I bought a course for conversational Eastern Arabic some time ago and am so pleased with it that I thought I might share it with you. I first started out studying MSA (and I am still working on it) and then decided to choose a dialect. I had no difficulties finding native speakers who were prepared to practise MSA with me but whenever they talked among themselves they would quickly switch to ammiya (dialect).
I decided to go for Levantine Arabic (spoken and understood - with certain differences and variants - in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan etc.) and bought a course called “Speaking Arabic - A Course in Conversational Eastern Arabic”.
I have used it for a couple of months now and am totally thrilled with the outcome so far. The course comprises 4 books and 5 CDs with excellent recording by native speakers of different ages. It starts from scratch. Grammar is explained in a straightforward and easily comprehensible way, always embedded in example sentences.
The dialogues are lively and fun (of course, this is always a matter of taste). You will have learnt about 2,500 words by the end of this course. There is no Arabic script, a fact which might put off some learners but since I have dealt extensively with the script during my MSA studies I don’t find this to be a problem (and even if I had not, I wouldn’t mind the transliteration since most people use it too when chatting or sending text messages).
Besides, I have language exchange partners who help me write down things in Arabic script, too.
I have tried out what I have learnt with people from Syria, Jordan, Palestine and even Egypt. And ALL of them could easily understand the words I was using and I felt really comfortable talking to them in a language “variant” they obviously prefer when speaking in a non-formal setting.
There is another course out there for Syrian Arabic which is also highly recommended by many learners. I might get that one, too, just for the fun of it
Here is a link where you can purchase the course: www.speaking-arabic.com
The course has its price but I think it is worth every bit of it.
It is not easy to find dictionaries for any of the dialects, so I was very happy to come across “The Olive Tree Dictionary - A transliteraded dictionary of conversational Eastern Arabic”. It is fun to simply try out words and expressions contained in that dictionary with native speakers.
So, if you have ever thought of studying an Arabic dialect, I think the above-mentioned language course and the dictionary could be of great help to you. Enjoy!