root: ق-و-ل / noun / plural: مَقالات /definition: essay, article
So, you’ve studied Arabic for a while now. Simple sentences are old news (i.e. you’re silently pleading for your teacher not to go over jumlah ismiyyah yet again) and you’ve got a decent collection of relevant words all memorised. So you’re all set when your teacher asks you to write an essay about the topic in Arabic…right?
“Wrong!” says the fear in your eyes when you see the word count, as minuscule as it may be; a few hundred words in your native language definitely doesn’t seem as daunting as this.
It’s almost as if writing an essay in our target language makes us forget everything we’ve ever learnt about essays. And writing, unfortunately.
But there’s no need for stress—here’s four easy tips to simplify the process:
1 Think In Arabic
Often, when we’re writing in our target language, we tend to think of the exact sentence we want to produce in our native language then essentially try to translate it as pen hits paper. That’s where the problem comes in.
Trying to write via the process of translation is much more difficult and will most likely make your writing sound unnatural.
Instead, focus on what idea you want to convey and use the Arabic words and structures that you already know to express it. Much easier.
2 Learn “Copy and Paste” Phrases
One effective way to make your writing sound more sophisticated (and, well, to use up more of the word count) is to learn phrases that you can slot into pretty much any essay.
For example, here’s two simple phrases that I found whilst reading through Arabic articles: مهّد/يُمهِّد الطريق لِـ (“to pave the way for”) and على حافة الاِنهِيار (“on the verge of collapse”).
These phrases really came in handy during my writing tasks and exams at university since I could use them in the context of various topics. (A lot of things are on the verge of collapse, apparently).
Okay, so maybe this was just me, but while my essays in English would be full of a plethora of punctuation, my Arabic essays would be lucky to get a comma thrown in. I think it probably took me three years to even get a bracket down on paper.
So throw those commas in! And the semicolons, colons, dashes, etc…
4 Remember What You Know About Essays
Think structure, connectives, varying sentence lengths, creating interest, clarity of expression.
There may be slight differences in certain aspects of writing style between English and Arabic, but don’t forget what you already know about writing essays in general. And definitely try to use Arabic texts as a source from which you can replicate structures and styles.
And, finally, remember that improvement takes practice—so keep writing.
If you have any other tips for writing Arabic essays, or any phrases that you yourself like to use, please do share them in the comments!
Edit: the book How to Write in Arabic (which I talked in the post Arabic Books on My Bookshelf) has great guidelines for writing different types of text in Arabic—including a section for those “copy and paste” phrases!
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