Choosing between Arabic dialects to learn may be challenging because there are so many of them! Here, we aim to make choosing which dialect of Arabic to commit to easier for you. We will explain the main differences between Arabic dialects and give you the best recommendations including the professional application of each of the dialects. Specifically, we will talk about:
- the differences between the many dialects of Arabic out there;
- how to choose the right dialect for you;
- which professional applications different Arabic dialects have;
- how to learn different dialects of Arabic online.
Arabic is a rich, complex language, and a lot of facts about it might surprise you. For example, did you know that in Arabic…
- Verbs come first and adjectives come second, unlike in English.
- Similar words that express one general idea are constructed from one root, which consists of three consonants. An example is the root K-T-B conveying the idea of “writing”. Consequently, kataba means “he wrote”, katib means “writer”, and kutub means “books”.
- Different dialects are distinct. Unlike English, Arabic is pluricentric, which means that there is no mutual intelligibility of Arabic dialects.
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Arabic dialects map
Arabic is spoken in 22 countries as an official language and 3 more as a co-official one. Here is an Arabic dialect map: Saudi Arabia, Chad, Algeria, Comoros, Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Bahrain, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Arabic is subdivided into three main versions:
- Quranic or Classical Arabic
- Modern Standard Arabic
- Colloquial or Daily Arabic
However, around the world, there are over 25 Arabic languages and dialects spoken.
Here is a list of Arabic dialects: Maghrebi, Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian, Libyan, Hassaniya, Saharan, Sudanese, Chadian, Juba, Egyptian, Sa’idi, Bahrani, Bareqi, Gulf, Najdi, Omani, Hejazi, Hadhrami, Shihhi, Dhofari, Yemeni, Tihamiyya, Mesopotamian (a.k.a. Iraqi), North Mesopotamian (Moslawi/Qeltu), Levantine, Syrian, Cypriot Maronite, Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian, Bedawi, and Andalusian.
Watch this interesting video – it may help you choose among so many Arabic dialects!
Main Arabic dialect
Even though there are so many Arabic language dialects around the world, the Egyptian Arabic dialect is considered to be the main one and is more or less understood by the native speakers of all other dialects. With over 60 million speakers globally, Egyptian is also the language of Arabic media.
Modern Standard Arabic Vs. Colloquial Arabic
The difference between Modern Standard (MSA) and Colloquial Arabic is simple. When the language is written and used officially, it is in MSA. Colloquial Arabic, on the other hand, is spoken at home and between friends, casually, and is also used in informal written communication, e.g. emails.
Learning Arabic online
Nowadays, you can learn any language you want to online, and this includes Arabic. On Eurekly, you can learn different Arabic dialects online by choosing to be tutored by a native speaker. Some of Eurekly’s expert Arabic online teachers include:
- Marwa, an Arabic language tutor for non-natives from Egypt, who has a wide variety of experience teaching all levels, ages, and nationalities.
- Yara, a medical student from Syria, who has been tutoring online for a year and is passionate about culture and politics.
- Yassine, who lives in Morocco and has been teaching Arabic to speakers of other languages since 2018.
- Ibrahim, a certified Arabic teacher to non-native speakers from Egypt, who has been teaching the language since 2014.
Which Arabic dialect should I learn?
Below, we will summarize key points of some of the most popular Arabic dialects, to serve as an Arabic dialect comparison guide for you.
After reading, you will hopefully have the answer to “what Arabic dialect should I learn?”!
1. Egyptian Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Egypt.
- Number of speakers: The Egyptian Arabic dialect is spoken by a total of 68 million people around the world.
- Key peculiarity: Egyptian spoken Arabic has more vowels than Modern Standard Arabic. Egyptian dialect Arabic has four short and six long vowels, as compared to three short and three long vowels in MSA.
- Professional application: If you master the Arabic Egyptian dialect, you could work in tourism, which Egypt is famous for.
2. Syrian Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Syria.
- Number of speakers: About 8 million people speak the Syrian Arabic dialect.
- Key peculiarity: The Arabic Syrian dialect is a softer, slower-flowing dialect than other Arabic dialects, making it easier to learn.
- Professional application: If you master Syrian dialect Arabic, you could thrive in the industry of international journalism in this politically important region.
3. Gulf Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, as well as eastern Saudi Arabia, northern Oman, some parts of southern Iraq and some parts of Iran.
- Number of speakers: The Gulf Arabic dialect is spoken by almost 7 million people.
- Key peculiarity: Gulf Arabic is mostly mutually intelligible with Egyptian Arabic, but with some key differences, like the fact that some letters are pronounced differently. Gulf Arabic features words with a ‘j’ sound that are pronounced as a ‘g’ in Egyptian Arabic.
- Professional application: If you master the Arabic Gulf dialect, you will be able to communicate with natives of many countries and, therefore, get into and succeed in many industries. This includes oil and refined products, acyclic alcohols, motor cars, and others.
4. Moroccan Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Morocco.
- Number of speakers: The Moroccan Arabic dialect is spoken by 19 million people.
- Key peculiarity: In Moroccan Arabic, short vowels are collapsed. Also, unlike in most other Arabic dialects, doubled consonants are never simplified to a single consonant, even when at the end of a word or preceding another consonant.
- Professional application: Speaking the Moroccan Arabic dialect gives one the opportunity to find good jobs in the tourism industry.
5. Saudi Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Saudi Arabia.
- Number of speakers: The Saudi Arabic dialect is spoken by approximately 8 million Saudi nationals, especially in the cities of Mecca and Jeddah.
- Key peculiarity: Since most Saudis speak their local dialects as their first language, MSA as a second language, and English as a third language, you will hear influences of all these reflected in the Arabic Saudi dialect.
- Professional application: If you choose to learn Saudi Arabic dialect, it can help you as a professional in the spheres of import/export of goods, machinery and equipment, chemicals, motor vehicles, and others.
6. Iraqi Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Iraq.
- Number of speakers: The Arabic Iraqi dialect is spoken by almost 40 million people.
- Key peculiarity: The Iraqi Arabic dialect has more consonants than Modern Standard Arabic, and a few additional long vowels. Also, words end with consonants rather than vowels in Iraqi Arabic.
- Professional application: If you are professionally interested in journalism or current affairs, learning the Iraqi dialect of Arabic is a good choice.
7. Lebanese Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Lebanon.
- Number of speakers: The Lebanese Arabic dialect is spoken by over 5 million people.
- Key peculiarity: Lebanese Arabic has a distinct syllable structure to Modern Standard Arabic. While MSA can have only one consonant at the beginning of a syllable, after which a vowel must follow, this is not true for the Arabic Lebanese dialect which commonly has two consonants in the onset.
- Professional Application: Lebanese Arabic has the reputation of being a very beautiful language that is slightly hard to learn, so to learn Arabic Lebanese dialect is to help yourself stand out in the job market. It is useful in the sectors of banking, tourism, real estate, construction, food exports and more.
8. UAE Arabic dialect, a.k.a. Emirati Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: United Arab Emirates, consisting of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain.
- Number of speakers: While the UAE has a population of over 10 million people, its native population that speaks the UAE Arabic dialect consists of only 1.4 million people.
- Key peculiarity: The UAE Arabic dialect spoken by native Emiratis is a sub-dialect of Gulf Arabic, generally very similar to that spoken in surrounding countries.
- Professional application: Industries thriving in the UAE include petroleum, cement, ship repair and construction, among others.
9. Yemeni Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Yemen.
- Number of speakers: The dialect is spoken by about 15.1 million people.
- Key peculiarity: Yemeni Arabic is known for its diversity, as there is no national dialect for the entire country, but the language is a cluster of varieties of Arabic spoken in Yemen, southwestern Saudi Arabia, Somaliland, and Djibouti.
- Professional application: Knowing the Yemeni Arabic dialect is very useful for work in the industries of crude oil production and petroleum refining; leather goods, food processing and others.
10. Dubai Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Dubai.
- Number of speakers: Dubai has a population of just over 3 million but the dialect is spoken mostly only by native Emiratis.
- Key peculiarity: The Dubai Arabic dialect is essentially a sub-dialect of Gulf Arabic or Khaleeji.
- Professional application: People who have professional training in sales, accounting, finance, and real estate are in high demand in Dubai.
11. Jordan Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Jordan.
- Number of speakers: The Jordan Arabic dialect is spoken by over 10 million people.
- Key peculiarity: While Jordan officially uses Classical Arabic, in everyday, casual Jordanian conversation you will hear a variety of local dialects that depend on speakers’ regions of origin within the country.
- Professional application: Fluency in the Jordan Arabic dialect means you could get a job in industries that thrive there, such as fertilizers, mining, pharmaceuticals, cement, inorganic chemicals, tourism, and clothing.
12. Palestinian Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Palestine.
- Number of speakers: The Palestinian Arabic dialect is spoken by just under 5 million people.
- Key peculiarity: Palestinian dialect Arabic is mutually intelligible with Levantine Arabic, and it is the closest Arabic dialect to Modern Standard Arabic.
- Professional application: If you learn Arabic Palestinian dialect, it means you could get a job there in the industries of cement, quarrying, textiles, soap, or food processing.
13. Levantine dialect Arabic
- Country/countries: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan (a.k.a. the Levant region of the Middle East).
- Number of speakers: Around 20 million people speak the Levantine dialect of Arabic.
- Key peculiarity: In Levantine Arabic, the “Qaf” is not pronounced and replaced with an “Alif” sound instead. For example, “My heart” in Classical Arabic would be “Ya Qalbee”, but in Levantine Arabic it is “Ya Albee”.
- Professional application: Speaking Levantine Arabic opens up professional doors in all of the countries that make up the Levantine region, which gives you many options.
14. Libyan Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Libya.
- Number of speakers: Almost 7 million people speak the Libyan Arabic dialect.
- Key peculiarity: There are differences in the Libyan Arabic dialect based on the region of the country. For example, there is a distinctive southern variety, centered on Sabha, and another one that is also shared along the borders with Niger.
- Professional application: Knowing Libyan Arabic could prove useful if you’re looking for a job in the sectors of petroleum, steel, iron, food processing, textiles, or cement.
15. Omani Arabic dialect
- Country/countries: Oman.
- Number of speakers: The Omani Arabic dialect is spoken by just over 5 million people.
- Key peculiarity: The Arabic dialect spoken in Oman is very similar to the standard Arabic spoken across the Middle East. Its main difference is the fact it borrows some vocabulary from Kumzari, Jibbali and Mehri, which are endemic spoken languages of Oman.
- Professional application: While Omani Arabic is not one of the most spoken Arabic dialects, speaking it could help you get work in oil production, natural gas production, construction, as well as the optic fiber industry.
Arabic is a historic language with deep roots, and there are many dialects of it. Depending on your goals and which geographical area you’re interested in, you should carefully consider which Arabic dialect is the best to learn for you.
We hope our brief Arabic dialects comparison will help you choose. No matter your choice, you will be able to find a great tutor on Eurekly to help you reach your learning goals quickly and efficiently.
To conclude, we will answer people’s most common questions, which will hopefully help you with the question “what dialect of Arabic should I learn?”:
How many Arabic dialects are there?
Are Arabic dialects mutually intelligible?
What is the best Arabic dialect dictionary?
The Oxford Arabic Dictionary is the most authoritative English-Arabic/Arabic-English dictionary, and it contains many Arabic dialects examples. When publishers come up with new Arabic dictionaries, it serves as a comparison standard.
What is the most common Arabic dialect?
The Egyptian dialect is the most common of Arabic dialects.
What is the most spoken Arabic dialect?
Egyptian Arabic is the most studied and widely spoken Arabic dialect with over 60 million speakers, which is a factor that usually influences people’s decisions when asking “which dialect of Arabic should I learn”.
What is the best Arabic dialect to learn?
If you’re wondering what Arabic dialect to learn, the answer is Modern Standard Arabic is best to start with. The most widely understood dialect is the Egyptian one, mainly due to media. Also, consider which countries and industrial branches you’d like to be professionally connected with, and the right choice will be much easier to make!
What is the easiest Arabic dialect to learn?
There is no one answer to this question, as different people are likely to differ in their learning abilities, speeds and choices. However, Egyptian is the easiest to learn in terms of how many resources for it are out there. Syrian is also easier to learn because of its softer sounds. Which Arabic dialect to learn should depend on you personally, not necessarily what’s said to be easiest.
What is the most useful Arabic dialect to learn?
With more than 60 million speakers around the world, Egyptian is the most common Arabic dialect used and the most popular with people wondering which dialect of Arabic to learn.