Arabic and its many forms.

Benjy

Senior Member
English - English
hola guys.

i have been entertaining ideas to dig out my old arabic learners stuff for quite some time but the one thing that keeps putting me off is this:

arabic seems to have spawned so many different forms.. which one iws the best one to learn. and if i choose a particular one, how hard will it be to adapt what i learn to other countries stlye of speaking?

please bear in mind when you respond that:

1. i have no clue about what i am talking about. the only things i have learnt have been gleaned from snippets of conversation with the arabic students on campus plus bits and bobs on here.

2. one of the reasons i want to learn arabic is so that i can have a stab at reading the quoran in its original language. (don't ask why.. it's just one of those things i really want to do (and no, i am not muslim :))
 
  • Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Hi Ben,

    This is indeed a really interesting question, and I'm sure it's been asked and answered before, but nevertheless we'll try to help you here, since we want the Arabic forum to get off to a fast start. Here's my contribution:

    First of all, it's important to know grammar and universal words (grammar and important words are everywhere in the Arab countries understood). I suggest you to grasp the Arabic sentence structure (Verb - Subject - Object, in most cases) and to learn some pattern sentences.

    After this, you can ask here for some information about the Arabic language in each country. In order to converse with African Arabians, you should learn Egyptian Arabic, I think. And to communicate with Asian Arabians, I suggest you to go deeper into the Palestinian or Saudi Arabian (one reason is that we have two very helpful from there ;))

    And then it would be extremely advantageous to visit such a country. I'm willing to learn colloquial Palenstinian Arabic, since I have a book about that, or travel to Egypt to learn that language and way of speech.

    After all, I suppose it's all up to you. I'm sorry if I wasn't a great help, but Elias and Ayed (and some other foreros) may be able to inform you in greater detail.

    2. one of the reasons i want to learn arabic is so that i can have a stab at reading the quoran in its original language. (don't ask why.. it's just one of those things i really want to do (and no, i am not muslim :))
    Good purpose! :thumbsup:
     

    ayed

    Senior Member
    Arabic(Saudi)
    Benjy!Welcome right here .
    This Forum is from and for you .Just as Whodunit said about the sequence of the Arabic sentence .It is simple , little by little until you get higher level gradually.


    Ayed's regards
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Benjy said:
    hola guys.

    i have been entertaining ideas to dig out my old arabic learners stuff for quite some time but the one thing that keeps putting me off is this:

    arabic seems to have spawned so many different forms.. which one iws the best one to learn. and if i choose a particular one, how hard will it be to adapt what i learn to other countries stlye of speaking?

    please bear in mind when you respond that:

    1. i have no clue about what i am talking about. the only things i have learnt have been gleaned from snippets of conversation with the arabic students on campus plus bits and bobs on here.

    2. one of the reasons i want to learn arabic is so that i can have a stab at reading the quoran in its original language. (don't ask why.. it's just one of those things i really want to do (and no, i am not muslim :))
    First of all, thanks for your interest! :)

    I will try to answer your questions as best as I can.

    There's not a cut-and-dry answer to your question about which dialect is the "best" one to learn. It really depends on which country(ies) you plan to visit and/or which dialects are spoken by those you most interact with. Nevertheless, some generalizations can be made.

    I hear that Palestinian Arabic is generally understood by most Arabs (as opposed to North African Arabic, which I have a hard time understanding). I have met several North Africans who, when speaking with me, have switched to a valiant attempt at Palestinian Arabic or an awkward oral version of standard Arabic, in order for me to understand them. I, on the other hand, spoke in Palestinian Arabic without compromising my interlocutors' degree of comprehension. Obviously, it would behoove me to learn North African Arabic (bearing in mind that that, too, is further subdivided into tens of dialects), but since I will not be heading toward that part of the world anytime in the near future, it is not as expedient a measure for me.

    While Palestinian Arabic may be rather universally understood because of its "familiar" properties, Egyptian Arabic is another winner - but for a different reason. Egypt has been a leader in the Arab world in the areas of media, film, art, and culture. That said, Arabs are exposed to a wide variety of cultural media communicated in the Egyptian dialect. Therefore, even though Egyptian Arabic differs quite substantially from Palestinian Arabic, I can understand it with no problems.

    I can understand Jordanian, Syrian, and Lebanese Arabic with absolutely no problems (they are the most similar to Palestinian Arabic). The Gulf dialects are somewhat more challenging, but I can understand them with minimal difficulty. Iraqi Arabic is also no problem, despite dissimilarity with Palestinian Arabic (it is supposed to be more similar to the standard). I have no idea what Sudanese Arabic is like; I have never heard it.

    Finally, learning spoken Arabic will not help you much as far as the Qur'an. Not only is the Qur'an written in standard Arabic (which is different from the colloquial version), but it is written in a classical, poetic style that even natives can have a hard time understanding. Studying modern standard Arabic would be more of a step in the right direction if your goal is reading the Qur'an in Arabic.

    I hope I've answered your questions. If not, please let me know. Many thanks for a fascinating topic!
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    elroy said:
    Finally, learning spoken Arabic will not help you much as far as the Qur'an. Not only is the Qur'an written in standard Arabic (which is different from the colloquial version), but it is written in a classical, poetic style that even natives can have a hard time understanding. Studying modern standard Arabic would be more of a step in the right direction if your goal is reading the Qur'an in Arabic.
    I think this is well comparable to the English Bible, whose language is not modern English, but actually 'ancient English'. At least, that's the way, the Bible is written in German. ;)
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Whodunit said:
    I think this is well comparable to the English Bible, whose language is not modern English, but actually 'ancient English'. At least, that's the way, the Bible is written in German. ;)
    Kind of, but not quite.

    Modern English is to Biblical English what modern standard Arabic is to Qur'anic Arabic. But colloquial Arabic is even further down the spectrum from standard Arabic! :)
     

    Benjy

    Senior Member
    English - English
    thanks for all your answers :)

    first off thansk for all your input :)

    righty. so modern standard arabic it is :D i dont know if i ever will have the chance to visit that part of the world, even though i would love to :D

    so, does anyone actually speak standard arabic? or does it sort of float about inbetween everyone elses own version?

    i am not too bothered about the style per se of the quoran just because i am quite used to reading scripture type stuff and i have already read a large chunk of it (the quoran) in french.

    now all i need is a dedicated herbrew forum to help me with the old testament :D:D

    edit: does anyone have any experience with books for learning the language? i mean, is the language of books standard arabic?
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Benjy said:
    now all i need is a dedicated herbrew forum to help me with the old testament :D:D
    There is one taking off round the corner, in the OL forum. Hebrew is, in my book, the strongest candidate for the next separate subforum. :)

    Jana
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Benjy said:
    edit: does anyone have any experience with books for learning the language? i mean, is the language of books standard arabic?
    Should be unless their titles state otherwise. I love Arabic (Teach Yourself) by John Robertson Smart - a gem of a book.

    Jana
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Benjy said:
    thanks for all your answers :)

    first off thansk for all your input :)

    righty. so modern standard arabic it is :D i dont know if i ever will have the chance to visit that part of the world, even though i would love to :D

    so, does anyone actually speak standard arabic? or does it sort of float about inbetween everyone elses own version?
    On an everday basis, no.
    Standard Arabic is used for writing (it is common throughout the Arab world, so a book in Algeria will be the same as a book in Qatar) and is spoken only in very formal situations - on the news, for example.

    edit: does anyone have any experience with books for learning the language? i mean, is the language of books standard arabic?
    The language of books is, indeed, the standard. With the very rare exception of comics and jokes and such, everything written will be written in standard Arabic. In fact, there is no standardized written version of the colloquial dialects.

    As for books, perhaps some of our erudite learners of the language could help you. I personally never had to purchase such a book! :p
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    elroy said:
    On an everday basis, no.
    Standard Arabic is used for writing (it is common throughout the Arab world, so a book in Algeria will be the same as a book in Qatar) and is spoken only in very formal situations - on the news, for example.

    The language of books is, indeed, the standard. With the very rare exception of comics and jokes and such, everything written will be written in standard Arabic. In fact, there is no standardized written version of the colloquial dialects.

    As for books, perhaps some of our erudite learners of the language could help you. I personally never had to purchase such a book! :p
    Imagine you had to read a book written in standard Arabic out to an Egyptian, would you use your colloquial forms instead of the words written in the book? Or would you try to rephase some phrases (since colloquial sentence structure sometimes differs from the standard)? Or do you think you could immediately read aloud word-by-word, although it isn't your familiar language?
     

    JLanguage

    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    Whodunit said:
    Imagine you had to read a book written in standard Arabic out to an Egyptian, would you use your colloquial forms instead of the words written in the book? Or would you try to rephase some phrases (since colloquial sentence structure sometimes differs from the standard)? Or do you think you could immediately read aloud word-by-word, although it isn't your familiar language?
    Daniel, I think you're missing the point here. He would not use colloquial forms because 1. the colloquial Egyptian dialects differ quite a bit from their Palestinian counterparts and 2. Arabic-speakers are used to the standard Arabic used in literature, but would find it awkward dialoging in standard Arabic. Elroy or other speakers, please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm going from what I've gleaned about Arabic from various stuff I've read/stuff Elroy has told me about Arabic from the past couple of months.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Whodunit said:
    Imagine you had to read a book written in standard Arabic out to an Egyptian, would you use your colloquial forms instead of the words written in the book? Or would you try to rephase some phrases (since colloquial sentence structure sometimes differs from the standard)? Or do you think you could immediately read aloud word-by-word, although it isn't your familiar language?
    The last one. I would read it exactly as written.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    JLanguage said:
    Daniel, I think you're missing the point here. He would not use colloquial forms because 1. the colloquial Egyptian dialects differ quite a bit from their Palestinian counterparts and 2. Arabic-speakers are used to the standard Arabic used in literature, but would find it awkward dialoging in standard Arabic. Elroy or other speakers, please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm going from what I've gleaned about Arabic from various stuff I've read/stuff Elroy has told me about Arabic from the past couple of months.
    You are absolutely correct.

    Not to mention the fact that it would be quite impractical to have to automatically switch to colloquial when the words in front of you are standard :) - even if I were reading out loud to another Palestinian.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    elroy said:
    The last one. I would read it exactly as written.
    Okay, this is quite interesting, because in German, we often use colloquialisms when reading aloud. If the book says "Gestern bin ich mit meiner Freundin ausgegangen", I'd read "Gest'rn bin 'ch mit mein'r Freund'n ausg'gang'". May it sound unbelievable to you, it's the way we read it. That's simply why I asked about the same matter in Arabic. :)
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Whodunit said:
    Okay, this is quite interesting, because in German, we often use colloquialisms when reading aloud. If the book says "Gestern bin ich mit meiner Freundin ausgegangen", I'd read "Gest'rn bin 'ch mit mein'r Freund'n ausg'gang'". May it sound unbelievable to you, it's the way we read it. That's simply why I asked about the same matter in Arabic. :)
    That doesn't sound so unbelievable, because it's not that different from the standard - you're just reading the text faster and swallowing up some of the vowels.

    Just to give you an idea of how different a sentence can be in the standard and in the colloquial:

    Standard: Thahabtu illa-s suuqi li ashtari tufaa7atan, wa lakinnaha bada2at an tumtira wa kaana-s suuqu mughlaqan.

    Colloquial: Ru7et 3a-s suu2 3ashaan ashtri tufaa7a, bas badat itshatti w kaan is-suuq msakker.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    elroy said:
    That doesn't sound so unbelievable, because it's not that different from the standard - you're just reading the text faster and swallowing up some of the vowels.

    Just to give you an idea of how different a sentence can be in the standard and in the colloquial:

    Standard: Thahabtu illa-s suuqi li ashtari tufaa7atan, wa lakinnaha bada2at an tumtira wa kaana-s suuqu mughlaqan.

    Colloquial: Ru7et 3a-s suu2 3ashaan ashtri tufaa7a, bas badat itshatti w kaan is-suuq msakker.
    Okay, this is an argument. :)

    Question to the word in bold: Didn't you tell me that (q) "ق" in colloquial Palestinian Arabic becomes (3) "ع"?
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Whodunit said:
    Okay, this is an argument. :)

    Question to the word in bold: Didn't you tell me that (q) "ق" in colloquial Palestinian Arabic becomes (3) "ع"?
    No, it becomes "2" ( ء ).

    I accidentally forgot to change it the second time. It's hard when you're transliterating!
     

    Swettenham

    Senior Member
    U.S.
    elroy said:
    On an everday basis, no.
    Standard Arabic is used for writing (it is common throughout the Arab world, so a book in Algeria will be the same as a book in Qatar) and is spoken only in very formal situations - on the news, for example.



    The language of books is, indeed, the standard. With the very rare exception of comics and jokes and such, everything written will be written in standard Arabic. In fact, there is no standardized written version of the colloquial dialects.

    As for books, perhaps some of our erudite learners of the language could help you. I personally never had to purchase such a book! :p
    OH!! :p Now I understand diglossia. I thought that standard Arabic was used only in formal, ceremonial contexts. But in fact it is the written form of Arabic, while the spoken forms have no "proper" written form! How interesting. :)
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Standard: Thahabtu illa-s suuqi li ashtari tufaa7atan, wa lakinnaha bada2at an tumtira wa kaana-s suuqu mughlaqan.

    Colloquial: Ru7et 3a-s suu2 3ashaan ashtri tufaa7a, bas badat itshatti w kaan is-suuq msakker.
    And to show how different colloquial "Arabics" are, i'll give you the Egyptian pronunciation of the same sentence :
    Ru7t es-suu2 3ashaan ashteri tufa7a, bas ibtadet temattar ("teshti" in Alexandrian Arabic) [yes, there are different words in the same country ] we kaan is-suu2 2afel/ma2fuul
     

    Reving Lane

    Member
    USA, English
    Benjy said:
    righty. so modern standard arabic it is :D i dont know if i ever will have the chance to visit that part of the world, even though i would love to :D

    edit: does anyone have any experience with books for learning the language? i mean, is the language of books standard arabic?
    Hi Benjy! I don’t know if you’ve already bought your books or not, but I thought I would throw in my two cents anyway. :idea: I would definitely say learn Modern Standard first, then you can tack on some dialects. Here is what I started with & what I recommend:
    Mastering Arabic by Jane Wightwick. Hippocrene Books. Book & (2) CD edition (December 15, 2004) ISBN: 0781810426.
    Now, the title is a tad deceptive because “mastering” implies you have prior knowledge & now you want to, well, master the language. In reality this book is for beginners. It’s excellent for vocab & grammar, it has lots of review exercises, you practice reading newspaper headlines, & many other useful exercises. As far as writing is concerned, this book illustrates the distinctions between hand-written letters and letters occurring in print (this is a big help!). Oh, and the font isn’t miniscule, unlike some Arabic-learning books; here the letters are legible enough. The 2 CDs are extremely helpful, as the recordings are done by native speakers (you’re getting the real thing in other words).
    Whenever anyone recommends a new book to me I usually go to xxx & read other people’s reviews to get more of the pros & cons. Check it out. Hope this is helpful & I’m not too late (I know, this thread is rather old, but I just started perusing the Arabic posts, sorry). Happy learning!!!
    :) :)
     

    xav

    Senior Member
    France
    In France, we are told to prefer Lebanese or Syrian teachers, since their language (obviously near to the Palestinian one) is nearer to Standard Arabic.

    Benjy, I've learned (old) Hebrew for the same reason : to be able to read the biblical text. Probably it's easier as Arabic (I've tried this one too, but only for one year), since the syntax and even the grammar are very simple (or not too complicate, about the conjugation of verbs). I recommend it !
     
    English, United States
    To further complicate matters, I'd like to recommend the textbook I used. It's a set, actually, the first of which is a slim volume called Alif Baa. It teaches the alphabet, and comes with a dvd to show proper writing technique, like they did for us in English when we were wee tots. They hired a calligrapher to do the demonstrations, and he's adorable. Anyway, the nice thing about it is it teaches only 2 or 3 letters at a time, and spends a whole lesson on only that, so it is very accessible. The second volume is fat and called Al-Kitaab, has more dvd's, & lots of geeky role-playing. My class got really into it at times, because characters and stories develop and it turns into a sort of soap opera. I never did figure out if Khaled and Maha get together...

    Publisher is Georgetown University Press.
     
    English, United States
    And about dialects: I support the above wisdom about Egyptian Arabic, but ultimately you will have to let your interests guide you. Don't let anyone tell you that one dialect is superior; one can only be more useful, depending on the situation. I learned 1 of the N. African dialects because of someone in my life; some people learn others because of an interest in a particular regions's politics, or history. I would suggest that you not even worry about learning a dialect until you find yourself dating an Arabic speaker or traveling to an Arab country. While learning to speak the ___ dialect, I tried to write down new words so I wouldn't keep forgetting them, but I found that the written, which to me is so systematic, could not accurately represent the spoken, which is so nuanced. The exercise actually made things more difficult, and I haven't written anything down since. All this to say it has been totally separate from my formal study of the language.

    You say you want to learn Arabic just because? I don't buy it. There's always a reason, even if it's embarassing.
     
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