Dialects of Arabic

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As -salaam aleykum!
I have been struggling with Arabic for years now. partly due to the fact that I need it only for purely practical purposes and usually use it "on the spot", I pick up bits and pieces from various kinds of Arabic. so I find that when I use words that I learnt from Moroccans, my Lebanese and Saudi friends say they`ve never heard such in their life, when I use Iraqi words, my Algerian friends are completely baffled and so on. it seems to me now that for some dialects it is probably time to declare them separate languages that developed on the basis of Arabic. What would native speakers advise me on this matter? which variation does it make more sense to learn? Are there tips for "surviving" in any Arabic country or for distinguishing the dialects?
Shokran jazillan!
 
  • SofiaB

    Senior Member
    English Asia
    See this forum sticky:
    13a. http://syrianarabic.com/
    (online lessons in Syrian Arabic)
    13b. http://friendsofmorocco.org/arabictoc.htm
    (Moroccan Arabic)
    13c. http://onlinelearning.lingnet.org/BIA/data/loader.htm
    (Iraqi Arabic)
    13d. http://aramati.com/sudanesearabic/Lesson1.htm
    (Sudanese Arabic)
    13e. http://abcleb.com/
    (Lebanese Arabic)
    13f. http://web.1asphost.com/NOASS/ArEg/
    (Egyptian Arabic, with standard Arabic as well)
    13g. http://pageduliban.ch/index.htm
    (Lebanese Arabic, with standard Arabic as well - site in French)
    7c. http://langmedia.fivecolleges.edu/co...n/joIndex.html
    (Palestinian Arabic of Jordan)
    7d. http://www.alrashidmall.com/learn-arabic.htm
    (Saudi Arabic)
    7e. http://geocities.com/TheTropics/Caba....html#Heading1
    (Mauritanian Arabic, with French explanations)
    Also search threads on dialects and MSA.
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    it seems to me now that for some dialects it is probably time to declare them separate languages that developed on the basis of Arabic. What would native speakers advise me on this matter? which variation does it make more sense to learn? Are there tips for "surviving" in any Arabic country or for distinguishing the dialects?
    Shokran jazillan!
    The fact that each dialect has its own expressions that are not used by the others, doesn't make those dialects separate languages.

    As for the Arabic variations that could go almost anywhere: I suggest Egyptian and Lebanese.
    You can also go for MSA (fusHa). People don't speak it in their daily life, but they understand it when spoken to them.

    If you really "tour" the Arab countries, then fus7a is the safer thing -in my humble opinion- unless you're willing to learn all, or most, of the Arabic dialects.

    P.S. Please use the forum's search feature to look for threads where the issue of dialects was discussed before.
     

    Tariq_Ibn_zyad

    Senior Member
    French,arabic(moroccan,algerian)
    As -salaam aleykum!
    I have been struggling with Arabic for years now. partly due to the fact that I need it only for purely practical purposes and usually use it "on the spot", I pick up bits and pieces from various kinds of Arabic. so I find that when I use words that I learnt from Moroccans, my Lebanese and Saudi friends say they`ve never heard such in their life, when I use Iraqi words, my Algerian friends are completely baffled and so on. it seems to me now that for some dialects it is probably time to declare them separate languages that developed on the basis of Arabic. What would native speakers advise me on this matter? which variation does it make more sense to learn? Are there tips for "surviving" in any Arabic country or for distinguishing the dialects?
    Shokran jazillan!
    it really depends where and with who you want to speak arabic.
    Many people say egyptian or syro-lebanese:that's true if you want to practice in the middle-east or also in the gulf,but if you want to speak with moroccans or algerians that would make no sense. Everyone insists on the fact that egytpian is understood by a large majority of arabs thanks to medias...ok..but despite that moroccans,iraqis,saudis and lybians would understand your egyptian,that doesn't mean YOU could understand them,as they would still use there native dialect.

    I suggest:

    In the middle east: palestinian arabic(it's clear for the understanfing and it's similar to syrian,lebanese,jordanian and you would have no real problem communicating with egyptians)

    In the gulf:I think they are all very similar if you don't look a the pronounciation of some letters,I guess any badawi dialect would make it except for omani and yemeni which are quite different

    In North africa:I guess algerian would be undestood by both moroccans and tunisians,you just have to know that in this area the variation between dialects is more important than in the middle east or the gulf,you could divide it in 3 groups:-western north african:morocco,algeria
    -eastern north african:tunisia,west of lybia
    -saharian:western sahara,mauretania and south of morocco

    but in practice it is more a progressive change,for example eastern moroccan and western algerian are close,eastern algerian and tunisian are close,south tunisian and lybian are close..etc etc

    for sudan:most of the sudanese people know egyptian arabic
     

    zooz

    Senior Member
    Arabic & Syrian Arabic
    I personally would not prefer any dialect over other. Choosing to learn an Arabic dialect when the person is not in the country itself is related to many factors such as the reason of selecting that very dialect, the availability of the linguistic resources and persons with whom one can practice. The best scenario would be to get motivated by a native wife/girlfriend to interact on daily basis. Bear in mind that speaking an Arabic dialect is restricted to one or a couple of countries, while the MSA is the common language of the Arabian nations. For instance, the Algerian dialect wouldn't be understood clearly in Qatar, Yemeni in Libya and so forth.

    Due to movies, TV series, songs...etc., the Egyptian accent is widely comprehended in the Middle East without any doubt.
     
    Thanks everybody for your kind replies. I shall check the sticky section also for courses and dictionaries.
    The thing is that I am not in that situation when I need Arabic for working or living in a particular country. I need to communicate with people from various countries and, preferably, be understood by the vast majority and understand most people as well. And I inevitably stumble over these differences. But I shall keep trying:) . Arabic is also a very difficult language because I never know where the stress comes. There don`t seem to exist any stable rules concerning this. It is so much easier with Farsi in this respect. Although the difficulty of "dancing" vowels remains.
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    I am going to take a different approach from the others ,since I am a learner not a native.
    If I understand you correctly you do not wish to study Arabic in depth. Reading is not a priority only verbal communication . Therefore I would suggest familiarizing yourself with a little of more than one variant. You will see they are not so different after all. The problem is more with pronunciation not vocabulary. None of the variants is random as some might have you believe. They have rules just as MSA does but they are often different and the grammar has been simplified. If you compare the vocabulary there is a small percentage of words that are found in any one variant and not the others, probably less than five percent.. This occurs in all languages. If you learn basic and frequently used phrases in several variants you will be able to carry on a conversation. Some examples of what to expect: Western sbah il kher, eastern sabah il kher. Ramadhan,Ramadan,Ramazan are all the same holiday. Gulf samach is samak elsewhere. Finally qlem,qalam,galam and ‘alam are the same word. So you can see how the variants as Cherine said are still the same language and they would all be written the same way. You can also see why when spoken quickly some of the people may not understand each other while others do. If you do not already know it, Arabic is based on three letter root words and unwritten vowels are added to finalize the meaning. In most of the examples the root is the same. In some a letter is pronounced differently but the root remains intact.
     

    Ruffiy

    New Member
    Arabic-K.S.A
    Sorry to disagree , but I think choosing certain dialect in order to learn Arabic is so wrong way
    i recommend standard ( calssical) Arabic to all Arabic learners , they're gonna be understood by all different dialects speakers as well it is grammatically ,semantically ....etc correct
     

    Tariq_Ibn_zyad

    Senior Member
    French,arabic(moroccan,algerian)
    Sorry to disagree , but I think choosing certain dialect in order to learn Arabic is so wrong way
    i recommend standard ( calssical) Arabic to all Arabic learners , they're gonna be understood by all different dialects speakers as well it is grammatically ,semantically ....etc correct
    I disagree with you on the fact that classical arabic is "correct" and not dialects...even certain arabs think like that,but historically that's false.
    Arabic dialects have always existed.A dialect is not badly spoken arabic.Each dialect has it's own grammar,of course it is different than classical arabic grammar,but that doesn't mean it is not correct,it's just different,a dialect has it's own rules,vocabulary,conjugation,syntax..etc.
    For learning I agree that one should learn classical arabic first,but I think that knowing at least one dialect is necessary.MSA and Colloquial arabic have different uses,one that only wants to speak with people should better focus on colloquial,and one that plans a more deap study of the language,with its litterary aspect should focus on MSA...but I think that they go together
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Can anybody recommend some web resource which would show the comparison of essential differences between the dialects?
    Also, could somebody tell me if there are actual rules for placing the stress in words? Not all dictionaries give it.
    I don't know if such websites exist, but try to see what those listed in the resources sticky have to offer.

    As for stress, usually, stressing is not rigidly fixed in Arabic. I can't think of a rule, but let's say that you can stress the syllables with long vowels.
     

    abusaf

    Senior Member
    Sweden
    There is actually a book called "The Syntax of Spoken Arabic - A comparative study of Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian and Kuwaiti dialects" by Kristen E. Brustad.

    I have it and its extremly analytical, almost over the top, but very useful if one is intrested in finding out the differences between different dialects. It was a snoozefest to me though.

    بالنسبة إلى كون الفصحى أصح من غيرها من اللهجات العربية, فهذا رأى واسع الانتشار بين العرب, و الكثير من العرب حينما يتكلمون عن الفصحى لا يقولون "الفصحى" بل يسمّونها "اللغة العربية الصحيحة". و الله أعلم
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    This thread has managed to bring up a variety of issues and points that have been previously discussed on this forum, but very few, if any at all, that are new.

    To sum up,

    -The dialects differ from each other at varying degrees. For the most part, however, they share a common vocabulary with differences in pronunciation.
    -Whether to learn MSA or a dialect depends on the learner's goals. In order to really know Arabic in all of its aspects, one needs to learn both MSA and at least one dialect.
    -Which dialect to learn depends on where the learner plans on going and who he plans on speaking to. If he will be going to more than one country or speaking to speakers of more than one dialect, he could either choose a dialect that is more or less "universally understood" or learn a little bit from more than one dialect, as Marc suggested.
    -MSA is understood everywhere in the Arab world, although it is not used in informal contexts.
    -While widespread, the notion that MSA is more correct than colloquial Arabic is absurd. Among other things, the dialects have their own grammar (usually simplified versions of MSA) and their own vocabulary (MSA words either pronounced differently or otherwise modified, and foreign words not accepted in MSA) - but neither version is more correct than the other.

    Please feel free to do a search for previous threads that have discussed and debated these issues at length. If you have something new or interesting to contribute about these issues, please do so in one of those threads. Otherwise, please do not open a new thread unless you wish to discuss a new topic that has not been brought up before.

    This thread is closed.
     
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