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Review of Modern Iraqi Arabic

posted May 13th, 2010

Modern Iraqi Arabic with mp3 files. 2nd edn. By Yasin M. Alkalesi. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2006. Pp. xxii, 344. ISBN 9781589011304. $44.95.

Reviewed by Mousa A. Btoosh, Al-Hussein Bin Talal University

This revised and updated edition continues the goals of the previous one for readers with an interest in Iraqi Arabic. The textbook is a readable introduction that requires little background knowledge of (Iraqi) Arabic on the part of the reader. Rather than emphasizing a traditional skills-based approach, this book focuses on everyday language that meets the basic needs of travelers, diplomats, businessmen, and the like. The book consists of twenty lessons framed by a preface, an introduction, a list of abbreviations, a glossary, and a CD. The lessons present everyday situations and are organized in a story-like format that tracks the activities of Basma (an American-born Iraqi woman) as she travels from the United States to Iraq. Lessons 2 through 20 are divided into six subsections: ‘Basic dialogue’, ‘Vocabulary or additional expressions’, ‘Grammar and remarks’, ‘Idioms and common phrases’, ‘Drills’, and ‘Creative dialogues’.

Lesson 1, ‘Arabic alphabet and vowels’ (1–9), sheds light on the phonetic features of Iraqi Arabic. Lesson 2, ‘Greetings and courtesy expressions’ (11–18), focuses on the oral greeting expressions and responses. Lesson 3, ‘Asking for directions’ (21–30), is devoted to the expressions and lexicon commonly used when looking for a place.

Lessons 4 through 10 are devoted to the everyday expressions and suitable responses used from the very early arrival at the airport to introductions in the hotel lobby. Lesson 4, ‘Arrival at Baghdad Airport, Part 1’ (33–41), and Lesson 5, ‘Arrival at Baghdad Airport, Part 2’ (43–55), are devoted to the expressions and vocabulary needed to talk to the passport official and the airport customs inspector, respectively. Lesson 6, ‘Taking a taxi’ (57–68), explores the expressions used when talking to taxi drivers, including those associated with paying the fare. Lesson 7, ‘At the Rashid Hotel’ (71–83), focuses on the common expressions often used between a customer and the hotel receptionist concerning room booking and other relevant issues. Lesson 8, ‘Introductions’ (85–95), presents numerous interactive expressions used to introduce ourselves, greet, and welcome others. Lesson 9, ‘Speaking Arabic’ (97–107), presents a dialogue between Basma and a native customer concerning her Arabic language and some relevant topics. Lesson 10, ‘Telling Time’ (109–20), focuses on the parts of the day and other time expressions used in Iraqi Arabic.

Lessons 11 through 15 present the common expressions and vocabulary used when visiting historical sites, a bank, a post office, and a restaurant, respectively. Lesson 16, ‘Family and relatives’ (204–15), presents the ordinary expressions used when inquiring about family and relatives. Lessons 17 through 19 focus on the respective expressions and terms used in medical care, in mass media, and in telephone conversations. In addition to the two folk tales, Lesson 20, ‘Cultural folkloric tales’ (265–82), provides a brief introduction on the importance of Iraq as the cradle of human civilization. The final section, ‘Glossary’ (283–344), presents alphabetical organization of the vocabulary used throughout the book.

In sum, this book makes an excellent introductory text material for classroom and self-study purposes. The book introduces the reader to the basic expressions, lexicon, and grammar of Iraqi Arabic.