Arabic Standard Arabic Or Spoken Dialects? Should You Learn Standard Arabic Or A Spoken Dialect?

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Monday 21st of November 2005 01:52:27 PM
Standard Arabic or Spoken Dialects?: The other day one of my English teachers told us a funny story about a Westerner who wanted to learn Arabic. In order to master the language, he decided to travel to an Arab country as he thought that the best way to learn a foreign language was to communicate with native speakers. Once, while walking down the street he started asking some passersby (who happened to be from different Arabic countries and spoke different dialects) about the name of 'stick'. Each passerby gave him a name. He wrote down every name in a notebook. By the end of the street he looked at his notes and counted the number of the words he had jotted down and found that he had got over 10 distinct names for 'stick'. He threw his notes away and exclaimed "Forget it! I am not gonna learn this language!!!."

As you can see, the point of telling you this story is that I believe, you as foreign learners should take into consideration before embarking on learning Arabic dialects that there are so many dialects that greatly vary NOT from one Arab country to another BUT EVEN from one region to another within the same country. Frankly and honestly, I myself, as a native speaker of Arabic, don't understand half of the spoken Arabic dialects though I've had great exposure to various dialects spoken in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Arabian Gulf countries. I am telling you this, because I don't want you to break your back to learn one specific dialect only to be shocked that you've wasted your effort and time learning a dialect that can be only understood by a limited number of people. This is one thing, the other thing is that Standard Arabic is very different from spoken dialects; another language, I'd rather say, that has not the least connection with the contemporary spoken dialects. Standard Arabic is understood all over the Arab World and even by uneducated people in rural areas.

If you are really eager to feel and see the beauty of Arabic language, then it is only Standard Arabic NOT the dialects that can satisfy your thirst. Standard Arabic is not just a so beautiful language but is also unique. I am not saying this because it is my mother tongue. You will decide for yourself once you've learnt it.

I've prepared, as I've mentioned previously in 'all language exchange' forum, a number of Arabic lessons on the basics. Alex (a Russian member of phrasebase) and I, are thinking of building a website on learning Arabic. I am gathering material now and Alex is discussing the construction of the website with some of his friends who are network programmers. If any of you guys can help us in gathering material or designing the site, please do email us or post your ideas and suggestions on this forum.

Email me at: to send you the Arabic lessons. If you have any question, please feel free to ask.

Monday 21st of November 2005 04:19:48 PM
tahiyya tayyiba ya akhee anoud,

A very interesting story indeed, and i cant agree with you more on the diversity of the arabic dialects.

I think your intention of opening a website for arabic learners is noble and i look forward to visit it because as learners of arabic we can never have too many of such websites to mine the resources to propell our learning process.

Maybe you guys wanna base your lesson on the harfiaya system that i used the 1st time i learn arabic.

1. Each student must 1st know how to recognize the different categories/types of arabic words found in the text with harakah first, example:
an 'ism' ie. a noun is recognized by the 'al',tanwin, etc.
a 'f3l mudhore3' is recognized by the ya, ta ,nun or alif hamzah at the beginning of the word.
there are actually different general characteristics of each category of arabic words. and we can list them down.
Next we can translate the meaning and then we can analyse the harakah(the ending marks of the word).

Then we can conjugate them with taSrif and its wazan.

And we keep practicing it until we memorize more and more words to our vocabulary so that we can practice using it.

Well its just an old way of doing things i guess. but in language there is no way to master it unless with a big vocabulary at hand.
just a thought to share.

Hayya Bi L3rabiyya :)

Barakallahu feekum

Monday 21st of November 2005 09:52:23 PM
well said anoud, i've been telling every new comer what you just said and i've been advising them to learn the standard arabic . some are really understanding and i congratulate them on taking the advise and have started and i should say that they are progressing wonderfully. i know people who joined not knowing a word of arabic but can now introduce themselves and make simple sentences.

what you didn't add anoud is that if you study the standard arabic you can commiunicate everywhere is all the arab countries as everything in the middle east is from newspapers and daily news on tv and books and stories and toys and whatever is ALL written in the standard arabic and NOT the local dialect. so you'll never get lost if you know the standard arabic no matter where you go.


Tuesday 22nd of November 2005 07:26:03 AM
at any rate if someone wants to learn to speak arabic at all, they should learn to speak it before learning to write it as that will help build your comprehension of the language. whereas learning to write it before learning to speak it can slow down the comprehension process

it's funny you mentioned that though, because i have a friend from Saudi who is originally from the city of Mecca. but he lives in the city of Riyadh now and sometimes he can't understand the dialect of that particular city lol

Thursday 01st of December 2005 08:42:38 AM
I think it's hard to learn Arabic without learning how to write from the very beginning. For example, for me it' important to see which letter is written, "by the ear" I regulary match ت and ط, or س and ص, or ذ and ظ. To tell nothing about ع and ء :) And so on...

Thursday 01st of December 2005 08:58:24 AM
in standard arabic there are usually accents you will use with those dialects the sounds can change slightly. for example:
ت and ط
س and ص
ذ and ظ
ع and ء
all of those letters have slightly different sounds and usually it's easy to just have to build your listening skills for it (i know its hard sometimes lol)
you usually won't hear the pronunciation differences for some of these letters in dialects so you just have to learn the words that sound similar (just like with english :))

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