A purely academic approach to learning Arabic seems to be the trend these days. The ability to read above all else with the aid of a trusty, well-worn Hans-Wehr was certainly the new rock’n’roll when I started learning 20 or so years ago.
One of the many ways we missed out was not hearing native Arabs and their turns of phrase, use of idioms and love of proverbs.
For example, recently I tried to explain to an Arab friend that I had understood something in our conversation and used the phrase “ليس علم الصاروخ”, it’s not rocket science. He didn’t understand. I tried again “ليست جراحة المخ”, it’s not brain surgery.
Turns out ليس بكيمياء was the phrase I was supposed to use. Hans-Wehr no use there then.
I’ve since enjoyed learning about shared proverbs and idioms between English and Arabic. For example:
الطيور على أشكالها تقع
Birds of a feather flock together
لا دخان بلا نار
There is no smoke without fire
But beware, because…
القطة بسبعة أرواح
It seems that Arab cats have only seven lives compared to the 9 of their English speaking counterparts.
عصفور في اليد خير من عشرة على الشجرة
So An Arab bird in your hand is worth 10 in a tree.
The forbidden [fruit] is desired [sweet]
I believe it’s important to choose resources that use native Arab writers and voice actors to really connect you to authentic use of language.