Wow. I am surprised at the negative reviews and comments about this course but somewhat not. For the person that said his looked like it was printed on a Commodore 64, don't exaggerate; it is **not** as bad as all that! This book was written and published in the U.S. by the respected and esteemed Georgetown University. If it was that bad, I am sure they wouldn't have wasted their time printing it. My book is fine and sure the drawings are a little crudish, but the point is the lessons **not** the drawings or pictures. Not to mention, they are not by American artists (they are Egyptian), so maybe they are not what you are used to but that doesn't make them horrible. Open your mind, gosh!
Anyway, this course is probably the best I have seen out there besides going overseas and learning there. Arabic has come a long way and has fought tooth-and-nail just to be accepted by schools/universities to be a language to be wreckoned with; fast behind Spanish. Over 240 million people speak Arabic and that is only counting people in Middle Eastern countries where it is considered the national language--not counting Malaysia, Southern Africa and other places Islam is practised. There is also a HUGE population of Arabic speakers in the U.S. no matter how people try to ignore it, in light of Sept. 11th. It is quickly becoming part of society regardless whether anyone likes it or not.
The book does have a few flaws--ALL language books do but not THAT many; that is why there are teachers and why you go to class. This course was not built on learning Arabic without the benefit of formal instruction and class interaction. You can, if you want, get a huge gist of the Arabic language using this book but not without knowing things like the alphabet, small words and phrases before-hand (which is what Alif Baa is for) and other things, yes, it will be very, very, frustrating for you. I agree with the other poster about if you have NOT done the Alif Baa book before using this book, you are wasting your time. How can you expect to know the rest of the material without the pre-requisite? That is foolish to think you can skip ahead in a language.
Yes, you have to take big leaps of faith but the aim of these books is to teach you the structure, the rules, grammer, situations, usage, etc. They are not designed to be a word-for-word type course like others with tapes and a dictionary/phrasebook, that you use to recite and memorize like a parrot. That is why it is **primarily** for formal instruction. If you read in the beginning Foreword of the book, (and listen to your teacher, who will surely tell you) the book is so that **you** learn a lot on your own thru trial and error; not by the book telling you everything or figuring out a few words. To be truly fluent in Arabic takes years of study, not a fly by night course, like I think some people expect from these books. This is a 3-4 yr. planned course, which is reasonable and actually pretty fast. If you don't have that much patience or time to invest, give up now and do the other stuff like Rosetta Stone or something. Less frustration, easier to learn but you are truly on your own to learn and you will need many more books, tapes, rely on Arabic speakers to help you and may take you longer than this course can teach you. These books are GOOD. Before I took this course, I didn't even know the alphabet. After, 4 months, I knew the alphabet and the first few chapters of Maha's coversation just by glance and how to make a little small talk with my husband (he is Arab) in Arabic. Even he was surprised. If you just can't get the hang of this book, I suggest trying the University of Medinah course but it for you who are "religiously-phobic", it will turn you off. Like one person here said, you cannot seperate our religion from Arabic; it is part of our daily speaking and conversation and constantly filled with it. If you don't like that, then you should really try another language you would feel more comfortable with.