conventional dictionary, it also includes a section that lists the words in alphabetical order.
The book focuses primarily on MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), but also includes words from several of the most widely spoken Arabic dialects, and where relevant are indicated in the word entries.
The book’s preface successfully highlights its usefulness when it states:
“Nation (1990) showed that the 4000 – 5,000 most frequent words account for up to 95 percent of a written text and the 1,000 most frequent words account for 85 percent of speech.”
I highly recommend this book and consider it an essential part of any Arabic learner’s book collection. A Frequency Dictionary of Arabic: Core Vocabulary for Learners (paid link) is available in paperback, hardback, and in Kindle form on Amazon.