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. Spoken MSA is the official language of Arabic newspapers as well as news stations.
MSA is not, however, a spoken language outside of the realms discussed above. 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” (again, loose). As a result of the popularity of Egyptian cinema and entertainment industry, past as well as present, ECA is the most widely understood dialect in the Arabic-speaking world. Its grammatical constructs are much less strict than MSA and overall it is much easier to 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, at an interest in ECA is encouraged - it is indispensible to a true understanding of Egyptian culture and society. It also makes life in Cairo significantly easier.