“It is the rather stiff-sounding fus-ha, aka Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), that is the starting point for most students of Arabic as a foreign language. You need it to develop academically, to read, to write and to use a dictionary. But if you want to speak Arabic on holiday or do business beyond simple pleasantries, you also need to learn a local dialect. If you try speaking fusha in the souq, unless you can throw in the odd bit of colloquial Arabic to pitch yourself at the right register, you risk coming across as the old Etonian spy in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in Greece, who tries chatting to the locals in Ancient Greek. Your haggling will get you a much better bargain, and probably make you a friend for life, if you can show that you’ve tried to learn at least a smattering of the local lingo.”
I had a lot of fun writing this article for the British Council blog about why it’s really worth having a go at learning Arabic. It might turn out to be easier than you imagined. More likely, it’s much harder than you imagined, but once you get started you might just get hooked.
The other articles in the series are also worth a read: