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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: Where are Arabic variants spoken?
There are many different definitions of the ?Middle East.? Some say from Morocco to Iran; some exclude Iran and Turkey; some exclude Morocco, and some even exclude North Africa. I guess the borders of the Middle East are vague, and not everyone agrees on them. That's why in our lessons, we like to use the term ?Arabic-speaking countries? or ?Arab world? instead. This is because we?re concerned with Arabic as a language and with its variants.
In this lesson, we?ll learn together where exactly these variants of Arabic are spoken.
Let's start from left to right, from Africa to Asia. First we have the Maghreb region, which includes Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Again, not everyone agrees on the definition of the Maghreb region, so opinions may vary slightly. Arabic spoken in the Arab Maghreb region is characterised by infusing a lot of French vocabulary and grammar with Arabic and Berber languages. Many other languages are spoken as first languages in this region, like Tamazight varieties and French.
Next we have Egypt and Sudan, where the dialect widely known as "Egyptian Arabic" is spoken. It?s a dialect of Arabic, with a lot of Ancient Egyptian, Latin, Turkish, French, and English influence. It?s a popular dialect in the Arab world, due to the popularity of Egyptian music and shows. Other languages are also spoken in the region, like Nubian in northern Sudan and southern Egypt. Arabic varieties are also spoken in other African countries like Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, Tanzania, Chad, and Comoros.
Next, let's move on to Asia.
First let's take a look at the Levantine region. This includes Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Keep in mind that not all Levantine dialects are the same, though. The Gaza Strip region, for example, has some Egyptian influence. Lebanese Arabic has lots of French loanwords. Syrian Arabic has many Turkish loanwords, and so on. However, for the most part, they?re mutually intelligible.
Next, we have the Gulf region dialects, which are spoken in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, and Yemen. The dialects of this region and the Levantine region are considered the closest to Modern Standard Arabic. There are still quite a few differences, though. Dialects vary widely in this region, with lots of sub dialects depending on the city or the region. I remember listening to a friend from Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, talking to his friend on the phone, and I understood absolutely nothing from that 2-minute conversation! My friends from Sanaa are nice enough to speak to me in Egyptian Arabic so that we can understand each other.
Lastly, we have Iraq, in the far-east end of the Arab world. Here, Iraqi Arabic, commonly known as "Baghdad Arabic" is spoken. This dialect has Turkish, Persian, Kurdish, and Aramaic influences.


The interesting thing about the Arab world is the ?diglossia,? meaning that people use different languages depending on the situation. As a result of this diglossia, the news of most of these countries are in Modern Standard Arabic. But if you walk in the streets or make friends from one of these countries, you won't hear anyone speak Modern Standard Arabic; instead, they use their own dialects.
Pretty interesting, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
And I?ll see you in the next episode!
Bye! إلى اللقاء(ʾilā al-liqaāʾ)