The 6 main dialects of the Arabic language

Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of Arabic, whether it’s a specific dialect or MSA (Modern Standard Arabic). I am not an expert, nor is this article based on any expertise I have. If you want more relevant articles about Arabic, there are other language learners who have much more knowledge in this language than me. But I have read several articles about the dialects of Arabic and the differences between them, and I think I can present a brief summary of them.

I find Arabic very interesting. I am seriously thinking of starting to learn it, as soon as I reach a desired level in Hebrew. Arabic, however, has many dialects, and does not resemble each other. German spoken in Hamburg is very different from that spoken in Bavaria, but it is not written differently. Arabic, however, is written differently depending on the area and dialect. Which I find very interesting.

How does an Arab from Morocco get along with one from Jordan? Through a form of Arabic called Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). MSA has simpler, more colloquial words and a simpler grammatical structure than Arabic dialects. It’s like the German Hochdeutsch or the Castilian Spanish for speakers who are from Spain. For those who want to learn a type of Arabic that can be understood everywhere, MSA is the right choice.

For those who want to explore Arabic in-depth, they must choose a dialect to study, because the differences between the dialects are quite large. After all, there are 310 million native speakers of Arabic, spread over 2 continents and dozens of countries. It’s normal for the dialects to be different.

Egyptian Arabic (ammiyah)

Egyptian Arabic is the most widely spoken dialect of Arabic, with 60 million speakers (almost the entire population of Egypt), but it is spread throughout North Africa through the media. Most American or European series and movies are translated into Egyptian Arabic, so there are many speakers of other dialects of Arabic that are exposed to Egyptian Arabic. The vocabulary is similar to that of MSA, but the pronunciation of words and grammar are different.

Levantine Arabic (shami)

Levantine Arabic has over 25 million speakers in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories, but also in Israel, in disputed areas and within the Arabic-speaking community. Levantine is also a very common dialect and many films and books are translated into this dialect, especially due to the fact that Jordan and Lebanon are economically performing countries. Levantine Arabic is very different from standard Arabic, it has no less than 12 forms of personal pronouns! Besides the unique grammar, some expressions and greeting forms are also different.

North African Arabic (maghrebi)

This Arabic dialect is spoken in Northern Africa in countries such as Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. This part of Africa has been ruled by European colonies for many years, so it is normal for the Maghrebi Arabic to have strong Spanish and French influences. In fact, there are even some who say that Maghrabi (or Derja, الدارجة) is a different language from Modern Standard Arabic. Oh, yes, Maghrabi Arabic is also spoken very quickly.

Gulf Arabic (khaleeji)

Spoken in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE (United Arab Emirates), Oman and Saudi Arabia, but also in southern Iran and southern Iraq. It has about 9 million native speakers, and is structurally closest to MSA.

Yemeni Arabic (يمني)

Yemeni Arabic is spoken by over 15 million people in Yemen, part of Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Somalia and Somaliland (disputed territory). Yemeni Arabic is considered to have more ‘classical’ structures than other dialects.

Sudanese Arabic (سوداني)

Sudanese Arabic is very similar to Egyptian Arabic, however it has some distinctive features, especially in pronunciation. It has about 33 million native speakers.

There are other Arabic dialects such as Mesopotamian Arabic, Hassaniya Arabic and others. But these 6 are the most commonly spoken.

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