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“Why is Disney willing to commission separate translations of its films for speakers of Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish, European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, European French and Canadian French, but is moving in the opposite direction when it comes to Arabic? The answer cannot be that the dialect markets are too small. The population of all of Scandinavia is less than a third of Egypt’s, but is represented by five different translations of “Frozen.”
Arabic is the official language of 22 countries, stretching from the Arabian peninsula up to Syria, and across North Africa, and is spoken by over 200 million people. These peoples and countries use Modern Standard Arabic in news broadcasts, legal documents, official speeches, books and newspapers. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is also taught at universities around the world because of its standardization and academic use.
However, no one in any of these 22 Arabic speaking countries uses Modern Standard Arabic in daily conversation. Instead they use the spoken dialect, the language of relationships, to communicate and connect with family and friends. The spoken dialect varies within countries and across the region. However, the countries of the Levant: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, share a common dialect of Spoken Arabic. When you study with us in Beirut you be learning the Levantine Arabic. This means within the Levant, people will say you sound Lebanese and everyone in the Arab World will be able to understand you.
However, once you get outside of the Levant the spoken dialects have a lot less similarities with Spoken Lebanese, as a result people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Morocco will be able to understand you, but you won’t be able to completely understand them at first. This is true even if you have studied MSA because the words and phrases that are used most often in conversation vary the most across countries. If you have a MSA background and want to learn the dialect, you’ll be able to use your knowledge of the Arabic alphabet as you adapt to the spoken dialect. Then, once you have a foundation in day to day conversations you’ll be able to use those bigger words you have learned in MSA (like United Nations and political science) because they are more often used in the spoken dialect as well.
The material for Lebanese Dialect does not overwhelm the student, and it is a good thing that I could learn practical things from my teachers Nadia and Rima.” — Satu