Free Resources -> Arabic Dialects
The Arabic language is basically divided into two: the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) (or فصحى fuS-Ha) spoken in the media, used in newsapers and almost all writing on the one hand. And the various Arabic dialects that are used in everyday interactions on the other hand.
Obviously a knowledge of MSA will be extremely useful in learning the dialects and the same holds true the other way around.
One way to get an overview of the Arabic dialects is to divide them into a few basic groups:
Levantine (or Eastern) Arabic
This is an umbrella term for the dialects spoken in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine/Israel. In the Arab world this dialect is known as “شامي” (shaami).
This is the dialect spoken in Egypt and parts of Sudan and at the same time the most widely-spoken vernacular in the Arab world. That’s because Egypt is such a populous country and Egyptian TV, music and literature enjoy great popularity in the Middle East. The Arabic name of this dialect is “مصري” (maSri). Free introductory Egyptian Arabic course.
This refers to the Arabic dialects spoken around the Persian Gulf in countries such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, parts of Oman and parts of Saudi Arabia. A common misconception amongst Arabic learners is that Gulf Arabic is supposed to be the closest to Modern Standard Arabic. This is not the case, as there are a number of phonetical and lexical idiosyncrasies that distinguish it from standard Arabic. Arabs refer to this dialect as “خليجي” (khaleedji).
Subsumed under this category are the dialects spoken in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco (and possibly Maltese). A strong characteristic of these dialects is that there is a huge influx of French words and expressions that are intermingled with Arabic speech. In some areas of the region there are also influences from Berber languages. It is often said that for these reasons that native speakers of other Arabic dialects (e.g. Egyptian, Syrian etc.) find it extremely difficult to understand Maghribi Arabic.