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Learning Arabic – What You Need to Know Before Shelling Out Cash for Class

Perhaps you are fascinated by its power to connect you to new cultures and experiences. Maybe you’ve spent hours admiring the sophisticated beauty of Arabic calligraphy as a celebrated art form. You are transfixed by the beauty of the script, how its slender curves spill out across the page. Or maybe, you’ve realized just how vital it is to speak more than one language in this ever-shrinking globalized world. You’ve recognized Arabic’s indispensability in any international career, be it law, politics or business. Either way, out of aesthetic or practical concerns, you want to learn Arabic. But there’s one important question you must consider: Which Arabic do I want to learn? Regular Arabic! you insist. The one everyone is talking about; the one that is in high demand in government and business settings; the one they speak in Egypt or Lebanon or Dubai! Ah, therein lies the rub. Each Arabic speaking country speaks its own form of the language, making for a very diverse set of dialects within the Arabic language. The unique peoples, cultures and histories of each nation in the Arabic speaking world have put their own spin on the language. So depending on where you are, the dialect that’s spoken by the people in ordinary life will vary, sometimes to the point of mutual unintelligibility. For example, if you have studied the Iraqi dialect in detail, you are setting yourself up for disappointment the minute you land in the capital of Libya equipped with a heartfelt shloonak or shloonich. You’ll realize your glitch when your Libyan friends start laughing and nickname you “The Iraqi.” They’ll get a kick out of you asking them “what color” they are, because that’s literally what the Iraqi dialect is asking: the color of one’s mood, which likely won’t be lost on them, having been exposed to the Iraqi dialect via television and radio. But lets back up for a minute, there is an even bigger division that cleaves the language in half, so to speak. “Arabic” really indicates two different things that are not considered separate in the English language: the written form and the spoken form. You can liken this distinction to how the human brain is divided into two parts, right and left, each serving essential but sometimes distinct functions, yet both part of an integrated whole. This division in Arabic between the official written language and the unofficial spoken forms–the dialects–is important and will determine the path of your study.

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