When I started learning Arabic, I took a while to decide what to do. I knew there were many different dialects and I had no idea how to pick on. Sure, people could tell me what the most common ones were, but that didn’t necessarily mean I was interested. I’m not learning Arabic for a specific reason beyond my own interest in it, so the popularity isn’t a big factor.
Since I didn’t know what else to do, I picked Modern Standard Arabic as it seemed like the neutral decision. I always intended to learn a dialect, but stuck with MSA at first. For those who don’t know, MSA is primarily used in writing and formal speech such as the news. It’s not generally used in conversation, but everyone understands it because it’s taught in school.
I found myself an excellent tutor on italki and off I went. I loved it. However, after a year of study (190+ hours since I started recording in July 2019) I realised I couldn’t advance very quickly at all. After some consideration, I realised there were two main factors:
- I learn best if I can listen as well as read in a language
- It is very difficult to find interesting audio/visual content in MSA
I also realised that I wasn’t learning a language I could use to speak to people, which is my primary goal. I love language because I’m a nerd and have an intense fascination with linguistics, but also because speaking to people all around the world is a joy to me. MSA is too formal to achieve that properly.
So I switched to the Levantine dialect.
- My tutor – who I think is absolutely great – is from Palestine, so she already teaches Levantine
- I think it sounds great to listen to
- There’s lots of media and social content in this dialect
This happened a few weeks ago, literally halfway through one of my Arabic classes. I sprung it on my tutor mid-sentence. I’m not joking. Fortunately she took it in her stride and now I’m happily working away at this dialect.
It’s renewed my passion for Arabic and has opened a world of interesting things to watch. I can’t wait to continue.
If you’re learning Arabic, what dialect did you pick and why?