My experience with Arabic

More of a warning than anything else. I studied Egyptian Arabic using a lot of different resources for a year and achieved a A2/B1 level. I travelled to a few Middle East countries and I now find myself in Iraq.

Here’s what I learned:
1- nobody speak Fusha (MSA) well even if they are educated…unless this is your field of study, don’t waste your time, learn a dialect
2- Egyptian Arabic vocabulary really is different and while many will understand you, you won’t truly understand then at the lower levels In the different countries.
3- Arabic Dialects truly feel like different languages probably up to the B2 level. Learn the dialect of the country you are visiting.
In summary, I am now learning Iraqi dialect because I get frustrated by the constant corrections when I speak Egyptian.

Also, Iraq and especially Baghdad is slowly looking and feeling more like any other modern city which is a good thing.

Hope this helps somebody!


its true, Iraqi an Syrian are the most inteligible arabic dialects
most dialects are the result of the overlaping oif arabic and the local languages.
as a native speaker i notice the difference from town to town, but i am able to understand them all.
what you experience (d) happen with me with spanish, it sounds differents from person to person and that i am not able to understand it soon
maybe you should learn the tv news arabic or the best choice will be historical serie from Syria or egypt where the actors talk in classic arab but yet you notice the influence of their original accent


I don’t know if this helps, but people will tell you that you’re way of speaking is weird because of your accent. I think someone on this forum said; “you don’t need to learn IPA, or accent reduction classes” Eventhough I totally get what this person is trying to say, with arabic I would say try to forget your own language completely. Realise there are “young”, “workers” and “old” people. They speak differently. Sometimes young people are in the role of adults. You could think of it as “classism speech”, but people change their roles all the time.

When you say something like; “Tommorow I’ll leave by train”. A reponse might be;

  • No, stay a bit longer. You can stay here for the rest of the month. (adult)
  • You’re living the life. I hope one day to be just like you. (young)

There is this balance in speech I would say. Which happens in all languages. People expect you to play your role.

I think what a lot of people don’t get from the “arab” culture - and I might have a lot of people disagree with me - is that they think it BIG changes being around the corner.

  • No, I can’t stay [ I have BIG things I need to do and I need to break this chapter up] I have to get moving. Our life are tough.
  • You’re living the life and one day you will do much more than me. Life is great. Our life is good.

What I notice a lot is that people say… my arabic accent is something I get compliments for.

But just take a moment and realise that these people are brought up thinking that arabic has all sounds of all the languages and that arabic is the most difficult language to pronounce. This while their pepsi bottle says bebsi.

They don’t say things that happen are BIG. They say things like… Why don’t you join us for dinner. We will talk and have a meal, maybe you like to know something about me or anything else. It sounds very humble and low-key. But their is almost an taboo for having entertainment for the purpose of entertainment, so they block themselves from saying things like… DUDE WE ARE GOING TO HAVE SOOOO MUCH FUN. That would be - from my own made up theory - the childs role and a child can’t ask someone to come over. So they tell that from an adult role.

What happens is that as a “student” you are almost forcing yourself to speak from that “student/child” role.

I don’t know if that makes sense.


It does make sense, thank you for taking out the time to share your thoughts and experience. Learning about the arab culture is fascinating.

بصفتي شخص متحمس للثقافة العربية ، آمل أن أتحدث العربية ببراعة. لذلك ، لحثي على تعلم اللغة العربية بنفسي ، أحتاج إلى وضع جملة في هذا المنتدى بشكل متكرر لأتعلم مع الجميع.
نرحب بالأصدقاء الذين يجيدون اللغة العربية لتقديم المشورة لك.
نبدأ من See by oneself is a hundred times better than hearing from others .
1.نظرة واحدة تغتي عن سماع ألف مرة
2.أن رؤية واحدة أفضل من ألف كلمة
أي جملة أحسن؟

Thank you for sharing, I find it very useful. I discovered this problem when I was in Egypt

I think that you mean a picture is better than a thousand word. Anyway, I prefer #2.

ان تنظر بنفسك لمرة واحدة افضل الف مرة من تسمع اراء الاخرين الذين نظروا من قبلك

Thank you for this. The variations among the dialects is one of the reasons why I’ve put it off and don’t know if I’ll do it. Unless you’re really in love with a culture or country, I don’t know if I want to spend that much time learning what sounds like just the “Egyptian Language.”

On a related note, one thing I’ve always wondered, but have not really known who or how to ask is this: how do all the terrorists across different countries talk to one another? Do they have intrepeters, are they “multilingual” among dialects? Do they put out the propaganda videos in MSA?

I’ve really always wondered this. Thanks in advance.

I don’t know about terrorists. Even if you mean “Muslim fundamentalists”, take into account that not all Muslims are Arabs, in fact most are not. And most non-Arabs are not fluent in Arabic, of course.

On the other hand, in my experience, educated Arabs can understand one another in many cases. The usual strategy is to mix up dialects. They would use some Fusha, some elements of the own dialect that they know are easier to understand and some elements of dialects that are well known by all participants. Egyptian iis often used in this last role because of the popularity of Egyptian TV around the Arab world but if the speakers como from a more localized area, other local prestige dialects can be used. So, yes, educated speakers tend to be “multi-dialectal” to some extent, although the exact details vary widely.

And yes, “official” communication, propaganda and so on by some organization, e.g., Al-Qaeda tend to be in MSA/Fusha.

About diglossia in TV stations. Mentions Al-Qaeda manifests:

[Also includes a discussion of the “middle language” used in conversation between speakers of different dialects]

About communication within ISIL, where not all combatants are fluent in Arabic (first of a three-part article):

[Bonus: discussion of llanguage use by multi-national divisions in the Spanish civil war and more]

And this is very interesting research about Arab speakers from differen countries talking with one another. You can see the different strategies they use. Researchers didn’t find much MSA use.