A textbook. Those who want to use it as a self-study guide should be extremely motivated or have a tutor to work with. Georgetown has been a centre of Arabic linguistics with much research, comprehensive texts, and instruction of US foreign affairs personnel. This book teaches Modern Standard Arabic, or MSA. In the preface Ryding writes about MSA along with CA (Classical Arabic), “neither are spontaneously spoken languages nor authentic vehicles for spoken proficiency.” So, if you’re looking to improve your tea house chit-chat you might look elsewhere.
But if you’re going for the gusto and have some knowledge of Arabic script, this is a very good book. Extensive grammar presented with rigour. No transliteration. The many drills assume the participation of a teacher. The 106 (!) tracks on the CD tie into material in the book; again, there is next to no hi-how-are-you-where is-the-post-office material; the voices are of course, those of native speakers; the pace and accents do not favour new learners. This is serious stuff.
Karin Christina Ryding is the Sultan Qaboos bin Said Professor of Arabic emerita in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. She has written numerous articles, presented at many conferences and is the author of Teaching and Learning Arabic as a Foreign Language: A guide for teachers
David J Mehall taught Arabic at Georgetown and has been Senior Linguist at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in McLean, Virginia.