Sunset in Cairo, minarets and high buildings

Learning enough Arabic to read and write the language can be very rewarding and exciting. However, it’s when you can have a conversation with a native speaker and match their dialect that things get really fun and interesting.

There are a lot of different Arabic dialects spoken throughout the Middle East, so what is it about the Egyptian dialect that makes it the best choice for new learners?

There are several reason why you should learn the Egyptian dialect, including:

Reason #1:  Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East, making it something of a cultural center for the region.

It’s also something of a physical center in the Middle East as well, putting it in direct contact with several countries and cultures. This means that a lot of people come and go, actually spreading the dialect to nearby locations.

And, if it doesn’t spread physically, it can spread in other ways… like we’ll see in the next reason.

Reason #2:  Egyptian is the most commonly used dialect in the media, which means more people and places are constantly exposed to it.

Egyptian is the main dialect for Arabic movies and TV shows as well as the language used when dubbing foreign movies and TV.

So, even if Egyptian isn’t the local dialect, there’s a good chance that the people you interact with will be accustomed to hearing it. It will also give you many more opportunities to immerse yourself in the language and build your listening skills.

Reason #3:  Learning any dialect helps you sound more like a local, and Egyptian is so common that people who use other dialects can usually understand you.

However, while they may be used to hearing and understanding Egyptian, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to speak it fluently. So, you may find yourself carefully working through a conversation, but you will have a common ground for understanding each other.

Reason #4:  Dialects are for speaking to everyday people about everyday things. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is for more academic and professional settings.

Most of the people that you meet in an Arabic-speaking country will most likely use their own local dialect rather than the academically established language. Even when Egyptians travel to other Arabic-speaking countries, they don’t immediately switch to Standard Arabic, but try to get by in their own dialect.

So, if you’re going to Egypt, you’ll have a much easier time being part of the local scene when you speak the dialect everyone around you is using.

Reason #5:  You can think of this like having a key to the Middle East, since speaking such a common dialect helps you understand a lot about the people you interact with and the culture around you.  

Egyptian Arabic is also similar in style to Levantine Arabic, which is spoken in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and other nearby countries, so you shouldn’t have much trouble communicating with people who speak this dialect.

Reason #6:  The way that people speak naturally evolves, which is why there are so many different dialects. Otherwise everyone would still be speaking classical Arabic.

This means that the dialects are a little more fluid and accepting of loan words, which can help new speakers get their point across. There are English and European words that are simply adopted into the dialect when it’s convenient, which can make communication with new speakers a little easier.

Should You Start with Egyptian or Modern Standard Arabic?

This is a question that everyone has to ask themselves when they first start learning Arabic.

MSA is, as the name suggests, the accepted standardized form of the language, though you won’t often run into it in everyday situations. MSA is something that is used for professional or official situations. You may hear it on the news or in academic or religious discourses, but you probably won’t hear it when you’re ordering your meal at a local restaurant.

That doesn’t mean you should just ignore MSA. It can be a strong language foundation for you. But if you’re looking to speak and sound like a local (and understand what the locals are saying to you) then the Egyptian dialect is the right choice for you.