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Are Arabic books written in dialects or modern standard Arabic?

I'm quite interested in Arabic, although if I were to learn it I'd mostly focus on learning to read (rather than actively "using" the language). If I learned modern standard Arabic, would I be able to understand (modern) books, or do authors tend to write in their own dialects?

July 21, 2017



Iam a native arabic speakr and there is some old books or poet i can not under stand so you cant realy under stand all of the books there But surley you will understand news papers and modren books and you will be able to speak with others but iam not sure if you will be able to under stand the normal street arabic or no but if they spoke to you with modren standerd arabic you will under stand if you need help you can text me i will help you as much as i can :) good luck


Hi Atef,

Ancient Arabic text is not understandable in the sense of an English speaker not understanding Shakespeare. Using a Mujaam (Arabic-Arabic dictionary) would be helpful in that case.

And yes, although some Arabic dialects are so thick that an MSA speaker would not understand it, you'll almost always be understood by them, and so they will communicate to you with as much MSA as they possibly can



I think what you are asking is a very good question. Honestly, I had to look up your question. The closest answer that I could find was that standard Arabic is the language of literature and the media and that most books, newspapers, magazines etc. are all written in modern standard Arabic. So I guess the answer to your question is that you would probably be able to understand modern books or most books. I hoped that my comment helped answer your question. I wish you the best luck while learning Modern Standard Arabic. Bye!


That is indeed an interesting question. I think that books are written in standard Arabic but I wonder how it is with dialogues in novels? I mean, the narrative can be in standard language but I guess characters could speak in dialects. Maybe some native speaker will give an answer.


It varies according to the author. The majority of the authors use only standard arabic or standard arabic mixed with some dialect expressions/idioms here and there. Very few will use the dialects in the dialogues.


Thank you! I assumed that books would be written in the standardised language, but it never hurts to check. :)


When I took an Arabic course in college, all the textbooks were in Modern Standard Arabic. In fact, it's really difficult to find any books written in any particular dialect. As far as I know, most authors prefer to write in MSA, since it's considered eloquent and cultured. At least, that's what my professor said. As far as I know, the dialects affect your ability to understand spoken speech rather than the ability to read the literature.


Books are almost all written in MSA but some books are written in dialect. Writing in dialect is a relatively new phenomenon that was sometimes considered controversial.

Traditionally (not these days, but in the past) spoken dialects were not written at all whatsoever and that would be weird, and people would completely change from dialect to formal Arabic whenever putting a pen to paper. Dialect was only spoken but never written. Now it's not so cut and dry, although it is still normal for someone to change to formal Arabic as soon as they start writing something.

Some books written in Arabic for a mainly domestic audience may have the narration in MSA but the quotes that the characters say be more colloquialized. But most Arab writers want to reach the whole Arab audience, so that's why many have the incentive to write completely in MSA.

Of course, any book that is translated from another language INTO Arabic is always be 100% MSA through and through, even when characters were speaking colloquially and casually in the original language, because they want to reach the target audience. This does feel funny and awkward if like for example close friends who are kids and are very casual are talking because the MSA makes them come off as super formal and educated and eloquent, so it feels a bit fake or contradictory because they obviously wouldn't speak to each other like that.

Because Arabic books can be kind of weird due to the dialect issues of Arabic (especially books translated into Arabic), many Moroccan and Algerian people who prefer speaking their own language over French strongly prefer reading novels in French over Arabic.


I am a native Arabic speaker, I have never read a book written in a dialect and I read a lot.



I don't have numbers, but I'd say most books are written in MSA although writing in dialects is also a popular genre. Sometimes the book mixes between both where the book itself is in MSA and the dialogues are in a dialect.

Newspaper and other publications are dominantly in MSA, websites' interfaces are also in MSA. Books that are translated from other languages are in MSA. The only space where dialects are dominating is the spoken Arabic, so movies and songs are mostly in dialects. In Duolingo, Arabic contributors are from different Arabic countries and we all agreed that when time comes, we'll start with an MSA course and not a dialect. Hopefully it would start soon!



Arabic contributors are from different Arabic countries and we all agreed that when time comes, we'll start with an MSA course and not a dialect.

I'm sure anybody familiar with Arabic as a second language learning would have expected this; it's simply the way things are done. Some people go a lot further, though, and make the claim that MSA is "Duolingo's Arabic variety" or something like that and, as such, there is no possibility of any of the dialects actually used in ordinary conversation ever being taught. Do you have any knowledge on that point?

Hopefully it would start soon!

Me, too!

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