A Look at the Arabic Dialects

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.

This post will look at the Arabic dialects in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.

Afroasiatic
Semitic
Central
South
Arabic

Arabic dialects,in the first place, are often not even dialects at all. Instead as many as 25-30 of them may be full-blown languages according to Ethnologue, which represents linguistic consensus or last word on whether something is a language or a dialect. Arabic dialects are often somewhat easier to learn than MSA Arabic. At least in Lebanese and Egyptian Arabic, the very difficult q’ sound has been turned into a hamza or glottal stop which is an easier sound to make. Compared to MSA Arabic, the dialectal words tend to be shorter and easier to pronounce.

Afroasiatic
Semitic
Central
South
Arabic
Central

To attain anywhere near native speaker competency in Egyptian Arabic, you probably need to live in Egypt for 10 years, but Arabic speakers say that few if any second language learners ever come close to native competency. There is a huge vocabulary, and most words have a wealth of possible meanings.

Egyptian Arabic is rated 4.5, very to extremely difficult.

Afroasiatic
Semitic
Central
South
Arabic
Maghrebi
Moroccan Arabic

Moroccan Arabic is said to be particularly difficult, with much vowel elision in triconsonantal stems. In addition, all dialectal Arabic is plagued by irrational writing systems.

Moroccan Arabic is rated 4.5, very to extremely difficult.

Afroasiatic
Semitic
Central
South
Arabic
Maghrebi
Siculo-Arabic
Maltese

Maltese is a strange language, basically a Maghrebi Arabic language (similar to Moroccan or Tunisian Arabic) that has very heavy influence from non-Arabic tongues. It shares the problem of Gaelic that often words look one way and are pronounced another.

It has the common Semitic problem of difficult plurals. Although many plurals use common plural endings (-i, -iet, -ijiet, -at), others simply form the plural by having their last vowel dropped or adding an s (English borrowing). There’s no pattern, and you simply have to memorize which ones act which way.

Maltese permits the consonant cluster spt, which is surely hard to pronounce.

On the other hand, Maltese has quite a few IE loans from Italian, Sicilian, Spanish, French and increasingly English. If you have knowledge of Romance languages, Maltese is going to be easier than most Arabic dialects.

Maltese is rated 4, very difficult.

2 Comments

Filed under Afroasiatic, Applied, Arabic, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Maltese, Romance, Semitic

2 responses to “A Look at the Arabic Dialects

  1. Johnny

    The Maltese accent sounds interesting in that it’s like hearing an Arabic-speaker who grew up in Italy! I do believe that Maltese may even be a great gateway language to a learn Arabic. Might be a good selling point for people who are fluent and want to help people aspiring to join the CIA or something!

  2. SHI

    I didn’t know Maltese descended from Arabic. Something new you learn everyday…Beyond Highbrow all the time🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s