I'm a native English speaker, as I imagine most people on the board are, and I've been learning Arabic with the Alif Baa books (and a class. I guess it would be fairer to say I'm learning with a class. I need those 4 credits a semester!)
There are a few things that are perfectly clear from smk's posts (haven't watched the videos because I wanted to catch up to the thread) such as the numerous shortcuts (these, I did not learn until my second semester, and even then I tend to write pretty fully. I think I only use the siin-as-line bit, per se. However, what he doesn't mention is how... ah... "unique" handwriting can get. I worked with a few people during the last semester who were Arabic and taking the class because it's easy for them. One of them, from Iraq, had handwriting I could not really read. I don't have a sample of it now that the class is over, but I do have a loose script for an incredibly simplistic skit we had to write and perform, which was written by someone with slightly more "standard" handwriting. A lot of the time, I see Americans that are kinda used to seeing the book-Arabic, which is so rarely used outside of street signs and calligraphy that it's basically worthless for something like correspondence and written notes. (Maybe most people aren't used to attending a college in Dearborn, though, which is one of the few places you see lots of native English speakers AND lots of native Arabic speakers that I am aware of in Michigan, if not the US as a whole...)
So I think it's important to keep tabs on that difference, because it's a fair bit bigger than in typed-versus-handwritten Latin characters.
(As a side note, I really prefer the geometric Kufic scripts to the more "ornamental" stuff. I've seen a few scans of early Qurans, back when Kufic was the style and I just really find it gorgeous, but at the same time more readable than Ruq'ah or even Nashk... except that they hadn't adopted widespread use of dots, in the same way that most harakat are not used now, which made things hard)
Edited by Linsolv, 20 December 2012 - 18:15.