All You Need to Know About Arabic Dialects

Arabic Dialects
Image: Industry Arabic

If you’ve been studying Arabic for some time, or you’ve ever visited one of the many Arabic speaking countries, you’ve probably noticed that the Arabic language contains many different regional dialects. Two of these dialects – Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic – are ubiquitous throughout the Arab world. However, as you learn more and more about the Arabic language, you will see that the dialects don’t stop at just these two. With that in mind, presents the different dialects that you will find across the Arab region.

Modern Standard Arabic 

MSA is the language taught in schools, spoken in the media, and it’s formal Arabic of the elite and the cultured. MSA sounds clearer and more measured compared to Arabic dialects, and that’s a good thing because it is easier to speak with other learners of a language and causes native speakers to slow down to think about what they want to say.

Classical Arabic 

Classical Arabic is the Arabic learned by Muslims throughout the world to read the Quran (although not really “read” as much as it is “recited” in a melodic, poetic kind of rhythm). Like MSA, there are no native speakers of Classical Arabic, but taught in schools and understood by many Muslim scholars.

Now that we’ve covered the two main dialects, let get deeper into some of the other ones found throughout the region:

The Egyptian Dialect (ammiyah)

due to the mass popularity of Egyptian films, music and books published in Egyptian Arabic, this is probably the most well known dialect throughout the Arab region. Many foreign films and television shows are dubbed in the Egyptian dialect, as well, including very popular Turkish soap operas and American comedy series like “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother”. There are, however, oddities in the pronunciation of the dialect language such as pronouncing jeem as ‘G’, a sound otherwise not found in the Arabic abjad, and qaaf becomes a glottal stop in the dialect where coffee is pronounced, as ‘aHwa instead of the MSA qaHwa (coffee).

The Levantine Dialect: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine (shaami)

Like the Egyptian dialect, the Levantine dialect is broadcast into many homes throughout the region as it also used to dub foreign films and TV programs. It differs from MSA mainly through its use in day-to-day language such as greetings, expressions and the simplification of verbs.

The North African Dialect: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya (maghribi)

Also known as darija, North African dialects were influenced by the French during their occupation of the region, with a little bit of the Berber language, amazigh, thrown in their as well.  This French influence can be seen in such examples as the pronunciation of the letter jeem in dajaaj (chicken), where it is pronounced sounds like the “j” in bonjour rather than the “j” in “jam”. Arabs from other dialects often have to focus very closely on this accent to fully understand it, especially when speaking with the notorious fast-talking Moroccans.

The Gulf Dialect: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Saudi (khaleeji)

With fewer loan words from the Persian, French, English, Hebrew languages, khaleeji is the closest dialect to MSA than any of the other dialects in the region.

With all of these different dialects, it can be a bit confusing to know which dialect you want to study. However, the good news is that kaleela is planning on launching its very own Arabic language learning app very soon to help you with all of these dialects. Available on both Android and iOS, kaleela is a premier Arabic language learning app that not only teaches you the fundamentals of the Arabic language, but it also teaches you the different dialects of the language, something that no other Arabic language learning app does. Additionally, each dialect uses genuine native Arabic speakers in its audio lessons, ensuring that you will be talking like Egyptian (or, Jordanian, Palestinian Saudi, Syrian, Iraqi – you get the idea) at your own comfortable pace. And while most apps teach you the basics of reading, listening, and speaking, kaleela goes a step further by teaching you how to write in Arabic, too! Look for it soon!

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