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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Nora here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Arabic questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: Which dialect of Arabic should I learn or focus on?
The variant of Arabic you should learn depends on your goals and what you want to achieve using your knowledge of Arabic.
If you want to learn Arabic to become a professional translator, work in politics, read newspapers, or write reports for work, then you should definitely focus on Modern Standard Arabic. On the other hand, if you want to be able to communicate with Arabic-speaking people, you have to learn a popular dialect that’s widely understood, like Egyptian Arabic or Levantine Arabic. As Nelson Mandela once said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." And let's get the facts straight- nobody speaks Modern Standard Arabic in their daily conversations. Not one person in the whole world.
To understand the difference in usage between Modern standard Arabic and dialects, you need to know what Modern Standard Arabic and dialects mean to Arabic-speaking people.
Babies learn the dialect of their country/region first to communicate with their parents. Then when they go to school, they start learning how to read and write Modern Standard Arabic, because this is what they’ll use to read textbooks, take exams, read books and newspapers. They learn it from kindergarten up to the end of high school. Depending on their major, they might take more Modern Standard Arabic courses throughout their college years. For example, if their major is translation or journalism, they’ll continue taking classes because that's what the news, formal, and legal papers are written in. Other than that, social media, speaking with professors, coworkers, teachers, friends, and family is all in dialect. That's why the average Arabic-speaking person might make a lot of mistakes when trying to use Modern Standard Arabic. Even Arabic speakers need a lot of proofreading if they’re writing an important document!
What about choosing between dialects?
Variants of Arabic dialects sound pretty different from each other. Choosing the dialect to study of course has to do with the region of the Arabic-speaking world you're interested in. But, you should keep another factor in mind. Some dialects are easier to learn and pronounce depending on your native language. For instance, Levantine dialects are easier to learn than the Egyptian dialect if your native language is Japanese! That's because of similarities in rhythm and phonemes. So listening to different dialects is a good way to get a feel of how they sound before you make up your mind. Keep in mind, though, that the most widely understood Arabic dialects are Egyptian Arabic and Levantine Arabic, because of how popular their media is in the Arabic-speaking countries.


Pretty interesting, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
And I’ll see you in the next episode!
Bye! Salam