Arabic Dialects: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

Table of Contents

What are Arabic Dialects?

Arabic is one of the world’s most commonly spoken languages, with 28 countries claiming it as their official language. The Arab globe has a population of roughly 369.8 million people and stretches from Morocco to Dubai. With such a vast territory to cover, it’s no surprise that this language contains many distinct and prime dialects. Arabic has three key dialects:

  • Classical Arabic or Quranic Arabic
  • Standard Modern Arabic
  • Colloquial or everyday Arabic

Modern Standard Arabic is the most widely used Arabic language dialect, designed primarily for standardized speech and writing. MSA’s prime use is in writing and most formal speech in the Arabic world, and it serves as the linguistic glue that holds together this incredibly diverse culture. This language has been in use for centuries, leading to a break from Classical Arabic. Classical Arabic, which has been there since the 7th century, is commonly found in religious texts such as the Qu’ran.

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) 

Because it is extensively shared and used by Arabic speakers worldwide, MSA is the most spoken Arabic dialect and known variety of Arabic. MSA is taught in universities and used in crucial communication, trade, and business channels. It is considered the language of literature, technology, medicine, and education. Although MSA is the regular dialect for many Arabic speakers, it is the pronunciation that most confuses people. Because when spoken by people from various origins, the commonly used Modern Standard Arabic dialect virtually becomes something else.

Major Arabic Dialects  

1. Egyptian Arabic Dialect

The Egyptian dialect is one of the easiest Arabic dialects and is widely spoken. It is popular in TV shows and movies and is one of the most understood dialects among Arabic speakers. Egyptian dialect, inspired by French, Greek, Turkish, English, and Italian, demonstrates the power of language and its rich and diverse roots, despite being a unique language written with the Arabic alphabet. The availability and extensive source accessibility of the Egyptian dialect mainly draw the attention of new learners.

2. Gulf Arabic Dialect

The Gulf dialect is said to have 36 million native speakers in the Arab globe. This dialect is popular in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and areas of Saudi Arabia. It is a collection of dialects that are similar to each other. There are differences in terms of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. 

3. Levantine Arabic Dialect 

Historically, the Levantine Arabs lived in a region known as the Levant. More than 21 million people speak Levantine. If you are familiar with the dialects, you will see that Levantine is widely used as a spoken dialect and in writing, and Levantine speakers continue to use Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). This dialect of Arabic is well-known in Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon. It is the second most prominent dialect in media channels and films. Levantine is particularly notable for its long history, reaching back to the 7th century when the dialect arose due to a change from Aramaic to Arabic.  

4. Lebanese Arabic dialect

Generally spoken in Lebanon, the syllable structure of Lebanese Arabic differs from that of Modern Standard Arabic. While MSA allows just one consonant at the beginning of a syllable, followed by a vowel, the Arabic Lebanese dialect usually has two consonants at the beginning. Lebanese Arabic has a reputation for being a beautiful but challenging language to master. Therefore, learning the Arabic Lebanese dialect can help you stand out in the job market. It is helpful in banking, tourism, real estate, construction, food exports, and other industries.

5. Syrian Arabic dialect

The Syrian Arabic dialect is popular in Syria and is spoken by approximately 8 million people. The Arabic-Syrian dialect is a gentler, slower-flowing dialect that is easier to learn than other Arabic dialects. If you can converse the Syrian dialect of Arabic, you could thrive in the international journalism industry in this strategically important region. 

6. Emirati Arabic Dialect

Emirati Arabic is a group of Arabic dialectal spoken by natives of the United Arab Emirates. Emirati Arabic speakers identify as speakers of a distinct variety based on phonological, morphological, and syntactic characteristics that distinguish Emirati Arabic from other Gulf Arabic varieties.

Standard Arabic v/s Common Arabic

The distinction between MSA and Quranic Arabic is the manner they get presented. In writing, Quranic (classical) Arabic is more common, but MSA is more widely spoken. If you want to learn to read, write or have a detailed knowledge of the Quran, Quranic Arabic is an excellent place to start. On the other hand, if you wish to travel to an Arabic-speaking country or become fluent in Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic is the best option.

Why Are There So Many Arabic Dialects?

The influence of other languages previously or currently spoken in the regions, such as Greek, Coptic, and English in Egypt; French, Italian, Ottoman Turkish, Spanish, Punic, Berber, or Phoenician in North Africa and so on, is one factor in the differentiation of the varieties.

How Should Dialects Influence Your Arabic Learning?

Arab learners occasionally have difficulty pronouncing English letters and phonemes due to the diversity of their local dialects and Arabic accents. The influence of native language interference causes these pronunciation mistakes. Each language in the world has its linguistic qualities and laws that govern pronunciation and even word construction, which distinguishes it from other nations’ languages. 

Modern linguists refer to this phenomenon as verbal behaviors since it becomes consistent habits by the end of a specific stage of a child’s development. As a result, subsequent generations inherit these qualities from their forefathers without having any say in the matter. Arabic ESL students, for example, encounter various pronunciation challenges when they attempt to improve their English language proficiency, such as replacing adding new phonemes that doesn’t exist in the target language. The linguistic distinctions between Arabic and English significantly impact how easily a learner may learn to create English letter sounds.

What Arabic dialect is taught in schools?

Modern Standard Arabic is mainly for written communications or formal speaking situations such as speeches, meetings, classrooms, etc. MSA is the same in countries where Arabic is the primary language, such as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Those who are new to the Arabic language must learn Modern Standard Arabic because it is commonly spoken and understood and is not limited to any particular region or country.

What Are The Benefits of learning Arabic and the Different Arabic Dialects?

1. All Muslims are required to learn Arabic.

According to some experts, studying Arabic is essential for all Muslims because the Quran and Sunnah cannot be understood without them.

2. Learning Arabic is required if traveling to Arabic-speaking countries.

Do you frequently visit or want to travel to the Arabic world? Your greatest tour guide will be learning the language. Arabic people feel honored and proud when foreigners talk in their language, even if it is only the basics or slang. 

3. Work, Business, and Trade

The Arab world contributes significantly to the global economy. The Arab globe consists of around 22 countries, so you can guess how profitable this entire region is. Many companies make investments in the Arab world. Because Arab monarchies (in general) rely significantly on foreigners to advance their economy, there are numerous trade, business, and job opportunities.

Even if you are not in the field or wish to change careers, learning Arabic might be beneficial. Arabic language skills are also in demand in several other areas, including travel and tourism, healthcare, journalism, national security, education, and others. These industries are always looking for bilingual workers who can speak in Arabic.

4. Develop Your Culture And Civilization

The advantage of learning Arabic is that it will connect you to one-third of the world’s population. Speaking Arabic will enable you to communicate with others and understand the nuances of Arab civilization. You will also gain a better understanding of the richness and diversity of Arab culture through its symphony, film, and literature.

5. Assist You In Learning The Quran And Sunnah

The guy who learned the Quran and Sunnah amassed a significant fortune.

Every Muslim needs to be fluent in Arabic and understand Allah Almighty’s and His messenger’s statements.

The advantage of knowing Arabic is that one may easily reap benefits from both worlds. If one wishes to learn about the Quran and Sunnah, he must first study Arabic.

6. The Modern World’s Increasing Demand for Arab Speakers

One of the advantages of learning Arabic is its application in economic and business-related fields. Arabic is among the most widely spoken languages in the world. Only a few people in the West are fluent in Arabic. The Arabic language is an outstanding skill that can set you apart and provide you with various excellent job and service opportunities.

Which Arabic Should I Learn?

If you are wondering what Arabic dialect to study first, then Modern Standard Arabic is the best place to start. The Egyptian dialect is the most widely understood, owing to the media. Consider which countries and industry branches you want to get professionally connected with, and making the appropriate decision will be a lot easier!

FAQs

1. How many Arabic dialects are there?

Globally, over 25 dialects of Arabic are spoken

2. Which Arabic dialect dictionary is the best?

The Oxford Arabic Dictionary is the most authoritative English-Arabic/Arabic-English dictionary and includes numerous examples of Arabic dialects. It acts as a comparison standard when publishers release new Arabic dictionaries.

3. What is the most widely spoken Arabic dialect?

The Egyptian dialect is the most widely spoken of the Arabic dialects.

4. What is the most commonly used Arabic dialect?

With over 60 million speakers, Egyptian Arabic is the most studied and widely spoken Arabic dialect.

5. Which Arabic dialect is the simplest to learn?

There is no single solution to this issue because everyone’s learning talents, speeds, and preferences vary. However, concerning to the number of resources available, Egyptian is a simple Arabic dialect to learn. Syrian is also simpler to master due to its milder tones. Which Arabic dialect to pick up should be determined by you, not by what is said to be the easiest.

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