Learning Modern Standard Arabic or a dialect?

Hello all,

I have decided to start learning a few more languages. I have decided Arabic will be on the list of languages to learn, but I am having a hard time deciding between MSA or a dialect. I want to eventually use this language to translate for a job, but it seems MSA may be the answer (since it is the official Arabic used in the UN). But for those of you who are learning Arabic, or have learned Arabic, did you learn a dialect or MSA?


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I can’t be of direct help as an Arabic learning, but I can say that this one of the major reasons why I have decided that Arabic will NOT be my next foreign language. Another is that it is still in Beta in LingQ, Steve K hasn’t tried it yet, and I wonder how well LingQ can handle it.

That being said, I do remember a native speaker beign on here who was very accomplished in other languages, and he chimed in saying that MSA was best because it was the language of newspapers, movies, etc. and being it was like grabbing the issue in the middle and then you could go right or left on a more neutral ground to move toward a dilalect later.

I am Arabic newb but it seems like you will more easily find stuff to read if you do MSA. That seems important if you want to use LingQ as a main tool.

Useless side note. I just went to the Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia and hit random article like 20 times, and three of the articles I got were on porn stars. Suggests slimmer pickings I think

I searched Wikipedia and found it in many, many languages including Arabic Wikipedia but nor specific Wikipedia for different dialects.
I think most Arabic speakers use dialects for really informal occasions and as a spoken language very rarely writen language, in which case use many times Latin alphabet with the inclusión of some numbers, like 3, 7 and 9 to represent sounds specific to Arabic. 3 is similar to 'ayin, 9 similar to qaf, and so on.

You can use arz.wikipedia.org for Egyptian.

i don’t speak arabic and i don’t know if i ever willl be but my muslim friends are gulf arabic speakers and they have told me if you are not interested in a particular region you should start to learn to write.read and speak in msa first then branch out into a dialect because it’s used throughout the arabic world in writing. you can communicate with alot more people.rather than a dialect which is limited to a certain place and might not be understood by other arabic speakers

maybe this site will help you make up your mind http://www.myeasyarabic.com/site/what_is_spoken_arabic.htm


Thanks for the link.
I tried to read something in that page and it seems to me Standard or very close to Standard Arabic.

“Another is that it is still in Beta in LingQ, Steve K hasn’t tried it yet, and I wonder how well LingQ can handle it.”

Don’t let Lingq be an inhibitor to your success in Arabic. :stuck_out_tongue:

Not learning Arabic, but, I can almost say for sure that unless you know a family member or friend who speaks a certain dialect, you should start with the Standard Arabic. This is because there are considerable more material for this version and from there you should easily be able to branch into different dialects after perhaps 6 - 8 months of studying the Standard version looking at patterns in grammar or sounds like “q (in standard) vs k (in most dialects)” etc.

I’ve not learned Arabic (well, I’ve just dabbled a bit in the past) but this is a genuinely good question. I can see serious arguments for both MSA and for a major dialect (such as Cairo-Egyptian).

MSA is the language of literature, academia, and highbrow journalism throughout the Arab world. (And, of course, it’s fairly close to Classical Arabic - the language of Islam.)

So if one has a strong intellectual interest in the Arab world, or if one is into Islamic religious studies, MSA is unquestionably the way to go.

BUT nobody in the Arab world speaks MSA (apart from clerics in a Mosque or people operating in an official or academic context.) So one is very rarely going to hear MSA being spoken on the street, so to say. A lot of less well educated people in the Arab world probably can’t even speak it actively, although I guess they would more or less understand it when they hear it spoken.

Of course the various dialects differ from each other quite a bit and aren’t necessarily mutually intelligible - so it then becomes a question of which part of the Arab world one is interested in. That said, I have heard that the Cairo dialect of Egyptian Arabic is quite widely understood throughout the Arab world thanks to the widespread popularity of Egyptian films and music over the last 50 years or more.

I genuinely dunno the answer to this one. If I were just looking to learn Arabic because speaking Arabic is as cool as hell (which it undoubtedly is, IMO) then I’d probably go with Cairo-Egyptian.

On the other hand, the only way that I would be speaking Arabic right now is if I had taken a different path as a youngster: and in that scenario I would have had to have a fairly narrow academic focus, and thus to have learned MSA first and foremost.

Dunno - it’s one of those interesting linguistic conundrums.

I’ll try not to. Right now, if I had to pick my next language, it would be French, Russian, Arabic, or Chinese. I go back and forth what i will do, so I figured, all other things being equal, I’ll go with the ones I can study better with LingQ. But you’re right: I won’t let that be the thing that stops me.