Having a blast with Arabic

Although my progress has been way slower than I anticipated, I have been having a great time learning Egyptian Arabic.

In case you don’t know, Arabic is not the language you thought it was. At least it is not the language I thought it was. There is a standard version of the language, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) that is used in official documents and other formal settings. That is the Arabic thought in most books and courses out there. Then there are the many variants of the language actually used by people in the Arab world.

As far as I can tell, Arabic is like a huge tree that begins at the root with Classical Arabic, which is the Arabic of the Koran. Then the main trunk of this tree corresponds to MSA which is very close to Classical Arabic. Two large branches diverge from the trunk; one being the Oriental Arabic branch and the other being the Occidental Arabic branch.

From my very limited experience, it appears that people in the Oriental Arab world can understand each other somewhat and the same situation exists in the Occidental Arab world. By the way, Orient = East, Occident = West. Egypt is in the Eastern Arab world and Morocco is in the Western Arab world.
When an Easter Arab speaks with a Western Arab then things get complicated. Some people out there claim that MSA is the universal language that brings it all together but from what I’ve heard, this isn’t so.

Now, who is claiming that MSA is the language spoken in the whole Arab world? Academics mostly and college-educated professionals. Thus the situation exists whereas these particular demographics in the Arab world can speak with each other no matter where in the Arab world they find themselves in but the other 99% in the Arab world speak their regional versions of the Arabic language and cannot communicate as easily as the college crowd.

Phew! So why is this important to you and me? For one, you are likely to waste a lot of money and time collecting resources to learn Arabic because 99% (I like to use this percentage a lot) of the resources out there are for MSA! So if you are planning to go to Lybia and learn MSA you will find yourself being able to speak only to academics and some professionals and you will then have to learn the Lybian Arabic to get along with the other 99% of the population.

I was lucky to have found the Michel Thomas method when I did, before I spent 100’s of dollars buying more MSA material. As it is, I am learning Egyptian Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is on the way to becoming the defacto standard in the Arab world by virtue of being the Arabic spoken in most Arabic movies and songs. I hear that there are Nobel prize winning novels written in Egyptian Arabic now. Since Egypt exports all this popular culture across the Arab world, many Arabs understand Egyptian Arabic or Musry (Musr = Egypt). Unfortunately, there is little in the way of books to learn Musry. I found a couple of books on Musry verbs and a few web sites where Musr vocabulary is collected. Now I am in the process of watching Egyptian movies on YouTube.

Now I would like to remind you that I am an absolute noob here. Some of what I said above may be incorrect but I bet I am close to being on target. Oh! and I finally found my video camera so soon I will start uploading videos.


My Japanese has taken a back seat to Arabic for now but not for long. I expect to advance in Japanese quite quickly once I take it up again since I already have tons of resources at hand. Also, I did spend a lot of time last year learning this language so a lot of it will be review.

Thank you for looking!


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