Which Arabic dialect do we teach?

May 20th, 2013 4 comments

The question of which dialect that we teach is actually the most frequently asked question being emailed to our inbox. This article aims to clarify the answer to this question as well as explain some of the Arabic dialects and the differences between them.

Our recommendation

Our podcasts are generally in what we call “Universal Arabic” and “Modern Standard Arabic” (MSA). We also have some podcasts specific to certain dialects to cater for those who are interested in them. If you are just interested in learning Arabic to understand what is said, or written, in the media then classical Arabic would suffice, but if you are also interested in conversing with people, then we advise you to also listen to our other podcasts which are universally colloquial. Further on, if you are interested in a specific dialect, then you can explore podcasts teaching those as well.

Click here to view our lessons page

Colloquial/Universal Arabic
3aami - عامي

Universal Arabic is basically colloquial or “street language” that people throughout the Arab world would understand. In these podcasts, we teach widely used words not specific to a location or a certain dialect. For example, instead of using 3aayez - عايز for “want”, we would use Ab3’aa - أبغى instead, because عايز is predominately used in Egypt only, whereas أبغى is used in several countries and is widely recognized throughout the Arab world. It’s important to note, that classical Arabic is also used in the street mixed with colloquial Arabic. One cannot avoid classical Arabic completely!

Fo97aa - فصحى

We tend to use the word Classical to describe MSA, but some people attribute classical Arabic to the language of the Quran only. Classical, or MSA, is Arabic that has core historic roots in the Arabic language unaffected by cultural change. Classical, is used all the time in media, publications (books, magazines & newspapers etc), official documents and in public speeches. As mentioned above, many classical words are also used in colloquial, for example 3’adaa2 - غداء is lunch, and there is no colloquial alternative. In fact, one could argue that the majority of the words used in colloquial are actually Classical, but with minor differences in the way they are pronounced (Short vowels are often in ignored in colloquial).

Click here for classical lessons


Whenever we publish a podcast on a specific dialect, we usually mention the dialect in the title. For example, we put ‘Levantine: ’ in front of the title of podcasts teaching the Levantine or Shaami dialect. Below are some our dialect podcasts that you can explore:

Shaami – شامي

Levantine Arabic is spoken in the Levant region which is composed of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.

Click here for Levantine lessons

7’aleeji – خليجي

Spoken in countries surrounding the Persian gulf sea which are the shore of the Persian Gulf, in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran.

Click here for Gulf lessons

Ma9ri - مصري

Spoken in Egypt but has become popular due to Egypt’s massive contribution to the movie and music industries

Click here for Egyptian lessons

tomest05 says
Thu 6th Feb 14@11:05 pm

Wow guys, I did not notice you even separated the dialect lessons out! That is great! I look forward to more, and you're right in the sense that no one dialect is necessarily better despite Egyptian being the most universally understood.

It's all dependent, if I were to go to Morocco or Algeria, I assume most Egyptian would be worthless especially when trying to understand their responses. A strong fousha base is probably best and then derive the dialects from there.

tomest05 says
Thu 6th Feb 14@11:07 pm

Also, I once read an interesting article about "Satellite Arabic" in meaning that Satellite TV has beamed so many different dialects into Arabic speakers ears that, there are many cross-polilnations of dialects which creates a mixed "universal/satellite Arabic" with dialect specific words being used and understood by all Arabs.

Very interesting thesis it was.
Moshaya says
Tue 11th Feb 14@09:52 am

@tomest05, glad you learnt something from article grin

Indeed satellite has helped Arabic speakers learn about each other's dialects. Egyptian used to be the dominant dialect because of the prominence of the Egyptian channels in the old days, but now days Levantine and Gulf channels are equally as popular if not even more contributing to the popularity of those dialects.
Mon 27th Jun 16@02:26 pm

Marhaban, I'm new to the site. I've been looking around and came across this article. When I first started learning arabic like a lot of people I started with fusha. I wanted to understand the Quraan. I also thought that fusha was what everyone in the Arab world spoke. I definitely learned the hard way. Now that I know about the many dialects I would like to ask. I've experienced talking to an Arab in fusha and being understood BUT when they respond to me I'm totally lost. So the above article mentions you teach universal Arabic does that mean if I speak to someone from say Palestinian who only speak their dialect when they respond to me (in their dialect) will I understand them? Sorry for being so long winded.

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