Preface (1)

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One of the first Arabic grammar books, in a definitive and complete form was published in the 13th century, under the title al-Alfia (didactic treatise in one thousand lines), by Ibn Malek (600-673 A.H. / 1203-1274 A.D.).  A long time before him, efforts were made for centuries to develop an Arabic grammar, first of all in the town of Basra in the south of Iraq.  A statesman called Abdul-Aswad (died 69 A.H. / 785 A.D.) is mentioned as being the first grammarian whose teaching was inspired by the fourth Caliph, Ali Ibn Abi Taleb (died 40 A.H. / 661 A.D.).(*)

          Since that time, Arabic grammar has not changed at all.  In the 16th century, an Arabic grammar book was published for the first time in Europe, in Spanish.  However, in 1636, Thomas Erpenius published his definitive work, Grammatica Arabica, in Latin at Leiden.  He followed a methodology which suited the European mind and adopted a specific terminology, which had to be applied by every non Arabic-speaking grammarian.  Following this, several Arabic grammar books were published in different languages.  Contrary to the grammar of other languages which have continued to evolve, Arabic grammar has remained unchanged.

          It is true that there are already a certain number of Arabic grammar books.  Therefore, it should be unnecessary to publish any more, given that there is nothing new to be added.

          What then is the point of publishing yet another Arabic grammar book?

          I have always been a teacher since I was a child, when I started teaching the Koran to other children, having learnt it myself by heart.  Later on, I studied Arabic grammar, mainly from the al-Alfia treatise.  Straight away, I started to teach it in exactly the same archaic manner that I had learnt it towards the end of the 1950s.  I managed to make myself understood, more or less, or I simply thought that I was making myself understood.

          My classes consisted of private lessons here and there.  My students were, for the most part, non-Arabic speakers, but I never took the trouble to follow the European methodology for the teaching of Arabic grammar, nor did I use its terminology.  I was completely unaware of it until I started to teach Arabic in a more serious and structured way at the United Nations in Geneva, in a completely different multicultural context.  As a result, it was essential and imperative for me to learn a new teaching method and its terminology.  I acquired several Arabic grammar books in different languages in order to learn both the methodology and the terminology adapted to the European mind.

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