Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and is becoming an increasingly popular choice for those who are looking to learn a new language. When you consider the role that the Arabic language and culture plays in the modern world, it isn’t hard to understand why so many people are being drawn towards Arabic as a topic of study. Learning Arabic is a very worthwhile experience.  

Whether you are simply a curious person who is looking to expand their knowledge of the world around them by learning the Arabic language, or you are hoping to visit part of the Arabic world for business or pleasure, learning Arabic is a long and rewarding journey. However, because there are multiple different Arabic dialects, it isn’t always obvious to newcomers which type they should pursue in their studies. 

If you are considering learning Arabic and have done research into your options for learning the language, then you have probably heard of modern standard Arabic. As the name suggests, this is a modernised version of Arabic. As such, many people incorrectly assume that modern standard Arabic is not ‘true’ Arabic. This is incorrect, however, and in this article, we are going to take a look at what the actual differences between modern standard and other Arabic dialects is. 

Traditional Arabic 

Sometimes known as Quranic, or Classical, Arabic, this is the form of Arabic in which the Quran was originally written. The Quran was written a long time ago, as early as the 6th century A.D by some estimates. As you would expect then, the language has moved on and evolved since then. 

These classical forms of Arabic are medieval dialects. While the sentence structure remains largely unchanged, even today, there are some significant differences. Some of the words which were once common in Arabic are no longer in use today, while there are also some minor differences in grammar and punctuation when compared to modern Arabic dialect. 

One of the hallmarks of Quranic Arabic is the use of special symbols which signify correct pronunciation and emphasis. Most native Arabic speakers in Muslim countries will be taught Quranic Arabic as part of their education; most will learn both classical and modern Arabic. 

Modern Standard Arabic 

This is the most widely spoken form of Arabic today. If you are taught Arabic, then it will most likely be of this type. For example, most Arabic courses in London teach modern standard Arabic. Throughout the Arab world, modern standard Arabic is used in newspapers, on television and radio, and most books are printed in modern standard Arabic. It is also the dialect most widely used by politicians in the region and is the default dialect for everyday life. 

Modern standard Arabic is not too far removed from the classical version. In fact, in many parts of the Arab speaking world, these two dialects are considered interchangeable. There are some words and phrases in modern Arabic that simply didn’t exist when the Quran was first written. There are also some pronunciations and contexts which differ slightly between these two dialects. 

Local Dialects 

There are also a variety of Arabic dialects based on different localizations. Levantine Arabic, spoken throughout Lebanon, Palestine, western Jordan, and Syria is one of the major local variations. Egyptian Arabic is the most widely spoken of these ‘secondary dialects’. Meanwhile, those who lie along the Gulf Coast, from Kuwait to Oman, will speak Gulf Arabic. 

The Arabic language has changed and evolved a great deal over the last few centuries. Some scholars feel that the original Arabic language has changed so much that it is now all but lost. In response to this there are many organisations who are now eager to teach the original form of Arabic. There are multiple dialects available to learn, depending on what you plan to do with it.