Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), or “fusha”, to give a loose phonetic rendering of the Arabic word, is the language of the media, literature and some “educated” conversation. Most, if not all, Arab children learn MSA in school. It is derived from Classical Arabic that has its most standard example in the Qur’an. In order to follow political developments in the Arabic-speaking world it is necessary to have a command of MSA. It is arguably one of the most difficult languages in the world, considering its complex grammatical structures and rules, though it is also one of the most beautiful. The expressive capacity of the Arabic language allows its authors to wax lyrically.
While MSA is indispensable in the spheres of Middle Eastern politics, media, religion, and literature, it is not the spoken language.Different variants of Arabic dialects are used in each region, or country, of the Arabic-speaking world. These varieties can be so dissimilar as to be nearly incomprehensible from the speaker of one dialect to that of another. At Arabeya, we teach the Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA), or Egyptian “Amiyyah”. As a result of the popularity of Egyptian cinema and entertainment industry (sometimes referred to as the “Hollywood of the Middle East”), ECA is the most widely understood dialect in the Arabic-speaking world. Its grammatical constructs are much less rigid than MSA and overall it is much easier to pick up and learn. ECA is also, however, nearly a completely different language from MSA. Often words and expressions used in ECA are not the same as those used in MSA.
For those who intend to live in Egypt for any extended period of time, investing in some ECA is encouraged - it is indispensable to a true understanding of Egyptian culture and society. It also makes life in Cairo significantly easier, and allows you to hold casual conversations with new people you meet.