There are two common ways to learn Arabic. The first method is to learn MSA first – to master the alphabet and grammar – and then learn an Arabic dialect. This approach is taken by most universities in the UK. It leads to a good understanding of Arabic grammar and a wide vocabulary.
The second method is to learn a dialect first and then move to MSA. This approach is my preferred method for several reasons. Firstly, it is a more natural way of learning – Arab children learn to speak their parent’s dialect from birth. Then they learn to read and write MSA at school, through the medium of their regional dialect. Secondly, the priority of most language students is to speak and communicate, and as colloquial Arabic grammar is simpler than MSA grammar the student can progress quickly and communicate with confidence. Many students give up learning Arabic because they are over-burdened with MSA grammar and lack opportunities to speak and practise conversation.
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