Arabic Language Blog

Perceptions of Standard Arabic and colloquial dialects Posted by on Sep 8, 2012 in Arabic Language, Culture

Learners of Arabic as a foreign language often wonder which variety of Arabic to learn. The advice that we give to them is to learn Modern Standard Arabic (الفصحى) which is the variety used in written and formal spoken media (e.g. the news). Then after achieving some proficiency in MSA, we advise learners to acquaint themselves with one of the colloquial (عامية) dialects of Arabic. I believe that both varieties are important for anyone who wants to understand the Arabic culture and learn the Arabic language.

MSA is regarded as the educated and ‘correct’ version of Arabic. It is the formal and the standard variety.  Some people in the Arab world look down upon colloquial varieties as an inferior version of standard Arabic, and sometimes they regard them as a threat to Arabic culture, as colloquial dialects are changing all the time, and they are increasingly diverging from Standard Arabic; moreover, they are increasingly influenced by foreign languages. Despite this, people do not speak Standard Arabic in everyday life situations! A great deal of the cultural and creative products of Arab peoples is in colloquial, e.g. songs, films, etc.

My perception of Standard Arabic and colloquial dialects is that they complement each other. They work together in perfect harmony; each variety serves its purposes effectively, and there is no way that one of them can replace the other. I believe that it is time to abandon the old-fashioned views that standard is better than colloquial and to start to embrace the variety and diversity of Arabic dialects and celebrate it!

What do YOU think?

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  1. mohamad:

    I agree, I’ve started to learn Arabic since 3 months ago, and it was my question too, so I decided to forget about dialects until I master the MSA