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How to Choose An Arabic Dialect to Study? An Arabic Dialects Guide


When people know that Arabic is the official language of 25 countries around the world, many of them assume that all the people in all of these countries speak the same language. However, this is not how it goes.

When we talk about the Arabic language, it is necessary to mention that there are two main subcategories. The first one is Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is used for formal settings, emails, media, education, books, etc. The other one is Colloquial Arabic, which is the spoken language.

Colloquial Arabic has many varieties. In fact, it can change a lot from one country to another. Sometimes, the change is so big that it makes it hard for native Arabic speakers from two countries to understand each other.

Now that you know this fact, you are probably asking yourself, which Arabic dialect should I learn? What Arabic dialect should I choose? In this article, we will help you choose the right one for you. 

Does Arabic have multiple dialects?

It is clear from what we already said above that the answer is yes. There are varieties of Arabic dialects. The Arabic language has many dialects and many varieties. Each country in the Arabic world has a unique dialect, and that dialect can change a little bit in different cities within the same country.

One of the easiest ways to categorize the Arabic dialects is by region. They are categorized as the following: 

  1. Maghrebi Arabic

This group includes the dialects of Western Arab countries like Morocco and Algeria.  These have some roots in Berber and Romance languages, especially French. Examples of dialects from this group are Moroccan Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, and Libyan Arabic.

  1. Egypto-Sudanic or Nile dialects

As the name suggests, this one includes the languages from countries near the Nile. They have roots in the Coptic and the Nubian languages. Examples of them are Sudanese Arabic and Egyptian Arabic.

  1. Mesopotamian Arabic

In the countries near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Arabic dialects have roots in old languages such as Aramaic and Iranian. These dialects are widely spoken in Iraq.

  1. Levantine Arabic

Dialects that belong to Levantine Arabic have roots in old languages like Canaanite and Aramaic, as well as some other languages like Turkish. They are widely spread in Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon.

  1. Gulf Arabic

These dialects are common in countries near the Arabian Peninsula. They have been influenced by South Arabian languages. They are common in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Should I learn classical Arabic or dialect?

Classical Arabic is the term for the old form of Arabic used to write the holy Quran. It is the only ancient form of Arabic that has survived to this day.

Classical Arabic is not a spoken dialect. However, learning it is important to those who want to read the Quran and understand its meanings. Furthermore, it can be quite beneficial to those who want to read old Arabic books or historical manuscripts.

To learn the Arabic dialects classical, you should: 

  1. Learn the needed Quranic vocabulary

If your purpose to learn Arabic is to be able to read the holy Quran, then the first thing you need to do is to learn the words that are common in it. Many of the books that are used to teach Arabic will teach you vocabulary that is needed in daily life activities like shopping, which are not found in the Quran.

Some lists contain frequently used words in the Quran. When you learn the first 100 most used words in the Quran with their meanings, you will be able to understand about half of the words of the Quran.

  1. Learn the Grammar of Arabic

Learning the words is not all that is needed to understand the meanings of the Quran. An essential step is to learn the grammar of Arabic. Learning the grammar of Arabic will help you understand the Quran faster, as it can clarify the meanings.

What is the best Arabic dialect to learn?

One of the common questions that Arabic teachers face is: What is the best dialect of Arabic to learn? Many foreign learners may assume there is a universal, perfect answer to this question. However, the truth is far from that.

There is no perfect dialect to learn when learning Arabic. There is a perfect dialect of Arabic for you according to your purpose. The best Arabic dialect to choose depends on several factors, including your purpose of learning Arabic.

  1. If your purpose is to read the Quran and learn about Islam

Arabic is the language of the holy Quran, and it is normal that you want to learn Arabic if you want to know more about Islam. In such cases, the best option for you is to focus on Classical Arabic. Classical Arabic is Similar to Modern standard Arabic. Therefore, it may help you to start with MSA if you want to learn it.

  1. If your goal is to study at an Arabic college

If you want to study at an Arabic university, it will be essential to gain the ability to read and write in Arabic. Most of the books you will have at the university will be written in modern standard Arabic. This makes Modern Standard Arabic the perfect dialect for Arabic students who aim to study in Arabic universities.

  1. If you need the Arabic language for your job

People who are planning to get a job in Arabic countries like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates will need to learn Arabic beforehand to be able to make reports, send/receive emails, and read the important information you need.

What you need to do this is to learn Modern Standard Arabic. This dialect is used in communication between businesses.

  1. If you want to learn Arabic to travel and visit Arabic countries

When your goal is to travel to Arabic countries and talk to people, then it would be better for you to learn Colloquial Arabic. Learning an Arabic dialect will make it easier to communicate with the common people from the street, as it is the spoken language.

Now, choosing the specific Arabic dialect to learn should consider a few factors. The first one is the country you are planning to visit. If you are planning to visit a specific country, like Iraq, for example, then you should learn the dialect that is used (Iraqi Arabic, in this case).

When your goal is to visit several Arabic countries, you need to choose one of the commonly used Arabic dialects. Some Arabic dialects can be understood in most Arabic-speaking countries. Try learning Egyptian Arabic or Levantine Arabic.

  1. If you want to learn Colloquial Arabic easily

Your mother language may have a huge impact on how easy you can learn Arabic and make some Arabic dialects easier than others to learn. If your mother language is French, then you will find it easier to learn one of the Maghrebi dialects. These dialects have roots in the Romance languages, and many vocabularies are derived from the French language.

Japanese people, on the other hand, will find that learning Levantine Arabic is easier than learning other Arabic dialects. The reason for that is the similarities in the phonemes between the Levantine dialect and the Japanese language.

What are the easiest and hardest dialects to learn in Arabic?

You already know that Arabic is one of the hardest languages to learn as a second language, especially since you have to learn new difficult sounds that do not exist in other languages, like the letter “ض”. Therefore, many Arabic language learners would want to find some learning hacks or look for the easiest Arabic dialect to learn.

Arabic language teachers are always asked about the easiest and simplest Arabic dialects to learn. You are probably here wondering about the easiest and hardest dialects to learn in Arabic.

The problem we all face when trying to provide a valid answer is that the answer can change a lot. The easiest Arabic dialect to learn for you could be hard to learn for others.

One of the common answers is Egyptian Arabic. Many people consider Egyptian Arabic the easiest dialect to learn Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is commonly understood in many Arabic countries. There are plenty of learning materials to teach Egyptian Arabic, and you can find plenty of movies, series, and songs in Egyptian Arabic.

If you want some help learning Egyptian Arabic, you will be able to find a private teacher to help you learn the dialect. The good news is that you can find many people online practicing the Egyptian dialect.

Another answer is Modern Standard Arabic. Unlike other Colloquial Arabic dialects, Modern Standard Arabic has a clear and specific grammar that you can learn from teachers, books, and apps.

How many dialects of Arabic are there?

It can be very difficult to tell the exact number of Arabic dialects that exist today. There are many Arabic dialects, and each country has a unique dialect.

When you dive further into the Arabic dialects, you will find that even different cities or regions inside the same country can have some varieties in their dialects.

If you are in Egypt, you will notice some differences between the dialects of Cairo and Alexandria, for example. However, people from both these regions will be able to understand each other as they speak.

If we neglect these differences, we can say that there are around 25 different dialects of Arabic.

What are the differences between Arabic dialects?

When Arabic people from two different countries meet, they can speak to each other and understand most of what each of them says. However, there will be times when one of them may ask the other to explain a word or phrase even though they both speak Arabic.

Over the years, Arabic dialects have developed, leading to each becoming different from the other. This change can come in the form of different words for the same meaning, like the word ‘money.’ In Syria and Lebanon, they say “مصاري,” pronounced “Masari,” while they say “فلوس,” pronounced “Foluss” in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

There are many reasons for these differences. One of them is the influence of old languages on the local dialects. People who lived in Arabic-speaking countries a long time ago used to deal with others who spoke other old languages like Aramaic or Coptic. As a result, they derived some words from their languages that became later part of the Arabic dialects.

Another reason for these differences is the wars that have happened in the region over the years. As we all know, there have been many wars for thousands of years in the Middle East. When other nations conquered the countries of the Middle East, the locals learned certain words and phrases from their language and used them as part of the Arabic dialects.

The differences in Arabic dialects are not limited to having different words with the same meaning. You can notice that in some Arabic dialects, some letters of the words are altered by one letter or even removed completely to make pronunciation easier and enable them to speak faster. An example of that is the word “محّم”. Some people in Saudi Arabia may say it instead of “معهم”, which means with them.

Arabic dialect comparison

Before you decide which Arabic dialect especially if you are planning on learning a spoken one, it could be a good idea to compare the popular dialects. Comparing the dialects of Arabic will allow you to see how many people you can connect with if you learn the dialect and where it can benefit you more.

  1. Egyptian dialect

Egyptian Arabic is the Arabic dialect popular in Egypt and Sudan. More than 100 million people speak Egyptian Arabic around the world, but learning it can let you speak to people from other countries. It can be quite familiar since it has been used in media and cinema for the past century.

Learning Egyptian Arabic will not be enough to be able to write formal letters, but it can be good if you are planning to work in the tourism section.

  1. Levantine Arabic dialect

This one involves the dialects used in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine. More than 50 million people speak Levantine Dialect around the world. The main thing that distinguishes Levantine Arabic from other dialects is the letter “ق”, as it is common for people to replace it with the letter “أ” when they speak.

For example, when you want to say the Arabic word “قلب”, which means heart, you will pronounce it “Alb” instead of “Qalb”. Learning the Levantine dialect will be essential if you want to live in the Levantine region, as it would help you in many fields.

  1. Gulf Arabic dialect

Gulf Arabic dialect is the term for the dialects spoken in the Arabian Peninsula Gulf countries, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and the southern parts of Iraq and Jordan.

The Gulf Arabic dialect seems to have some similarities with the Egyptian Dialect but with some differences regarding the way of pronouncing some letters, especially the letter “ج”, which is pronounced “J” in Gulf dialect. This letter can cause some confusion as some natives may pronounce it as “Y.” For example, you will have to pronounce the word “رجال” as “rayyal” instead of “rajjal” in some countries.

Anyone planning to work in or with companies from the Arabic peninsula should learn the Gulf Arabic dialect. Learning it will increase your chances of working in fields like oil, refined products, and trading.

  1. Maghrebi or a Moroccan Arabic dialect

This dialect is spoken in the western part of North Africa in countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Libya. It has a lot of French vocabulary; therefore, it can be easier to learn if you are fluent in French.

People who speak the Moroccan dialect tend to speak fast and may change some letters into others, such as changing the letter “ر” into “غ” (R into GH), like in French, and changing the letter “ق” into ك” (letter Qaf into Kaf).

What is the most common Arabic dialect?

To the people who do not want to learn Arabic to use it in their jobs but as a way to communicate with other people, like those who want to travel to the Arabic world, learning the most common dialect of Arabic will make it easier for them to achieve their goal.

The advice the Arabic teacher usually recommends is to learn the dialect of the country you plan to visit. But if you want to visit more than one Arab country, you will want to figure out which Arabic dialect is most widely understood in them.

Among the variety of Arabic dialects, the most popular is the Egyptian dialect. During the past century, the Egyptian dialect has been used widely in the movie industry. Every year, Native Arab speakers watch plenty of movies in the Egyptian dialect, which makes it quite easy for them to understand and memorize a lot of vocabulary that is used in Egypt.

Your second choice would be the Levantine Arabic dialect. Although Levantine Arabic does not have as many speakers as Egyptian Arabic, due to the media and TV shows, many people are able to understand Levantine Arabic dialects as well.

The most useful Arabic dialect

When people start to learn a new language, they do so to gain an extra tool to help them communicate with others. Normally, this applies to the Arabic language. With that being said, it would be clear that you do not want to learn a language that does not fit your purpose of learning the language. This is what you need to consider when choosing the Arabic dialect that you want to learn.

Now, before you ask which dialect of Arabic is most useful, you should know the uses you have in mind for this dialect. Do you want to learn Arabic to read the Quran and learn about Islam? Do you want to learn Arabic to speak with people? Do you need the Arabic language to study in college?

When your purpose is to read the Quran and learn about Islam, then you need to start learning the classical Arabic dialect. Classical Arabic dialect is the language of the Quran. Since it is the old form of Arabic, you will have to adjust your learning to focus on what is needed to help you understand the terms and phrases of the Quran.

Keep in mind that you need both vocabulary and grammar to help you read and understand the Quran. Therefore, you may need a private tutor to help you even if you are using other methods like learning apps.

If you plan to study at an Arabic university, we recommend that you learn Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). This dialect is the most useful for students and businesses. Your Emails and official documents will all be written in MSA, and learning it will help you.

Finally, when you want to learn Arabic to communicate with people orally while you travel, you can choose either the dialect of the country you are traveling to or the Egyptian dialect if your plan involves visiting multiple countries.

As we mentioned earlier, the Egyptian dialect is widely spread and understood around the Arabic world and will help you communicate with most of the native Arabic people you are going to meet.

Which Arabic dialect is closest to the Quran?

There is some controversy regarding which Arabic dialect is closest to the Quran. Some people say that the Iraqi dialect is the closest, while others may say that it is the Levantine or Gulf dialects.

However, you must know that all of these dialects have evolved over time, and they do not seem to be the same as classical Arabic anymore. But if you want to read the Quran without having to learn Classical Arabic, then you should learn Modern Standard Arabic.

Modern Standard Arabic has similar grammar, and it will facilitate studying the Quran for you. You will need either to use a dictionary or to read the Tafseer. In general, Modern Standard Arabic will be the best choice for you.


What is the best Arabic dialect for business?

This is a fundamental question when planning to learn Arabic. The answer is Modern Standard Arabic if you will have to deal with official documents, Gulf dialects if you are going to be dealing with locals from Gulf countries over the phone, and Egyptian in some fields such as tourism.

What dialect of Arabic is the Quran?

The language that is used to write the Quran is the classical Arabic dialect.

Which dialect of Arabic should I learn for the Quran?

It is preferred that you learn Classical Arabic, but you can also read the Quran if you learn Modern Standard Arabic.

What Arabic dialect is used in interpretation?

Usually, the dialect that is used is Modern Standard Arabic.

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