Is Modern Standard Arabic Difficult for Arabs?

How proficient are you in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)? What is difficult for you? Do you make any mistakes?

This is part seven in the series “Arabs Say…” featuring Arabic speakers from around the Arab world who gives their views on their language and how it is used today. Of course, we should keep in mind that these are personal views and do not represent the views of everyone in their countries. Still, we can learn a lot about the overall linguistic situation and some commonalities and regional differences.

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  1. These are great as usual! It’s always interesting to hear the perspectives of heritage speakers.
    I’m curious what native speakers think is the best route for someone who wants to learn Arabic… should a non-native who studies the language learn MSA first, or a dialect? Should they be exposed to dialect(s) at the same time as MSA, or wait until their foundation in MSA is solid before exploring dialects?

    1. You will get so many answers to this question.
      But the first thing I always ask is what are YOU looking for? If you are just going for a short vacation to a particular Arabic country… Do that dialect. If you want to learn the language well over time and don’t know where you will go and don’t have Arabic speaking friends yet… Do the MSA first and maybe introduce a bit of exposure to dialect as you go along. At the point you have a need for dialect… You start to make friends… You have a goal to go to a particular country… Start to study that dialect. You will need it. But you also need the MSA if you want to read and watch some kinds of media. They are complementary and you will end up learning both if you are in for the long term. If you would be going to an Arabic speaking country to study in an institute, learn both simultaneously as you will be out in the street and meeting people. If you are a heritage speaker trying to talk to your family do that dialect, but when you have time and energy add MSA to become more well rounded. Reading can help acquire vocabulary and the transfer between dialect and MSA is not too bad… Especially for more educated sort of discussions. It is the daily life words that tend to be different. So analyse your needs and see which way you want to go. Again, ultimately you want both.


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