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Which kind of Arabic should I learn?

When starting, resuming, or rethinking your Arabic language learning journey, you might be confronted with questions like: which Arabic course is best for me? What course should I enroll in? What is the difference between the different types of Arabic? How could each course benefit me and my goals?

To help you answer these questions, we have listed here some brief descriptions of the three main types of Arabic and their learning benefits.

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sThe Arabic language is a beautiful, ancient yet dynamic language that is spoken around the globe in several different forms or variants. Each of these variants is useful to learn depending on what your goals are and how you want to use your newly-learned language.


Classical Arabic

What is Classical Arabic?

Classical Arabic is the standardized literary form of the Arabic language which was in use from the 7th century through the Middle Ages (in the 1500s), reaching as far West as today's Portugal and as far East as India. It is the language of the Quran (although Quranic Arabic is really its own kind - more on that below) making it the original language of Islam, as well as many other religious and non-religious literary texts of that time period, including poetry and scientific works. Classical Arabic is now limited to mainly religious scripts and is no longer a spoken language.

Classical Arabic is the language that was chosen by Allah SWT to reveal the Quran, His final Book, as guidance and mercy to humanity. For this reason, the language of the Quran (Quranic Arabic) is unique and divine, which is why it differs from other Classical Arabic texts.

Why learn Classical Arabic?

Classical Arabic is great for students whose primary goal is to learn to read, understand and study the Quran and other Islamic texts, including ahadeeth (prophetic narrations). Learning Classical Arabic, or even just focusing on Quranic Arabic, can significantly boost your faith and deepen your understanding of Allah's Words and Message to humanity.


Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)

What is Modern Standard Arabic?

Modern Standard Arabic (shortened MSA, sometimes also called Modern Written Arabic or Modern Arabic) is the main variant of the Arabic language that is spoken and studied today in formal settings. This version of Arabic is the standardized version of the language taught widely in schools and universities. Although there are many Arabic dialects spoken throughout the Arabic-speaking world, MSA is the primary language on which each language is based and is rooted in Classical Arabic. MSA is an ever changing language because of typical language development throughout history - this is actually how this variant was born: from increased interactions with the non-Arabic speaking world over time through trade, wars, colonization, cultural exchanges, migration and eventually tourism.

It is important to know that the term "Modern Standard Arabic" is only used by non-native Arabic speakers or in universities. Native Arabic speakers do not necessarily distinguish between Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic as they consider both to be literary, formal languages and they might call both فُصْحَى [fuṣḥa]: eloquent, because their mother tongue is a specific Arabic dialect, not Classical Arabic or MSA.

Why learn Modern Standard Arabic?

Learning MSA is a great starting point for those who are wanting to have a foundational understanding and go on to learn any variant of colloquial (dialectical) Arabic. MSA will also give you the skills and knowledge to be understood by native Arabic speakers around the world, regardless of the dialect they speak in that given area.When traveling to a country where Arabic is the primary language, you will hear and see MSA in different situations, such as street signs, television, media, news programs, newspapers, books, school curricula, and store signs. Even if you want to study a regional dialect, it would be very useful for you to learn as much MSA as possible.


Colloquial or Dialectical Arabic

What is Colloquial/Dialectal Arabic?

Colloquial Arabic refers to the Arabic that you can hear native speakers use in their everyday lives - their mother tongue. Because the Arabic-speaking world is so diverse and spread out, colloquial Arabic will sound different from one country to another. It is so dynamic and flexible that there can be different variants in the same country and even within the same region. Even though there can be - and there are sometimes many - similarities between different dialects, depending on how close or how far two variants are on the Arabic dialect continuum, they can be mutually unintelligible!). Colloquial Arabic is therefore the informal yet normal way of communicating in day-to-day life. Some of the different dialects included in Colloquial Arabic are Egyptian (Masri) which is the most widely used, Emirati (Al Ramsa Al Emaratia), Yemeni, Hejazi (from the Hijaz region in Saudi Arabia), Iraqi, Levantine Arabic (which includes Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian and more), Maghrebi dialects (including Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan, Saharan and more). And there are many more varieties of Arabic!

Why learn Colloquial/Dialectal Arabic?

The Arabic language is one of the most ancient languages, officially or co-officially spoken by residents in more than 24 countries, mostly from the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, North Africa, and some Asian countries. Arabic-speaking nations are a mix of ethnicities and cultures, with exceptional economic, cultural, and tourism qualifications that attract millions of tourists and thousands of people in business annually. Colloquial Arabic serves as a great tool if you want to travel to, live in or do business with a specific region in the Arabic-speaking world. You will be able to get around the region or country with ease and communicate with the locals for a meaningful, immersive experience. 


So, how do you choose?

When deciding on an Arabic language course, you need to consider the reason behind this learning: Is it to gain a deeper understanding of the Quran, other religious texts or Islam? To communicate with native Arabic speakers? To go live abroad? To learn the culture around the Arabic language, and if so, which country or region are you interested in?

Each variant of the Arabic language is a beneficial tool for any Arabic learner. Depending on your specific goals for studying the language, Classical Arabic, Quranic Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, and Colloquial Arabic can all be great resources in strengthening your linguistic and cultural skills and boosting your faith and understanding of Islam. You can even consider learning two or more variants successively or simultaneously. For instance, you could start with Classical Arabic to increase your grasp of the Quran and Islamic texts, and later learn MSA to open up your understanding to the news, TV shows and books in Arabic or even conversation. Or you could learn MSA and a specific dialect at the same time if you intend to go visit a country where they speak this dialect, etc.

Whether you want to learn Classical, Quranic, Modern, or Egyptian Arabic, at Studio Arabiya Institute, we offer a multitude of options and work with you on your personal goals! Visit studioarabiya.com and choose the course that best fits your needs and schedule, or contact us if you need help selecting the best course for you.


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