Arabic as a Foreign or Second Language? How I Read the Qur’an

The month of Ramadan is also a time when Muslims read the Holy Qur’an. Those who can read classical Arabic fluently have no problem when it comes to reading the Qur’an. It’s those whose Arabic is a foreign or second language where it can get a little challenging, especially during Ramadan when many Muslims like to complete the reading of the entire Qur’an.

Long before iPads and iPods, I used to listen to the Qur’an on cassettes while reading along. Because Arabic is not my first language, I have a copy of the Qur’an in Arabic with the translation of the meanings in English. Over the years my Arabic has improved so I can now listen to the Arabic recitation whilst looking over at the English translation if I don’t understand a sentence or word.

Now I use the Qur’an Majeed app on my iPad to listen to the recitation of the Qur’an in Arabic. I first downloaded the free lite version a couple of years ago and bought the paid version for more choices on reciters. I really like the fact that I can take the iPad with me to the mosque and listen to the Qur’an whilst be reading along. This technique of listening to a professional while reading alone, I find, improves my Arabic.

What I like most about this app is that during the recitation the text is highlighted in red so that you never lose your place, especially useful if Arabic is not your first language.

There are many reciters to choose from, but it will take some time to download the entire Qur’an. I always choose to listen to As-Sundays and Shraym during Ramadan because their pace is not too slow and not too fast; I can keep up and complete a chapter in a timely manner.

What I also like about this app is that you can increase or decrease the size of the font to your liking, so the text can be as small as you want, or as large as you want. I also like the fact that you can see when you have completed a part of the Qur’an, or juz’, on the top left, as it changes automatically.

Although it’s very challenging to translate the Qur’an because it loses its meaning when translated from Arabic, the only thing I don’t like about the app are the English translations of the meanings of the Qur’an. That said, there are three choices of translations on this app, one with an audio choice so that an English reciter follows the Arabic reciter. When I don’t have a hard copy of the Qur’an with me, I choose to read the Mohsin translation on the app, which I find is the easiest translation to understand out of the other choices.

Compared to the English translations found in my hard copies of the Qur’an, the translations on this app are outdated and so a little hard to follow. This is why I use the app to listen to the recitation while I read from a hard copy of the Qur’an. I have found two translations of the meanings of the Qur’an that I like; Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, printed by the King Fahd Complex and Zafar Ishaq Ansari, printed by The Islamic Foundation.

Reading the Qur’an with understanding is a beautiful experience; understanding it in the language it was revealed in, Arabic, is an even more precious experience. From experience, I have found that with time and practice, one can reach that level of understanding.

Quran Majeed is available for iOS devices. It can be found in the App Store priced £2.49 at the time of writing.

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